Marcus Mariota seeks to solidify Heisman Trophy candidacy with a big game against Stanford.
Photo: USA Today Sports
No. 2 Oregon at No. 6 Stanford
Thursday, 9:00 PM, ESPN
Line: Oregon -7.5
The game of the year in the Pac-12 is upon us. This game has decided the winner of the Pac-12 North the last two years, and that team has gone on to win the conference title game as well. Stanford has already suffered one conference loss, so a loss in this game would definitely throw them out of consideration for the division title. Oregon could still lose the game and potentially win the division, but Oregon’s sights are set higher than the Pac-12 Championship.
It simplistic to say this, but the game boils down to this: Can Stanford’s defense stop Oregon’s offensive machine? The Cardinal have allowed only 19.4 points per game, good for top 20 in the country. Oregon trails only Baylor in points scored at 55.6 per game.
For Stanford to win: Maintain possession of the ball. Sometimes the best defense against an offense like Oregon is to keep them from getting the ball. Stanford’s pro-style offense is best suited to playing that game, with the heavy run packages and a controlled passing game. The Cardinal need to not only take as much time off the clock as they can, but they need to protect the ball as well. Oregon is tied for sixth in the nation in takeaways, so the Cardinal cannot be sloppy with the ball at all.
For Oregon to win: Avoid the slow start. The Ducks use their tempo to wear opponents down in the second half. However, they have also gotten off to slow starts in several of their games before pulling away. That is a risky game to play over the course of a season, and to do so against a team that can limit possessions like Stanford, especially on the road, is a recipe for a potential upset. The Ducks need to come out fast and furious and take the crowd and Stanford out of the game as fast as possible.
Key Player, Stanford: Ty Montgomery, wide receiver. He’s a jack of all trades for Stanford. Montgomery leads the Cardinal in receiving yards, and has accounted for 1380 total yards and seven touchdowns, including two on kickoff returns. His ability to generate a spark on offense or special teams gives the Cardinal an explosive player who can flip field position or break out to put points up against a team that is known for scoring fast themselves.
Key Player, Oregon: Marcus Mariota, quarterback. The sophomore is playing lights out right now and has thrust himself into the discussion for the Heisman trophy. Mariota played an okay game last season in Eugene, but November is the month where the trophy can be won or lost. Another huge game this season against a top five opponent on the road during a showcase game could help Mariota bring the trophy back to Eugene.
Key Stat: 8. The Ducks and Cardinal have split the last two matchups, with the road team winning. Over those two games, though, the Cardinal have turned the ball over eight times while forcing only three. If the same pattern continues, it could end Stanford’s Pac-12 and BCS dreams.