This year in Berkeley, life on the gridiron has been a tale of two seasons. At best, the Golden bears are bipolar. At worst, they have multiple personality disorder. This is particularly coincidental coming from a team that goes by two names.
This week, they host the number one team in the country: the Oregon Ducks. Most speculate that the ducks will mop the floor with Cal, and with good reason. The Ducks have dominated every team they've played, with their most unimpressive win coming by a measly 12 points against Arizona State.
There is one thing that should make the Golden Bears optimistic, however. They play the Ducks in Berkeley. Looking at Cal's statistics, it becomes clear that playing at home is more of an advantage for the Golden Bears than any other team in the FBS. I'll demonstrate.
Cal at home
This team is unstoppable. On offense, they've averaged 407.75 yards per game, which would rank 46th in football if every game were at home. While their offense doesn't seem overly impressive, it more than gets the job done when their defense has allowed a stingy 174.5 yards per game—which would be first in the nation in terms of total defense.
Their offense may not be putting up a staggering amount of yards, but they've averaged 47.25 points per game, which would rank second in the nation. Their defense, in contrast, has allowed 8.5 points per game, which would rank first. They've gained 11 turnovers, and have given up only 2. These stats would rank 10th and first respectively among FBS teams.
Although their first game of the season against UC Davis pads these stats to a degree, the trend is still staggering—especially when considering they've also played Colorado, UCLA, and most importantly—Arizona State. If there's a reason for Oregon fans to be concerned, it's the Cal/Arizona State game. Arizona State may be one of the most underrated teams in the country.
Their record certainly doesn't do them justice. This is the team that lost by one point to Wisconsin and USC, and gave Oregon their biggest challenge of the season thus far. They out gained Oregon by 200 yards. If it were not for Arizona State's costly turnovers, they would have beaten Oregon. How did Cal do against the Sun Devils? They crushed them 50-17 in what has been Arizona State's worse loss of the season by far.
This team is abysmal. If Cal hadn't beaten Washington State, one would think the Golden Bears were the worst team in the Pac-10. Their offense has gained an average of 319.6 yards per game, which would be good enough for an unimpressive 100th in the nation.
Their defense has allowed 399.2 yards per game, which would rank 82nd in the nation. They have put up 16.2 points per game, which would be an astounding 114th in the country. Their previously stout defense has allowed 31.6 points per game (100th). They've gained 3 turnovers and have lost 9. These would rank 120th and 84th, respectively.
In other words, they turn the ball over more than any other team in the FBS. Compare this stat with their home stat and they go from first to 120th. That's as inconsistent as a team can get.
Cal had a chance to improve their road stats when they played the punching bag of the Pac-10: Washington State. Rather than capitalizing and showing their dominance over an outclassed foe, they barely squeaked out a win and beat them by a touchdown.
What we have learned
UC Berkeley fans have reason to be excited; Ducks fans have reason to be concerned. The Ducks could easily overlook this game, and if Cal plays to their potential, they could pull off the staggering upset. In years past, Cal seems to have had Oregon's number. They've won three of the last five contests. They were the only team to beat Dennis Dixon in 2007, and they did so at Autzen.
Even though Kevin Riley won't be playing, many Oregon fans must surely remember the past and be secretly apprehensive about the coming showdown. There seems to be good reason to be, too. Oregon had better show up with all cylinders firing. Bringing lithium wouldn't hurt, either.