Kenjon Barner's record-setting night helped Oregon pass one major test and move closer toward a spot in the BCS championship game.
The second-ranked Ducks have a couple more tests on the horizon but first they have to avoid an upset during Saturday night's visit to struggling California, which may not have its starting quarterback available.
Barner rushed for a program-best 321 yards and scored five times on the ground, matching a Pac-12 mark, to lead Oregon to a 62-51 win at then-No. 18 Southern California this past Saturday. Marcus Mariota also threw for four touchdowns and the Ducks gained 730 yards while matching a school record with their 12th straight victory.
Barner's performance surely boosted his Heisman Trophy candidacy, and he'll try to add to his resume Saturday.
"It's a blessing. It's an honor," Barner said. "But I don't really worry about it. I can't worry about that, I can't focus on that right now because there's still a lot of football left and anything can happen."
More importantly, his effort helped the Ducks move past Notre Dame for third in the BCS standings.
Oregon (9-0, 6-0) trails second-place Kansas State by .0152 and could get a boost with wins over No. 16 Stanford and No. 13 Oregon State to wrap up the season. Before they get to those games, the Ducks have to get past Cal (3-7, 2-5).
"I think we're going to get everyone's best shot no matter who we play," linebacker Michael Clay said. "They're going to come out fired up and ready to get at us. So we just have to be ready for that, especially on road games. We have to weather the storm."
Oregon has won three straight over the Golden Bears after losing three in a row, but the Ducks trailed at halftime in last season's meeting before pulling away for a 43-15 win. Oregon erased a one-point deficit by scoring 29 unanswered points on Oct. 6, 2011.
During its previous visit to Berkeley on Nov. 13, 2010, Oregon needed a punt return touchdown and another score early in the fourth quarter for a 15-13 win.
"It was a dogfight," Clay said. "They missed a field goal, but it was a dogfight. It'll be another one down there."
This time, the Ducks will face a Cal team that's lost three straight and might not have starting quarterback Zach Maynard available. Maynard is dealing with an injured left knee and Allan Bridgford could start in his place.
Bridgford has attempted a combined 48 passes for the Bears and hasn't thrown for a touchdown in his six games. He started in the season opener against Nevada on Sept. 1 when Maynard was disciplined for missing a tutoring session but completed only two of nine passes for six yards.
The junior went 2 of 7 for 26 yards after Maynard got hurt against Washington on Nov. 2 and couldn't lead Cal to a tying score in a 21-13 defeat.
"It would be different if it were my first time playing a college football game but it's not," Bridgford said. "I've played a number of games. I've thrown a handful of passes. I'm not overly nervous. I'm just ready to have fun and waiting to have my shot."
Maynard, though, doesn't have ligament damage in his knee and coach Jeff Tedford will likely wait to see how the injury heals before choosing a starter.
"It's totally dependent on how he's moving and what he feels like," Tedford said. "Each day it gets a little bit better. It's kind of out of our control. He'll get as much rehab as he can and it's just how he responds to that."
Along with its three game win-streak in the series, Oregon has taken 11 of the past 15 meetings. Cal, though, holds a 39-33-2 all-time lead and a 26-15-2 edge on home matchups.
Top 25 Overview
This is the Ducks' final game against a sub.-500 team before closing out the year against a pair of ranked teams. Kenjon Barner made a big Heisman push with 321 yards and five touchdowns against USC. Cal coach Jeff Tedford's seat is awfully hot after failing to make the postseason for the second time in three seasons.