It is time to rally the troops, battle cries will be heard from every end of the College Football World, as the game of the year approaches this Thursday night. Number 5 ranked Stanford Cardinal play host to the number 3 ranked Oregon Ducks, in what should be viewed as the biggest game in College Football. It will be a game of Speed versus Power, as the strength of the Cardinal has been to run it down your throat first, pass second, and play smash mouth defense, and forcing opponents to play their style of game at their tempo has been Stanford’s bread and butter.
Oregon though is another animal altogether compared to Stanford’s previous opponents. Led by quarterback Marcus Mariota, Oregon has averaged over 55 points a game, ranking the Ducks 2nd in the nation in that category. The Ducks are also 2nd in the nation in rushing, averaging 331.5 yards rushing a game, totaling an average of 632 yards a contest. Astounding offensive numbers for any college football program, but Oregon has historically been known to provide a very high, up tempo, offensive attack that results in a high amount of points put on the board. Whats interesting about this match-up altogether is the contrasting styles of both football programs, and the fact that both could provide the solution to the others flaws.
Stanford’s style of defense this season has been to stop the run and rely on their athletic defensive secondary to feed off the pressure upfront, and clean up any mistakes made by opposing quarterbacks. Oregon is going to have their first real test of the season as the Cardinal will bring it up front, even without Senior standout Ben Gardner, the pressure should be enough to disrupt Mariota in the passing game. The issue Stanford will run into is the dynamic athleticism of Mariota, they must contain him, and prevent him from creating outside the pocket. If Mariota is able to create and extend the plays it could cause problems, so expect Cardinal linebacker Shane Skov to have a busy day, not only stopping the run, but spying on Mariota.
Last season the Cardinal defense contained Mariota just enough to win, this year it should be no different, especially at home. The Cardinal should be pumped for this game, and Coach Shaw is ready to release the hounds on an Oregon defense that has the speed to keep up, but should be overwhelmed by the pro-style power run game of Stanford. Establishing this run game early will open up the play book for Shaw and his staff to get creative and catch Oregon off guard. With both teams very talented on both sides of the ball, this match-up will be a lot closer then Vegas odds makers will make you believe.
Dogging Stanford at home by 10 or 11 points is absurd, Stanford has been playing solid defense, and their run game is as strong as ever with Tyler Gaffney leading the way. Not to mention Stanford beat Oregon last season, in Oregon. Another aspect to look at is the total points given out to betting football fans, ranging from 61 to 61.5 this week, a total I believe to be way too high. Yes it is true both teams average over 30 points a game, Oregon (55.6) and Stanford (32.6), but the key stats to focus on are the points allowed, Oregon (16.9) and Stanford (19.4), as both are exceptionally skilled on the defensive side of the ball. The score will be kept relatively low in the 1st half especially, and could increase as the game goes on, but I wouldn’t count on both teams scoring 30 plus points each, as their contrasting styles could cancel out much of the potential points. What you can count on is this being a very entertaining game, and unfortunately their is no line for that.
Prediction: Cardinal 27 Ducks 23