Oregon and Stanford meet in Pac-12 showdown
Stanford, CA – The much-anticipated battle for Pac-12 ranked Stanford Cardinal play host ranked Oregon Ducks on Saturday evening.
Oregon's season began on a sour note, as the club was beaten by a still- unbeaten LSU team, 40-27. Since then, however, Chip Kelly's crew has been downright dominant, winning eight games in a row by 14 or more points. Last weekend, the Ducks beat a solid Washington squad on the road by a 34-17 final, and that solid offensive output actually marked Oregon's lowest point total in any game during the current win streak. The Ducks have now won 18 straight conference games, dating to a 2009 road loss to Stanford.
"They're not ranked number three for no reason," said Kelly of Stanford. "We got our hands full, it's a big challenge and our guys are excited about it."
Last week, Stanford extended the nation's longest winning streak to 17 games with a 38-13 romp over Oregon State. The Cardinal are now 9-0, marking the best start for the program since 1951.
"We understand that it could be a trap game, seeing that we are sandwiched between two good teams, but I think that we are mature enough to understand that if we didn't win this game, the next wouldn't matter," said Stanford star QB Andrew Luck after the win over the Beavers.
Stanford owns a 44-29-1 series lead over Oregon, but the Ducks did beat the Cardinal last season by a 52-31 final.
Oregon is as explosive as any team in the nation, as it is posting 46.0 ppg and 510.7 total ypg. The thing that makes the Ducks most dangerous is that they can dominate with both the run and the pass. The fact that they are running for 298.4 ypg at a clip of 7.0 ypc is staggering, but it isn't all too surprising when considering the fact that LaMichael James is toting the rock. Despite only playing in seven of the team's nine games due to injury, James has rushed for 1,061 yards and nine touchdowns while gaining 8.0 ypc. Add Kenjon Barner (601 yds, eight TDs) to the mix and the Ducks aren't short on options. As for the passing attack, Darron Thomas has thrown 19 TDs with just five INTs, and players such as Lavasier Tuinei (seven TDs) and De'Anthony Thomas (six receiving TDs, five rushing TDs) have emerged as playmakers.
Opponents are managing 20.8 ppg against Oregon, which is giving up 383.8 total ypg. The Ducks yield a mere 3.7 yards per rushing attempt, and Kelly credits the big guys up front for the success.
"I think our defensive line is playing fantastic," said Kelly. "It's not just one guy, it's an entire group, and they're playing at a really high level."
Against Washington last weekend, Oregon finished with a modest total of 381 yards, and Thomas was only able to throw for 169 yards with one touchdown. Fortunately, James ripped the Huskies for 156 yards and scored one of the team's three rushing TDs. Defensively, Oregon played well against a dangerous offensive team, limiting the Huskies to 278 total yards.
Don't expect a similar defensive showing by the Ducks this weekend, as Stanford leads the Pac-12 in scoring and ranks third nationally with its 48.2 ppg. It's almost a forgone conclusion that Luck will be the top pick in the next NFL Draft, and it is easy to understand why when considering his 71.3 percent completions, 2,424 passing yards, 26 touchdowns and just five interceptions. Luck has the athleticism to extend plays and pick up significant gains as a runner, and he does have some solid weapons around him. Among the receivers, Coby Fleener has scored eight touchdowns on just 20 catches. In the backfield, Stepfan Taylor has run for 891 yards and eight scores.
While Luck and the offense garner the headlines, the Stanford defense has been tremendous, allowing only 16.6 ppg and 324.0 total ypg. The Cardinal are outstanding against the run, permitting just 78.9 ypg at a clip of 3.0 ypc. The pass defense hasn't been nearly as dominant, but the fact that just nine passing scores have been allowed in as many games is impressive. Keep an eye on Chase Thomas, as he has 6.5 sacks thus far.
In last week's matchup with Oregon State, Luck threw for a modest 206 yards but did toss three TD passes. Taylor ran for 95 yards, while Griff Whalen posted six catches for 87 yards and a touchdown for head coach David Shaw. As for the defense, it yielded just 285 total yards and permitted the Beavers to keep possession for fewer than 20 minutes. It is notable that Stanford wideout Chris Owusu suffered a concussion last week and is unlikely to play in this showdown.