Compare and Contrast

Nick Forbes (US Presswire)

California continues to waste away and Oregon will make them pay, as the difference from Friday night to Saturday afternoon made more than clear.

LOS ANGELES – The contrast between the two teams could not be starker. Oregon is fast, flashy, and flying towards a berth in the BCS championship game. California is fractured, flawed, and floundering to the finish line and a possible coaching change.

It was plainly evident in the 24-hour span from Friday night at Memorial Stadium to Saturday afternoon at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, with Cal outmanned in an ugly 21-13 loss to Washington, while Oregon steamrolled to a staggering 730 yards and 62 points in a scintillating and entertaining win over USC.

The two games served only to reinforce the notion that has been beaten into Berkeley this season, Cal is stuck in the past. It didn't used to be that way.

When Jeff Tedford was plucked from Oregon after the 2001 season, he was the upstart with the eye-catching offense. Tedford was the quarterback guru who could turn anyone into a star. Now both of those attributes are squarely aligned with the new mastermind in Eugene in Chip Kelly.

In 2007, Cal held off Oregon at Autzen Stadium, defeating a team that in Kelly's first season as offensive coordinator would emerge as the nation's most exciting and favorite to claim the BCS title and Heisman Trophy before quarterback Dennis Dixon hurt his knee.

Now, the question seems to be whether the four-touchdown spread is way too low for the green and yellow and white and black and chrome-clad feathered buzz saw coming into Berkeley.

With critical injuries on both sides of the ball for Cal, Oregon should be able to name its final score. Redshirt freshman quarterback Marcus Mariota, having to play into the fourth quarter for the first time as a starter, was unflappable. He is running the up-tempo offense at speeds that seem superhuman, making predecessors Jeremiah Masoli and Darron Thomas look like hacks. He is doing so on an offense that started only two seniors at USC, where junior wide receiver Josh Huff is the "wily veteran," Kelly said.

There is the potentially dominant sophomore tight end in Colt Lyerla, the explosive second-year running back in De'Anthony Thomas, a bevy of gifted young receivers.

It's not that much different from Cal, as least in terms of personnel. Richard Rodgers, Brendan Bigelow, Chris Harper, and Darius Powe are just as talented as their Oregon counterparts.

But Oregon has a scheme and philosophy and vision. Play fast, and dictate mismatches against the opposition.

Cal's approach seems to change like the whims of the wind, a spread offense one week, a power running team the next. Running back C.J. Anderson, who has proven himself to be the team's toughest rusher between the tackles, gashed Washington for 160 yards on the ground. Yet, despite averaging 7.3 yards per carry, the senior got three touches inside the red zone.

Cal got inside the Washington 20-yard line four times, and came away with one touchdown, wasting a monumental performance from a defense dealing with major injuries at all three levels.

Playing without starting cornerback Marc Anthony and inside linebacker Jalen Jefferson, with outside linebackers Chris McCain and Brennan Scarlett and defensive end DeAndre Coleman clearly limited by injures, Cal held Washington to 21 points, 4-of-13 on third and fourth down, and forced four takeaways.

That should have been more than enough to win, the last, best chance to do so this season. The offense simply couldn't hold up its end of the bargain because of bad throws, bad drops, bad turnovers, and bad calls in a game so ugly that anyone without a financial or rooting interest had no business watching on a Friday night.

And now with the Oregon juggernaut coming in, facing a new quarterback and battered defensive front seven, there simply isn't a scenario by which Cal comes away with the shocker, let alone avoiding being embarrassed.

Not a letdown, not turnovers, not injuries.

It is an inevitable outcome, a humiliating loss in the final home game of the season.

It is the difference between two programs trending in different directions.

Dan Greenspan is the publisher of Cal Sports Digest and writes about the Pac-12 for Fox Sports Next. Follow him on Twitter @DanGreenspan

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