3 keys to victory for No. 10 Oregon Ducks against Cal on Friday

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The Oregon Ducks have had almost two full weeks to digest the difficult loss against Stanford – which pushed them down in the rankings and made the path to the College Football Playoffs significantly more daunting.

Season-ending injuries to CJ Verdell and Bennett Williams won’t help either, although a date with the Golden Bears could be just what Mario Cristobal’s team needs to get things back on track.

Cal is 1-4 on the year, and their defense has struggled to stop just about everyone they have faced – which should allow Oregon to put this one away early.

Of course, we’ve said that before, and the Ducks haven’t exactly played up to their level when facing inferior opponents, so this is far from a sure thing.

In order for Oregon to secure a much needed blowout victory, here are three key things that need to happen:

Travis Dye needs to ball out

(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Star running back and fringe Heisman Trophy candidate CJ Verdell is out for the rest of the season, a devastating blow for this Oregon squad after his dominance early in the year.

The Ducks are fortunate to have a stellar back next to him in Travis Dye, and he’ll be counted on in a major way for the rest of the season.

Dye was great against Stanford, one of the team’s few bright spots, and in a game where the Ducks should build a lead early – effectively running the ball and burning clock in the second half will be crucial. Dye is the man for the job at the moment, and how he does will be a big factor in this one.

Score early, Score often

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Cal’s defense is bad. Once a weapon under defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter, the Golden Bears have struggled to stop just about everyone this season.

For Oregon, this is a great opportunity to light up the scoreboard early and often, allowing them to coast to an easy victory and quiet some of the vocal doubters after the Stanford debacle earlier this month.

It could also be a chance for Oregon to deploy both Anthony Brown and Ty Thompson – provided the lead gets large enough – which will allow fans to get a look at the two of them in the same contest and form opinions about who should be under center going forward.

While adding additional fan discourse into the lexicon isn’t exactly the top priority for coach Mario Cristobal – getting an early lead and not having to sweat in the second half sure is.

Generate a consistent pass rush

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The Oregon Ducks are finally getting healthy along the defensive front. Of course, they’ll be without star defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux for the first half while he serves a suspension stemming from a questionable targeting penalty against Stanford two weeks ago.

Without Thibodeaux, Oregon will need to generate an effective and consistent pass rush in order to push Chase Garbers out of the pocket. While he’s been solid at completing a high rate of passes this year, he hasn’t been without his mistakes – and putting pressure on him could allow Oregon’s secondary to do what they do best: get the ball back.

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