— This Thursday marks a huge contest as the No. 3 Oregon Ducks (8-0, 5-0 Pac-12) travel to Palo Alto to challenge the No. 5 Stanford Cardinals (7-1, 5-1 Pac-12) in one of the biggest conference clashes in recent memory. As Oregon has gone above and beyond impressing fans around the country, with a high octane attack and Heisman contending QB Marcus Mariota, Thursday will be the Ducks biggest challenge of 2013. After 14-17 loss last year, Oregon looks to reverse the tides and put away Stanford for good.
ESPN always puts it simply: The biggest Pac-12 game of the year is a true contrast of styles. The Ducks, who average more than 55 points a game, will try to out-tempo a Cardinal defense that allows fewer than 20 points. The winner secures a foothold in the Pac-12 North race and will greatly bolster their BCS standing. This could be a Heisman-defining game for Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota, who is 20-1 as a starter with his only loss coming last year to Stanford.
Oregon Outlook: Oregon is obviously built around speed as they average above 300 yards in both passing/rushing and currently rank second in terms of points scored and total defense with over 600 yards a game. With this said, the Ducks are straight up scary, with athletes such as RB/WR De’Anthony Thomas, RB Byron Marshall, WR Josh Huff and WR Bralon Addison who all serve as the perfect weaponry for QB Marcus Mariota. Mariota has been up to this point, pretty much perfect while his passing ability and outstanding speed have embarrassed defenses around the country. Last year however, in a game that rings eerily similar, Mariota was pedestrian going 21/37 for 207 yards with 1 TD and 1 INT. Despite this performance, Mariota hasn’t thrown an interception since this time last season and as of now is the Heisman frontrunner (Through the first eight games of the season, he has totalled 2,281 yards passing and 511 rushing with 29 total touchdowns (20 pass, 9 rush) and no interceptions.) Simply put Mariota, knows that this game will most likely make or break his case for the Heisman, so the pressure is on. Outstanding up to this point, Thursday could mark a challenge, as Oregon’s most impressive victory has been over an overrated UCLA squad and other lackluster opponents. Defensively, Oregon is led by linebacker Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Boseko Lokombo, Terrance Mitchell and Derrick Malone. Not surprisingly this unit is often overlooked but is arguably just as nasty ranking 27th nationally in total defense. That said, Nick Allioti’s group held UCLA quarterback standout Brett Hundley to only 64 yards passing and this season, they are giving up an average of just 16.9 points a game. Another note is that the UO defense has made more game-changing plays than any other defensive unit in the country since the start of 2012. The Ducks led the nation with 40 takeaways (25 interceptions, 15 fumble recoveries) a year ago – 32 by current players – and have 23 (13 INT/10 FR) so far in 2013.
Stanford Outlook: Throw away a loss versus Utah, the Cardinal boasts a very physical and talented team of their own. The question is will Stanford be able to stop Oregon like they did this time last year? Offensively, Stanford is led by RB Tyler Gaffney and QB Kevin Hogan who are aided by a huge offensive line and a talented group of tight ends and receivers who include WRs Ty Montgomery and Devon Cajuste. Although a talented group of their own averaging over 32 points a contest, they don’t compare when put up against Oregon’s attack, and Stanford’s defense is their only realistic shot at winning this ball game. A strong suit of the Cardinals 36th ranked rushing attack, however has to be their excellent offensive line that features stars such as Andrus Peat, David Yankey and Cameron Flemming. Keeping the Ducks off of the field with sustained drives is one approach that could work. Defensively, outstanding linebacker Shane Skov, AJ Tarpley and Trent Murphy all of whom have experience stopping the lethal attack of the Ducks, lead a big and talented front seven who will be looking for success once again; even after the recent injury of DE Ben Gardner . This unit additionally, only allows a stiff 19.4 points a game and currently ranks #23 overall in total-defense. Impressive wins over talented offenses such as Arizona State, UCLA, Oregon State and Washington aid the argument that once again, the Stanford defense could repeat history (currently allow under five yards per play). A quick side note is that: Stanford has forced a turnover in 33 straight games, the second-longest streak in the country a feat that they will try to continue Thursday night.
Gambling Info via Bleacher Report:
- The Oregon Ducks are 8-0 straight-up and 7-1 against the spread through eight games this season, as they come off a 42-14 victory over the UCLA Bruins as 23.5-point home favorites on Oct. 26.
- College football handicappers will find that the Ducks have won and covered the number in their last 10 games as road favorites.
- The Stanford Cardinal have won their last 13 home games, which is the third-longest active winning streak of its kind in college football.
- Over the last two-plus seasons, the Cardinal are 16-8-1 against the spread versus Pac-12 Conference opponents, with the UNDER going 13-12 in that situation.
Final Point: This is a game we will all remember come this time next year and personally I couldn’t be more hyped to put on my television Thursday evening. With number analysis galore, the game will come down to the action on the field and personally Oregon is the squad with a lot more to loose. Close up until the 3rd quarter, QB Marcus Mariota solidifies his Heisman hype, compiling a multiple touchdown performance; leading the Ducks to victory. Oregon 40 Stanford 21