The stage is set for the Pac-12 showdown we have all been waiting for. The lights will be on, ESPN College Gameday will on campus and around the country all eyes will be on Palo Alto as the #7 Oregon Ducks (8-1, 6-0) square off against Andrew Luck and #4 Stanford (9-0, 7,0).
This game has everything that college football fans want to see.
Both teams are top-5 nationally in scoring with Stanford averaging at just over 48 points per game (3rd) and Oregon coming in just behind at 46 points (5th).
Though the lights will be on for the primetime game, there will be enough star power on the field to shine through.
Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck is considered the best quarterback in the nation and will almost certainly be the first overall pick in April’s NFL draft. Luck is regarded as the most pro-ready prospect since Peyton Manning and his play this season has proven that. The Indianapolis Colts may think so too, as their “Suck for Luck” campaign thus far this season appears to be in full swing.
Luck has completed 71% of his passes and has thrown for 26 touchdowns against only 5 interceptions so far this season. He is the clear front-runner for the Heisman Trophy this season after being a finalist last year. A win over Oregon and a possible appearance in the national championship game would all but seal the award for Luck.
While Stanford may boast the nation’s top quarterback, Oregon’s LaMichael James is considered the best running back in the country.
James was alongside Luck last season at the Heisman Trophy presentation and won the Doak Walker Award, given to the country’s top running back. This season James has not slowed down when he has been on the field.
Though he has missed 2 games due to a dislocated elbow, James has still managed to rush for 1,061 yards and 9 touchdowns in just 7 games while averaging an outstanding 8.0 yards per carry.
What may give Oregon a slight edge in the first game they enter as an underdog in several years is their depth.
Running back Kenjon Barner has 8 touchdowns this season and averages just under 7 yards per carry. True freshman running back/receiver/kick returner De’Anthony Thomas has electrified the Ducks offense this season and has a team leading 12 total touchdowns, which also ties him for the national lead among freshmen.
Against a stiff Stanford defense Oregon quarterback Darron Thomas will likely need to put up bigger numbers than he has in the past few weeks since returning from a knee injury. Turnovers will put the Ducks in a severe hole against a team as good as Stanford, much like they did against LSU.
Protecting the ball and keeping Andrew Luck on the sideline will be key. Though Oregon is famous for their fast paced and high scoring offensive attack, this week slowing down a bit may not be the worst idea.
Thus far this season the Ducks rank dead last in the nation in time of possession by over a minute and a half (meaning it is not even close between them and the next worst team). Yet they still score over 45 points per game with ease. But this week making Mr. Luck stay on the bench will benefit the Oregon defense. If Oregon gets into a shootout they may do well enough to win, but if the Duck defense can stop Stanford’s offense just a few times it may be enough to bring down the mighty Cardinal.
Oregon’s defense has been criticized this season for allowing a lot of yards. But they have been much more aggressive lately and rank fairly high nationally in sacks (6th) and scoring defense (26th). They have also begun forcing turnovers, a key factor in their success last season.
Oregon’s defense will not have to face some important offensive players for Stanford. Wide receiver Chris Owusu, tight end Zach Ertz and offensive tackle Cameron Fleming will all be out of the lineup for the Cardinal.
This will enable the Ducks to focus in on Luck, running back Stepfan Taylor and tight end Coby Fleener.
Fleener in particular will be vital for Oregon to stop. At 6’6 Fleener is a machine in the red zone and Luck’s favorite target. Oregon will be undersized and will need to find a way to keep Fleener under control.
Stanford’s offensive line is very physical and, contrary to the national perception, the Cardinal run the ball 60% of the time. Oregon will need to control the line of scrimmage and find a way to disrupt the methodical offense of Stanford.
On Saturday night the national television audience will have an opportunity to see the two best teams on the west coast face off for the likely Pac-12 North championship and a chance to host in the inaugural Pac-12 championship game.
Combine that with Rose Bowl and possible national championship implications, who would not want to watch the best game of the year that will guarantee at least a few touchdowns and double digit scoring performances? (I’m looking at you Alabama and LSU)
The game has everything a fan could want prior to kickoff. What happens after that is up to the players on the field.
But one thing is for certain; it will be fun to watch.
Oregon: 48 Stanford: 41
About the Author
Written by Rob Parness
My name is Robbie Parness and I am a student at the University of Oregon. I'm a California native that loves to play, watch and talk about all kinds of sports. I would love to become a sports writer someday or work in sports in any capacity.