Stanford-Oregon Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated November 13, 2012
Oregon has moved atop the rankings thanks to its continued dominance of the Pac-12. It's something that Stanford is well aware of. The top-ranked Ducks can stretch their program-best win streak to 14 games and clinch the conference's North Division crown when they host the No. 14 Cardinal on Saturday night. The nation's highest-scoring team cruised to a 59-17 victory at California last Saturday. Oregon (10-0, 7-0) moved up to No. 1 when Alabama was upset by Texas A&M. "That's what's so good about this team," said wide receiver Josh Huff, who had three touchdown catches. "We don't pay attention to the rankings and what's around us. We just play Oregon football." The Ducks are 32-2 in conference games under Chip Kelly and have won nine of their last 10 against Stanford (8-2, 6-1). The Cardinal can win the North with a victory this weekend and one over UCLA next week. "This is pretty much our Pac-12 championship game," linebacker Chase Thomas said. Stanford has lost its last five trips to Eugene, with four coming by at least three touchdowns. Since Andrew Luck guided the Cardinal to a 51-42 victory over the Ducks in 2009, they have lost the last two meetings by a combined 44 points. Luck and the Cardinal were 9-0 heading into last season's 53-30 home defeat. Coach David Shaw references Oregon all the time in practice to motivate his team. "They have great athletes, they have a great scheme in all three phases, they know how to adjust those schemes based on what you're doing, which to me is the biggest key," Shaw said. "You don't see them stopped for long. If you're doing something well that can hold them down, they're going to make a tweak and make you pay for it." That was the case for the Ducks last week as they were held to a season-low 180 rushing yards, with Kenjon Barner limited to a per-carry average of 3.3 yards - 3.5 below his average. It didn't matter because Marcus Mariota threw for career highs of 377 yards and six touchdowns. "We're about the end results," Kelly said. "I don't care if we run it, I don't care if we throw it. If you're gonna let us throw it for 377 yards and six touchdowns, we'll take that every week." The coach doesn't expect that type of production this week. Stanford is limiting opponents to a conference-best 320.7 yards per game, leading the nation by limiting foes to an average of 58.8 yards on the ground. "I think it'll be a huge challenge offensively getting matched up against what will be the best defense we've faced so far," Kelly said. The high-octane tempo Oregon plays at has paid dividends each of the last two years against Stanford in second halves in which the Cardinal have been outscored 59-14. "They do this thing where they play close for a half and then they just take off," Stanford senior defensive tackle Terrence Stephens said. "It's going to take our best game to win." On the other side of the ball, Stanford no longer has Luck as it prepares for its second game with Kevin Hogan as the starter. The redshirt freshman completed 22 of 29 passes for 254 yards and three touchdowns in last Saturday's 27-23 home win over then-No. 13 Oregon State. Hogan made his first career start after Shaw decided earlier in the week to permanently bench an ineffective Josh Nunes. "Kevin Hogan's probably a little bit better runner than Josh was so there's a little bit more quarterback on the perimeter stuff," Kelly said. "Their system is their system." The Cardinal will likely want to try to control the clock with a rushing attack led by senior Stepfan Taylor, who is fourth in the Pac-12 with 106.1 yards per game. Taylor has amassed 212 yards rushing over his last two games against Oregon. "I don't think he gets enough publicity or enough notoriety for what he's done," Kelly said. "He's going to go down as one of the all-time great running backs in Stanford history." The Ducks, meanwhile, have totaled 620 rushing yards over the last two years against the Cardinal.
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