BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) -Oregon's annual trip to the Bay Area is always a homecoming game.
Coach Mike Bellotti is a Northern California native, and he annually recruits a huge chunk of his roster from the fertile high schools and junior colleges within easy driving distance of Cal and Stanford.
Yet that's not always a good thing for the No. 23 Ducks (6-2, 4-1 Pac-10) when they visit Strawberry Canyon, where they'll meet the Golden Bears (5-2, 3-1) Saturday in another edition of perhaps the West Coast's most underrated college football rivalry.
t relax and let it go, and I will talk to Jeremiah personally about that.''
That would be Jeremiah Masoli, the Oregon quarterback who was born in San Francisco and played at Serra High School, the hallowed alma mater of Tom Brady and Barry Bonds. After a season at City College of San Francisco, he's emerging as a worthy heir to departed Oregon quarterback Dennis Dixon - another Bay Area native, of course.
Oregon has scored at least 31 points in seven of its eight games this year, with a balanced running attack led by Masoli and tailbacks LeGarrette Blount and Jeremiah Johnson. But Cal's 3-4 defense has been at its best stopping the run, except for the notable exception of the Bears' loss at Arizona two weeks ago.
``With their hurry-up offense, the spread offense, and then the fact that they basically have two running backs back there, it makes the defense be on its toes all day,'' Cal defensive lineman Derrick Hill said. ``It's a real test of a defense's manhood. We've stopped the spread before, but our real challenge is going to be to stop their running game.''
, the Oregon native who's expected to get his second straight start at quarterback.
``We're just going to run the ball and do what we've been doing,'' Johnson said. ``Hopefully they think they can stop the run, and we'll throw the ball right over their heads.''
Masoli's versatility and running ability concern Cal coach Jeff Tedford - Bellotti's longtime assistant at Oregon - even more than the driving rain in the forecast. The wet balls will only increase the possibility of another wacky finish in a rivalry that's featured two last-minute ball-handling mistakes by Oregon in the last four meetings.
Just last year, cornerback Marcus Ezeff made the best defensive play of California's season to save the Bears' win at Oregon, poking the ball out of Cameron Colvin's hands and through the end zone as the receiver stretched to score a potential tying touchdown in the final seconds.
Cal's defense mostly handled Oregon's star-studded offense last year, but Ezeff is quite impressed by the Ducks' new cast.
``They're doing exactly the same things, and possibly even better,'' Ezeff said. ``That's what's kind of weird about the situation. They had Dennis Dixon and Jonathan Stewart, who were both Heisman candidates, and now they've got new guys in there who are almost doing even better. That's crazy.''
heft to a rivalry in which Cal has won three of the last four meetings.
``The Pac-10 is so close that one mess-up can be the difference between the Rose Bowl and a whole other bowl,'' Hill said. ``You can't sleep on anybody, and definitely not Oregon.''

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