(14) Stanford (8-2) at (1) Oregon (10-0)|
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, November 17, 8 p.m. (et)
By Phil Neuffer, Associate College Football Editor
GAME NOTES: Pac-12 football fans are in for a treat this weekend when the
high-octane Oregon Ducks host the bruising Stanford Cardinal in a matchup of
Top-15 squads at Autzen Stadium.
Built on its punishing defense, Stanford has grinded out an 8-2 overall record
this season. Last weekend the Cardinal won for the fourth straight week since
a heartbreaking loss to Notre Dame in mid-October, with a 27-23 victory at
home over Oregon State. Stanford is also 6-1 in conference play meaning its
hopes of getting to the Pac-12 championship game are still intact.
It hasn't mattered who they or where they played, the Oregon Ducks have
flattened everything in their path this season. After a 59-17 win over
California last weekend the Ducks moved to 10-0 and rose to No. 1 in the
top-25 by virtue of previously unbeaten Alabama's loss to Texas A&M. Oregon
has won 13 straight games, scoring 40 or more points in each game, an NCAA
record. The Ducks' winning streak is the longest active streak in the country.
Last season these teams also met with one team still undefeated. In that
matchup it was No. 3 Stanford that had the perfect mark, but No. 6 Oregon
ruined that, winning 53-30 at Stanford Stadium. Oregon has won back-to-back
games in the series, but Stanford still leads 44-30-1.
It seems that Kevin Hogan is here to stay at quarterback for Stanford. Hogan
made his first start of the season last weekend against Oregon State and
excelled, throwing for 254 yards and three touchdowns on 22-of-29 passing.
Hogan did throw two interceptions in the contest but it seems he has secured
the starting gig from Josh Nunes, who started the first nine games.
Head coach David Shaw was impressed with what he saw from his sophomore
quarterback in the week leading up to his first start.
"Early in the week, we knew he could handle quite a bit," Shaw said. "But by
the end of the week, he had a hand in changing protections and calling
Even with Hogan at the helm, Stanford isn't exactly an explosive offense.
Stanford relies on its powerful offensive line and running game primarily.
Having a running back like Stepfan Taylor has made that a more than suitable
gameplan. Taylor has piled up 1,061 yards and nine touchdowns on the season
and has also been an important part of the passing game. His 28 receptions are
the second most on the team. Taylor finished with 114 yards and a touchdown
last weekend against Oregon State and is currently the third most productive
back in the Pac-12.
Hogan has clearly already established a rapport with Zach Ertz. The tight end
hauled in nine passes for 75 yards and a touchdown against Oregon State. Ertz
is the most productive pass catcher on the squad, with 47 receptions for 641
yards and five touchdowns. Ertz was named a Mackey Award semifinalist this
Thanks to its defense, Stanford has not needed to be as offensive juggernaut.
The Cardinal are by far the best defensive unit in the conference, holding
teams to 17.2 points and 320.7 yards per game. Stanford is not just effective
in comparison to its conference foes but on a national scale as well, ranking
17th nationally in total defense. Stanford is especially strong against the
run, where it is second to no team in the country (58.6 yapg).
The defense feeds off of the play of the front seven which has racked up
incredible numbers in tackles for loss (91) and sacks (42), both the top marks
in the country as well. Trent Murphy (14.5 tackles for loss, 7.5 sacks), Ben
Gardner (12.0 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks) and Henry Anderson (8.5 tackles for
loss, 4.5 sacks) have been pillars or consistency up front, while linebacker
Chase Thomas (51 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks) has directed the
squad from the edge.
On the other side of the field awaits the Oregon Ducks' offense, which
produces most of its yards on the ground. Running a relentless no huddle
offense that features multiple packages and formations, the Ducks have been
the third most productive offense (562.5 ypg) in the country, while scoring at
a rate (54.8 ppg) few teams are even close to. In fact other than Louisiana
Tech (53.4 ppg) and Oklahoma State (43.9 ppg) no team in the country is within
10 points of Oregon's scoring average.
Oregon has rushed for the third most yards (3,251) in the country. That puts
them in company with teams like Army, Air Force and Georgia Tech, whose run-
option offenses ignore the passing game almost entirely.
Oregon though, can still pass the ball and it has used a freshman quarterback
to do so. Marcus Mariota has been excellent in his first season, throwing for
2,164 yards and 28 touchdowns, while completing 71.7 percent of his passes. He
has also thrown only five interceptions and has shown excellent mobility (516
yards, 3 TDs). In last weekend's win over California, Mariota showed his
toughness as he withstood an injury and still managed to tie a school record
with six touchdown passes.
Star running back Kenjon Barner, who was named a Doak Walker Award
semifinalist this week, was also slowed by an injury in the game which
accounted for a rather weak performance by his standards (65 yards). When
healthy, Barner is almost impossible to stop as he has racked up 1,360 yards
and 19 touchdowns on the ground.
The offensive weapons do not stop there, with the versatile De'Anthony Thomas
(521 rushing yards, 7 TDs, 37 receptions, 378 yards, 4 TD receptions). Josh
Huff (20 receptions, 355 yards , 6 TDs) and Colt Lyerla (16 receptions, 260
yards, 6 TDs) have also made the most of their touches.
"You have to pick your poison really with them," California coach Jeff Tedford
said after watching the Ducks run the Golden Bears off the field. "If you're
going to get up in there and try to stop the run, then the play-action, you're
covering really fast guys running down the field."
On defense Oregon has given up its fair share of yards (377.6 ypg) but that is
largely a symptom of the pace at which the offense plays. Teams are often
given many more possessions with the Ducks scoring so quickly, which allows
for more opportunities to pick up yards. A better barometer of the Ducks'
defense is how well it does in stopping teams from turning those yards into
points. Oregon is currently third in the Pac-12 in scoring defense (22.3 ppg),
for a scoring differential of more than 30 points per game.
While it might seem that the offense has stockpiled all the athleticism, there
are playmakers on the defensive side of the ball for Oregon as well. Three
different players have at least three interceptions this season (Ifo Ekpre-
Olomu, Kiko Alonso and A Patterson). Ekpre-Olomu has been especially stingy in
coverage, with a Pac-12 leading 17 passes defended. Taylor Hart (8.0 tackles
for loss, 7.0 sacks) and Dion Jordan (8.5 tackles for loss, 5.0 sacks) have
been effective on the pass rush.
Oregon is well aware of how big a challenge this game presents but isn't
distracted by how important it is on a national scale.
"That's what's so good about this team," Huff said. "We don't pay attention to
the rankings and what's around us. We just play Oregon football. We'll pick
our heads up in December and we'll see where we're at."
It isn't December yet but Oregon looks well on its way to being in a favorable
position once it rolls around. Stanford's defense will match up better than
most units with Oregon's run game. However it hasn't mattered yet what's been
thrown at them, the Ducks have found a way to not just win, but to dominate.
Expect the same thing on Saturday.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Oregon 41, Stanford 20
11/14 10:38:57 ET