Scouting Report

Running back Isi Sofele will have a light spring after a grueling season.
Emma Lantos/File
Running back Isi Sofele will have a light spring after a grueling season.

Can Cal keep up with Oregon offensively? 

The answer in short is, of course, no. That’s because really no offense can equal the Quack Attack. But if Cal’s defense reverts back to its 2010 form and slows down the Ducks, the Bears have enough offensive firepower this year to perhaps pull off the upset.

Isi Sofele is no LaMichael James, but he’s been dependable. The junior speedster has rushed for 380 yards in four games, and his 95 yards a game ranks fifth in the Pac-12. Backup C.J. Anderson seems to be getting better — and more touches — every week. The junior transfer has just 19 carries but has gained 97 yards, good for an average of more than five yards a carry.

But the Bears’ running game will only get them so far. To try to keep pace with the Ducks, Keenan Allen and Marvin Jones will both need to have big games. After his 197-yard performance against Washington on Sept. 24, Allen was leading the country in receiving yards. And he’s not even technically Cal’s No. 1 receiver — that’s Jones, who led the squad in receptions and receiving yards the last two season. Both receivers rank among the top six in receiving yards in the conference.

But Zach Maynard has not been passing all that much to anyone other than those two. Tight end Anthony Miller has two touchdowns, but just six catches total this season. Surely Oregon’s defense will be concentrating on Allen and Jones; a balanced attack will be crucial for the Bears.

Maynard has completed just 52.2 percent of his passes, the worst percentage for a starter in the Pac-12. But he has gotten the job, leading an offense that has scored more than 30 points in every game this season. And he always seems to find the right guy on third down.

The Washington tilt marked the first game Maynard hand’t thrown an interception this season. If he — and the Bears’ offense — can avoid turning the ball over to Oregon’s offense, Cal might have a chance. At least on the offensive side.

— Jonathan Kuperberg

How many yards will LaMichael James churn out? 

As a sophomore, Oregon halfback LaMichael James became a Heisman finalist and the consensus leader at his position across the country. It’s hard to imagine a better campaign than that, but the tailback out of Texarkana, Texas, is on an even more torrid pace this fall.

Let’s run through the raw stats, which are astounding nearly any way you look at them: 153.25 yards per game (first nationally, and especially impressive considering that the next three backs all average around eight more carries), 613 total yards (fifth), 9.43 per carry (fifth), seven rushing TDs (13th, tied for first in the Pac-12).

Jeff Tedford, the latest coach tasked with the unenviable task of stopping this veritable hurricane, has said that 5-foot-9, 195-pound back is even better at breaking tackles this year.

The Ducks’ key offensive cog has been, interestingly, very much boom or bust through his four games in the 2011 season. Against now-No. 1 LSU, he mustered only 54 yards on 18 carries — understanding considering that the Tigers defense hasn’t allowed any team to rush for triple figures, and actually limited Northwestern State to -4 yards. He followed that with a 67 yards against Nevada, limited to 12 carries by the fact that Oregon ran out to a 69-29 win.

Then, James erupted. Against Southwest Missouri State, 204 yards and three touchdowns on a mere 12 touches. Two weeks ago at Arizona, 288 yards on a season-high 23 totes.

So what will he have in store against Cal on Thursday? Most remember the way the Bears stifled the star runner to a season-low 3.14 yards per carry last fall. This year’s unit hasn’t been as stellar, but its Achilles heel has been the passing game. It hasn’t allowed any back to top 100 yards, which means that James might be in line for his first triple-digit game under 200.

— Jack Wang
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