Oregon Ducks vs. Stanford Cardinal


Most people that looked at the Ducks’ schedule this summer circled two games: LSU and Stanford. Sure, Arizona State and USC could be great games, but this weekend’s match-up is about as big as it gets. #7 Oregon travels to Palo Alto to take on #4 Stanford, who still have their hopes set on a National Championship shot this season.

Both schools bring a lot of media attention with them.  Oregon brings their style of play and overall presentation. Stanford has Andrew Luck, who is a first ballot Hall-of-Famer before even playing a down in the NFL, according to most experts.  However, Phil Simms and Washington Huskies coach Steve Sarkisian have recently come out and said that USC’s QB Matt Barkley would be the better NFL QB. Either way you look at it, the hype doesn’t matter one bit because this Saturday Oregon will be facing one hell of a college QB in Andrew Luck.

Along with Luck, Oregon should be concerned with Stanford’s running game. This Cardinal team is well balanced, physical, and intelligent. Stanford brings some tremendous tight ends that would make any offensive coordinator around the country jealous. Big TE’s are huge in Stanford’s offensive scheme. These guys can block like tacklers, and they become huge targets in the red zone for an accurate passing QB like Luck.

Look out Ducks because by the numbers the Cardinal has to be the favorite in this matchup. Stanford throws the ball on average for 281.1 yards a game (23rd in the nation), runs for 224.7 (17th overall), scores an average 48.2 points a game (3rd overall), and allows only 16.6 points a game (11th overall).

The Ducks are slightly behind Stanford throwing the ball for 212.2 yards a game (78th overall), rushing for 298.4 yards a game (5th overall), scoring 46.0 points a game (5th overall), and allowing 20.8 points a game on defense (26th overall).

In reality, both teams put up similar numbers.  Oregon has also had injuries to both their starting QB and RB that negatively affected their offensive statistics. Stanford, on the other hand, really has not played anyone this season. The Cardinal beat USC in overtime and handled a potentially dangerous Washington squad, but their pre-season schedule lacked a quality opponent. Stanford is big up front and runs a lot of heavy formations on offense. Placing Luck under center with two TE’s, a single back, or an I formation allows for plenty of pass protection and a great power running attack. Stanford also has a running back from Texas; 5’11 208 lbs junior tailback Stepfan Taylor who has run for 891 yards on 147 carriers this season (scoring 8 touchdowns). If Stanford is going to have success against Oregon, they must be able to effectively run the ball on early downs, creating manageable 2nd and 3rd down situations. This will allow Luck to take his shots downfield using play action passes to freeze Oregon’s secondary and possibly get chances to throw into one-on-one coverage, which takes advantage of Stanford’s size advantage over Oregon’s secondary.

Stanford plays an odd front on defense, which will be an advantage for Oregon’s running game. A three-man front will allow Oregon’s O-line to reach Stanford’s linebackers and can create huge cut back lanes for Oregon’s explosive runners. The Cardinal could bring two linebackers up to play the edge like standup defensive ends, turning a 3-5 scheme basically into a 5-3. These standup ends mixed with outside linebackers are some of the most athletic guys on the football field.  But if Oregon can reach them or create mistakes in the zone read or option game, Oregon can go for big yards.

The winner of this game will be determined by who runs the ball more efficiently. Forget the hype and fear that Andrew Luck brings, this game will come down to both offensive and defensive lineman as well as running backs and linebackers. Both Darron Thomas and Andrew Luck will have to make plays from time to time but I don’t anticipate big numbers by either QB unless one team falls behind and has to play “air-it-out” to catch-up.

This should be a tight game throughout.  But ultimately, I see the Ducks getting the upset over the Cardinal. Stanford will fall Saturday night from their potential BCS title and Pac-12 Championship hopes to a possible at-large BCS bowl game.. I predict that Oregon will win this game 38-20 and be on their way to represent the Pac 12 North in the conference championship game.