The California-Oregon Game Features Two Armed Guys, but are They Dangerous?
It's safe to say that before the 2009 season, Jeremiah Masoli and Kevin Riley couldn't have been in more different positions.
By August, Oregon's dual threat signal caller had graced the cover of Sports Illustrated, and after his brilliant Holiday Bowl performance, many asked if Masoli could eventually emerge as a Heisman sleeper.
Meanwhile, there were two offseason questions asked about Riley (who sat on the bench during Cal's bowl game), and neither of them were encouraging.
First, there was uncertainty as to whether he would even win the Bears' starting quarterback job in camp.
After that was settled, most people were still wondering if he had improved enough from an inconsistent 2008 season to make Cal a serious contender, or whether he would be a liability for the Bears.
A month later, and the pair has more or less switched places.
Riley isn't a contender for the stiff-arm trophy (though a backfield companion of his certainly is), but the junior quarterback got off to a terrific start in 2009.
He passed for four touchdowns in the season opener against Maryland, and currently ranks sixth in the nation in passing efficiency.
Riley boasts a completion percentage around 65 percent, has yet to toss an interception this year, and is coming off a road victory over Minnesota, in which he completed two key passes in the fourth quarter to set up the Bears' go-ahead touchdown.
Masoli's 2009 has been a different story, starting with a season- opening debacle against Boise State.
While Oregon has rebounded to win two straight contests, including an upset of No. 18 Utah, Masoli has yet to throw a single touchdown this season, and the Ducks ranks last in the entire conference in passing (126 yards per game).
Was Masoli's start a fluke? What about Riley's? Saturday should help provide an answer, as these two quarterbacks prepare to face off at Autzen Stadium.
For Masoli, nothing would help him get over his first three games, and win back the Oregon faithful quicker, than leading his team to victory over No. 6 Cal.
At the same time, a win would launch the Ducks right back into the thick of the conference chase (with both the Trojans and Beavers coming to Oregon this year).
Meanwhile, Riley, an Oregon native, will be playing in front of a group of about 60 friends and family members.
However, the rest of the fans at a raucous Autzen Stadium—his most hostile environment to date—will be cheering loudly against him.
Riley's last appearance up in Oregon consisted of two handoffs as Nate Longshore's back-up in 2007. This time, Riley will finally be in full complete control of the offense, and will have to make do without one of his top wideouts, Nyan Boateng.
With a solid performance and a victory over the Ducks, he would earn the biggest win of his career, gain more confidence before facing USC, and achieve something that his neither of his predecessors in the Tedford era managed: two consecutive road victories.
Masoli will have an opportunity to build a new beginning for 2009. Riley comes in with a chance to build on his.
Saturday's game will tell us who succeeded.
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