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Redemption Mission for #4 Ducks vs #9 Stanford
Posted By Rob Parness On Sep 30 2010 @ 2:07 pm In Oregon | No Comments
They say that memories are a powerful thing to the human mind. Some are easily forgotten, and others stay with you whether you want them to or not. Only one type of memory is more dominant than a good experience; A bad experience. So there should be no doubt about the fact that the 4th ranked Oregon Ducks have not forgotten about the 51-42 loss at the hands of the Stanford Cardinal last season in Palo Alto. Last year Stanford running back Toby Gerhardt drove right through the Duck defense that seemed overmatched for one of the few times all season, as Oregon suffered their only Pac-10 loss. However, this week when the 9th ranked Cardinal lumber into Autzen Stadium to face off with the Ducks in a clash of top-10 ranked teams the men on the Oregon sideline are sure to have only one thing on their minds: revenge.
On offense the Ducks need to display vast improvement from last week’s mediocre performance in Tempe. This week’s match-up is drastically different from last week however. Arizona State displayed quickness, burst, and athleticism unlike the Ducks have faced all season and that proved to be a problem for the offensive line. This week Stanford poses a more power-oriented defense that looks to rely on production more so than big plays. The Stanford defense is designed to wear down opponents with their physical mentality and sometimes just be smarter than the other team (it is still Stanford after all). But a relatively unathletic linebacking core could prove costly against the likes on LaMichael James and Kenjon Barner, two running backs that if given even a little crease will take off and not be caught. So expect the Cardinal to stack the line much like Arizona State did last week against the Ducks. So the pressure may fall on quarterback Darron Thomas to throw the ball over the top to his weapons at receiver and tight end. Thomas’s two main targets this season have been receiver Jeff Maehl and tight end David Paulson, and look for both of them to be productive again in the short passing game. However, Thomas has shown that if the opportunity presents itself he will throw the ball deep, so look for Lavasier Tuinei to snatch a few touchdowns in the game as well. But in tough games like this it cannot be stressed enough how vital it is for Thomas to be productive but accurate. At this stage he needs to worry about helping not hurting by turning the ball over and giving Andrew Luck extra opportunities. Look for Chip Kelly to call a conservative game, or as conservative as possible for a coach that seems to confuse “conservative” with “get the damn ball in the endzone…a lot.” The Oregon offense should find ways to score, so the emphasis is on the defense.
This year’s Cardinal team is spearheaded by quarterback Andrew Luck, without a doubt one of the most talented and productive players in the country. It is by no accident that Luck is near the top of the list of Heisman Trophy candidates as well as those of NFL scouts who drool over every college quarterback that knows how to through it to his own team. But how much does Luck really have to do with success? Stanford has thus far faced 4 teams that are without winning records this season, much like the Ducks remaining relatively untested. So this week’s game will provide a barometer for the prospects of both teams in the remainder of the season. While the Cardinal may have the best college quarterback in the nation lined up behind center Saturday, they do not have the luxury of a dual threat like last year with Gerhardt. Luck has done well thus far with the weapons that he has, but the Ducks superior athleticism and speed on the defensive side of the ball should play into Oregon’s favor. Coming off of a 7 turnover performance against Arizona State, look for the Ducks to remain aggressive and win the turnover battle again this week. The main battle will be Luck versus the Oregon defense, because if Luck is forced to stay on the sidelines and watch the Duck offense run up and down the field it would be hard for him to keep his team in the game. Luck, like most good quarterbacks, works best when he is in command of the game and is allowed to work in rhythm with his offense. If the Ducks force turnovers, put pressure on Luck and force the Cardinal to punt then Stanford is in trouble. But if Stanford is permitted to play at their pace and dominate time of possession, look for this game to go down to the wire and if you are a Duck fan hope Stanford does not have the ball.
There is no question as to the magnitude of this game in the minds of the players, the fans, as well as the national audience. ESPN’s College Gameday will be returning to Eugene for full coverage of the contest. This provides a scene for analyst Lee Corso to place a giant Duck helmet on his head if he picks Oregon to win (if he picks Stanford, your guess is as good as mine as to how he will put a tree on his head). Last season Gameday visited Eugene for a game against the USC Trojans, so trust me when I say Oregon fans know how to make fun of opposing mascots. With a primetime start to the game, all eyes will be on Autzen Stadium Saturday to see who really brings the wood. The Ducks will look to cut down the Cardinal and log this game in the win column. The show “Axe Men” is shot in Oregon for a reason, so look for the Cardinal to leave Eugene to the sounds of “Timber!”
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