54F Autzen Stadium, Eugene, OR
After breezing through its first three games and enjoying a week off, Oregon can focus on carrying over that early non-conference success to league play.
The second-ranked Ducks begin what they hope is another successful Pac-12 season Saturday night looking for a fifth consecutive victory over visiting California, which is facing its second straight top-5 opponent.
Oregon (3-0) put together a 184-27 scoring advantage while facing little adversity in FCS school Nicholls, Virginia and Tennessee. Only Baylor, which has faced even less-formidable competition than the Ducks through its first three games, has averaged more than Oregon's 61.3 points and 672.0 total yards.
The Ducks trail only Navy in the FBS with 355.3 rushing yards per contest.
"They are good and they know what they are doing," first-year Cal coach Sonny Dykes said.
Sophomore quarterback Marcus Mariota has recorded 1,151 total yards while throwing seven touchdowns with no interceptions and rushing for four scores. He passed for a career-high 456 yards and four TDs in the 59-14 win over the Volunteers on Sept. 14.
The first Duck to throw for more than 400 yards in a game since Kellen Clemens in 2005, Mariota has at least one TD pass in all 16 career games.
Mariota and the Ducks also showed some early resilience by overcoming four first-quarter penalties and a 7-0 deficit to the Vols.
"We don't get frustrated," said Mariota, who went 27 of 34 for 377 yards with six touchdowns and 42 rushing yards in a 59-17 win at Cal on Nov. 10. "We understand that sometimes we'll get slowed up a little bit. But once we find a rhythm, we're pretty good."
Oregon has been very good in conference play, winning 36 of 39 with its losses coming to Southern California and Stanford twice. The Ducks might have some extra motivation this season after the Cardinal won the 2012 Pac-12 North Division title and a berth in the conference championship game by handing Oregon its only defeat, 17-14 in overtime at Eugene on Nov. 17.
Oregon has outscored Cal 159-48 during a four-game winning streak in the series. Winners in 22 straight home games against unranked opponents, the Ducks have taken two in a row and nine of 10 from the Golden Bears (1-2) at Autzen Stadium.
"It will be a challenge, but our guys will be excited to play, and when you are playing against a good offense, defense or team, you get excited to play," said Dykes, whose squad ranks last in the conference with an average of 556.3 yards allowed.
Like Oregon, the Bears had an extra week to prepare after losing 52-34 at home to No. 4 Ohio State on Sept. 14. Cal last faced top-5 teams in back-to-back games Oct. 13 and 20, 2001, when it lost to the then-No. 5 Ducks and then-No. 4 UCLA.
"This next game is going to be completely opposite of these last three," Oregon coach Mark Helfrich told the school's official website. "Cal has thrown it around probably more than anyone else. ... They throw it a ton, and watching some of the game (against Ohio State), it's just a different set of challenges."
Bears freshman Jared Goff averages an FBS-leading 435.3 passing yards and has thrown seven touchdowns. However, he's been sacked 12 times and two of his four interceptions have been returned for touchdowns.
Oregon has forced seven turnovers and recorded eight sacks this season.
Cal can't afford another slow start after trailing 21-0 in the first quarter to the Buckeyes. It also fell behind 14-7 and needed to rally for a 37-30 win over Portland State of the FCS a week earlier.
"We have got to address it and see what is going on," Dykes said.
Though the Bears have run for 263 yards over the last two games, they rank ninth in the conference with 3.1 per carry.