By George Schroeder
September 26, 2009

EUGENE, Ore. -- There's no way to know, but it wouldn't be surprising if a certain head coach's inbox fills with invoices Saturday evening. Would you blame the fans if they all want refunds?

The quarterback got rattled, the running game got stuffed, the defense got discombobulated, and there was no question which team was superior.

Only this time, those e-mails aren't going to Chip Kelly, and those things didn't happen to his Ducks.

After Oregon's 42-3 win over No. 6 California, Jeff Tedford might find himself pressing the delete button, discarding e-mails. It's probably what he'd like to do with the game film after Oregon deleted the Bears' high hopes.

"We got beat by a better team today," Tedford said, unnecessarily.

Remember when Cal was a trendy pick to win the Pac-10, and was in the conversation for the BCS title race? Well, we can scratch another vastly overrated team from the top 10. And we can say goodbye, at least for now, to Jahvid Best's Heisman candidacy.

And as we do that, we can welcome a trendy preseason pick back into the spotlight.

The last time anyone paid attention to Kelly's Ducks, LeGarrette Blount was punching away, right after Oregon's punchless effort in a loss to Boise State. The debacle prompted a Portland man to e-mail Kelly with an invoice for his travel expenses.

When Kelly mailed that man a check for $439, the guy didn't cash it; he said Kelly had won him over.

Saturday's performance should have gone a long way toward winning over a lot more. Wearing throwback uniforms -- mustard and green from the mid-1990s -- the Ducks dominated the Bears throughout.

"We always knew we could be this good," Oregon quarterback Jeremiah Masoli said. "Or better."

Not many shared that confidence before Saturday. Oregon rebounded for two wins after the opener, but hadn't looked very good in beating Purdue and Utah. The spectacular display against Cal was the kind of performance many expected from the Ducks in the preseason.

At 3-1, Oregon will probably return to the rankings, and seems primed for a run in a suddenly wide-open Pac-10 race.

Masoli finally resembled the dual-threat quarterback who led Oregon in a late-season surge in 2008 and was featured on the regional cover of Sports Illustrated's preseason football issue. Fresh off a 4-for-16, 95-yard passing against Utah that had many fans calling for his benching, he completed 21-of-25 passes for 253 yards and three touchdowns (all to tight end Ed Dickson) today.

"He did exactly what everyone knew he could do," backup Nate Costa said.

Cal's Best wasn't even the best running back on the field. He managed 55 yards on 16 carries, with a long of 11 yards, against a swarming defense. Kevin Riley completed 12-of-31 passes for 123 yards -- 50 on one play -- and was sacked four times.

Cal made mistakes, and plenty. But the game didn't turn on big plays. The Bears' only scoring drive -- after recovering an Oregon fumble on the opening kickoff -- covered minus-eight yards.

In the bigger picture, Cal's loss removes the Pac-10's best chance to place a team in the national championship picture. But after watching Cal, it's evident the Bears shouldn't have been in the discussion to begin with. Think Ole Miss.

And even if it's just one game, with plenty of time for redemption -- just ask the Ducks -- Cal fans can't help but think of 2007, when the Bears shot up to No. 2, then lost six of their last seven games.

Oregon, meanwhile, looks like the team many expected to see earlier, then figured didn't exist.

You May Like