CJ Verdell's response will be key for the Ducks in their battle with No. 24 Cal

Thomas Graham Jr. needs a good performance against Cal to prove he's still got what it takes to be a starter for Oregon


-- Dillon Mitchell, WR: He's coming off one of the greatest receiving games in Oregon history last week, amassing 14 catches for 239 yards. His catches and receiving marks both rank second in Oregon single game history. He provided a spark the Ducks were desperately lacking in the passing game, and now they need Mitchell more than ever. Proving that last week's dominance was no fluke, Mitchell will ave to set the tone early and help quarterback Justin Herbert get into a rhythm knowing Cal's ball-hawking defense will be waiting.

-- CJ Verdell, RB: Verdell will be remembered for one thing against Stanford; the fumble. It was Verdell who coughed up the ball fighting for a first down, eventually leading to the Cardinal’s game tying field goal. Up to that point, Verdell’s combination of speed and strength was something Stanford couldn’t’ stop. He finished the game with a game-high 115 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries, outdueling Stanford’s Bryce Love. How does the freshman bounce back from the costly mistake?

***-- Kaulana Apelu, L**B:* He had a good showing against Stanford, providing the Ducks with an early spark and setting the tone with some massive hits, despite his diminutive (5-foot-10, 208 pounds) size. Cal quarterback Chase Garbers is a dual-threat type of player so Apelu’s ability to “spy” on Garbers and prevent him from making plays with his legs will help make Cal one dimensional.

-- Thomas Graham Jr., CB: Graham has struggled this season, there’s no way around that. He got beat on the inside too often against San Jose State and then struggled with Stanford’s height and physicality last week. The sophomore must show that he hasn’t lost his swagger and confidence that led to him starting as a true freshman last year.

Series History: 41-38-2 Cal. Even though Cal leads the overall series, the Ducks are 7-1 since the start of the decade. The lone loss was a 52-49 thriller in double overtime two years ago in Berkeley. Oregon exacted revenge with a 45-24 victory last year, a game that will be remembered where quarterback Justin Herbert broke his collarbone rushing for a touchdown.

Quote to Note: "You've got to understand, this is a business trip. We're not going there to have family time — we're not," Oregon head coach Mario Cristobal said of the Ducks’ first road game of the season. “Going on the road requires a special kind of discipline and focus; having a mindset that puts you in that business mode… it's got to be that way the entire week."

Roster Report

-- DE Austin Failou is questionable after suffering an ankle sprain last week.

-- RB Tony Brooks-James is expected to play after getting banged up against Stanford last week.

-- Senior RB Taj Griffin has elected to transfer from the program, signaling a lack of playing time as being the reason why. Griffin has eight touches for 120 total yards and once score on the season.

-- WR Dillon Mitchell’s 14 receptions last week against Stanford is tied for the most by a player in the FBS this year.

-- QB Justin Herbert tied an Oregon record with six touchdown passes two years ago when the Ducks visited Cal. It was Herbert’s first career Pac-12 road start.

-- In 19 career games, Herbert has led the Ducks to an average of 42.3 points per game.

-- The Ducks are giving up 2.13 yards per rush, third best in the nation.

-- Cal head coach Justin Wilcox graduated from Oregon in 1999, being named to the second team all-Pac-10 as a senior defensive back.