Early Analysis: Stanford vs. Oregon

No. 13 Stanford at No. 2 Oregon
Saturday, 8 PM, ABC
Line: Oregon -20.5

A lot is at stake as the College Gameday road show travels to Eugene this week for a Top 15 matchup. Oregon wants to continue on their march to Sun Life Stadium in Miami to play for the BCS title. Currently as things stand, they are in the game against Kansas State. To get there, however, they have to win out. A victory over Stanford would lock up the Pac-12 North title and remove one hurdle on the path to their championship.

Stanford would love nothing more than to play spoiler, but are also playing for the chance to win the North as well, although they would have to beat both Oregon and UCLA. It is not out of the realm of possibility, however, for the Cardinal to take down Oregon. They lead the nation in rushing defense, allowing only 58.8 yards per game.

It’s a clash of the titans and of the two best teams in the Pac-12 over the last couple of season. This has game of the year potential written all over it.

For Stanford to win: Don’t get beat deep. Last week against Cal, Oregon was held in check (for them), rushing for only 180 yards, which is 145 yards below their season average. The passing game, however, racked up 395 yards and seven touchdowns. While most of the passes were short or intermediate, Oregon has the athletes to go over the top if the Stanford linebackers get caught peeking into the backfield.

For Oregon to win: Force three and outs. Stanford will want to control the clock against the Ducks, utilizing talented running back Stepfan Taylor and the ground attack to shorten the game and take some of the pressure off of freshman quarterback Kevin Hogan. The Ducks want to control the tempo by playing fast and running play after play. They have to get the ball back as quickly as possible.

Key Player, Stanford: Kevin Hogan, quarterback. Hogan’s first start went relatively well, completing 22 of 29 for 254 yards in a 27-23 victory over Oregon State. However, that was at home, not on the road in one of the more rabid venues in the country against the number two team in the country. Hogan’s maturity and skills will be tested in the snake pit that is the Autzen Zoo.

Key Person, Oregon: Nick Aliotti, defensive coordinator. The longtime defensive coordinator has his hands full right now due to the amount of injuries sustained by the defense. The Ducks do not talk about injuries, but they are out there. Free safety Avery Patterson hurt his knee in the second quarter at Cal. Patterson had taken over for senior John Boyett, who had his career end due to injuries to both of his knees. Aliotti said in an interview with the Associated Press, “We’re getting thinner, but we’ll find a way to make it work.

The Ducks had to play three true freshmen at times on the line last week against Cal, and gave up 236 yards rusing on 40 carries to the Golden Bears. Stanford is a dangerous rushing team who is more than capable of taking advantage of a thin defense.

Key Stat: 59-14. That is the combined score in the second half of the last two games that Oregon has played against Stanford (both victories). The Ducks are 9-1 in their last ten against the Cardinal, with the only loss coming against Andrew Luck in 2009.

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