Thearon W. Henderson
The Oregon Ducks high-octane offense meets their perfect foil in the fierce Stanford Cardinal defense. Brian Spaen of Autzen Zoo and Nathan Roholt of Fish Duck are thinking an Oregon victory, but nothing is for certain.
It's time to clinch that berth to the Pac-12 North, but you finally have the perfect foil in a fierce, physical Stanford squad. What are the matchups you have to exploit to achieve victory?
Brian Spaen, Autzen Zoo Three keys will be to still try and establish the normal Oregon running attack, limit Stepfan Taylor from creating more time of possession for Stanford, and exploiting Stanford's pass defense. As long as Barner can hold up, bring the 1-2 punch with him and De'Anthony Thomas to try and find out what they can do against Stanford's nation-leading rush defense. If at all possible, this will open up things like last week for Mariota in the passing game. The Cardinal give up 262.5 passing yards a game and rank 101st nationally.
Limiting third downs is also key. Remember that USC was able to score 51 points because they went 8-13 on third down opportunities. California only scored 17 points because they went 2-12 on third down. One way to prevent third-down success for Stanford is limiting what Taylor can do.
Nathan Roholt, FishDuck: Oregon's pass attack vs. Stanford's secondary. If Oregon can establish the run, start the bus. If they struggle with it, they can still win through the air. Stanford faced the conference's top four passing offenses, had the luxury of playing all four games at home, yet didn't beat any of them by more than a touchdown. That includes Washington State. Oregon State would have beat them if Cody Vaz and Sean Mannion had made a couple more throws. I also think Colt Lyerla is going to have a big game, OSU's tight ends were open a lot last Saturday.
Stanford can't match Oregon point-for-point (though who can?), so the pass needs to be there to win if Stanford's run defense is stout.
What's your score prediction for Oregon vs. Stanford and why?
Brian Spaen, Autzen Zoo: 31-21 Oregon. This will be a battle all night long, and Autzen Stadium will need to be rocking all night long to guide their team to a close win. The Stanford defense should shut down the running game, but after watching Mariota play that well with the team relying on his arm last week, I'm convinced he can deliver another solid performance to keep the team in the national championship race.
Nathan Roholt, FishDuck: 46-23. It could be one of those games where it's 25-23 late in the third quarter and fans are starting to sweat, then Oregon turns it on it and runs away again. The Ducks have lost only two conference games since Chip Kelly became head coach, and both came the week following their biggest win of the regular season. That kind of trap game would've been the week after USC, not Cal. Stanford is the toughest opponent who will come to Autzen all season, so they won't be sneaking up on anybody. The Ducks have won nine of its last ten against the Cardinal, and I don't expect that to change, barring an appearance from the injury bug. If that pops up again, all bets are off.