Week 12 - Stanford at Oregon

Posted Nov 14, 2012

Week 12 Fearless Prediction & Game Preview - Stanford at Oregon

Stanford (8-2) at Oregon (10-0) Nov. 17, 8:00, ABC

Here's The Deal: The goals for Oregon are beginning to become very clear.

Beat Stanford, win the Pac-12 North. Beat Oregon State, maintain supremacy in the state. Beat the South champ on Nov. 30, pack up for Miami and a shot at a national championship. The Ducks moved to 10-0 last Saturday night, overcoming a spate of injuries to key players to destroy Cal, 59-17. Of equal importance, top-ranked Alabama fell to Texas A&M earlier in the day, opening up the No. 2 slot in the BCS standings for Oregon to occupy.

There are no guarantees what the BCS holds for the Ducks over the next three weeks. However, it's safe to assume that at 13-0 it'll bypass the Rose Bowl entirely, possibly opening up a spot for Notre Dame, and go directly to Sun Life Stadium, where the BCS National Championship will be held on Jan. 7. First, though, the Ducks will need to dispose of Stanford for the tenth time in the last 11 meetings.

The Cardinal is not the same team it was when Andrew Luck was still taking snaps, but it hasn't dropped as far as many had assumed. Stanford is still ranked—No. 13 in the latest BCS standings—and still a threat in the North. After holding off Oregon State in essentially a divisional semifinal game, the program has won four straight, and actually controls its own destiny. All it has to do is beat Oregon and UCLA in consecutive road games, and it'll host the Pac-12 title game. That's all.

Stanford is pining to prove to naysayers that there's life on the Farm after Luck and even former head coach Jim Harbaugh, for that matter. Autzen in primetime affords the Cardinal a chance to convert a lot of skeptics into believers this weekend.

Why Stanford Might Win: The physical style of the Cardinal will challenge Oregon on both sides of the ball, especially since it's dealing with a swath of injuries.

The Ducks, which like to rotate in a lot of players, are getting thin in a hurry. S Avery Patterson, who replaced fallen All-American John Boyett, is shelved with a knee injury. And the D-line is in tatters, with Dion Jordan, Wade Keliikipi, Isaac Remington and Ricky Heimuli all trying to work their way back. Stanford is big and nasty in the trenches. It'll run right at Oregon with sturdy veteran RB Stepfan Taylor, testing the health and the depth of the front seven.

On defense, the Cardinal leads the country against the run, yielding just two yards a carry and 58 yards per game. Sure, it's going to be tested from sideline to sideline, but few schools are better at going north-south than Stanford. It's loaded with size, strength and savvy in the front seven, spearheaded by DE Ben Gardner and linebackers Chase Thomas, Trent Murphy and Shayne Skov. The Ducks are unique birds, but the Cardinal D is too seasoned to become unnerved by anyone.

Why Oregon Might Win: No one has solved the Stanford defense this year; no one except Arizona.

The Cardinal is nasty in a fist fight, but doesn't react well to track meets. The team just doesn't have the shifty athletes to seal the edges effectively. Back on Oct. 6, Stanford hosted—and defeated—the Wildcats, but also got torched for 617 yards, three Matt Scott touchdown passes and three Ka'Deem Carey touchdown runs. The Ducks will hurt this defense in a very similar way than the Cats did.

It's a good thing for the home team that the offense isn't facing the same health problems as the defense. Stanford will still have to contend with QB Marcus Mariota, backs Kenjon Barner and De'Anthony Thomas and WR Josh Huff. Oregon is norming a nation's-best 55 points per game, and can snap off the big plays that have just killed the Cardinal defense in recent meetings. The Ducks' exploits on the ground are well-documented, but the accurate arm of Mariota, who leads the FBS in passing efficiency, makes this attack nearly impossible to stop.

What To Watch Out For: Stanford QB Kevin Hogan has been just fine so far in his first two starts, both wins, but there's no way to simulate what the other redshirt freshman in this game will experience in Eugene.

While Hogan is a cool customer, it'll be interesting to see how he handles the noise and the intensity of the zoo that is Autzen Stadium. Obviously, head coach David Shaw wants to put the game in the hands of Taylor. However, Hogan will need to throw to keep the Ducks honest. And when he does, he'll no doubt be looking in the direction of one of his tight ends, Zach Ertz or Levine Toilolo. The pair represents his best weapons in the passing game. Plus, with Oregon hurting up front, it could force linebackers Kiko Alonso, Boseko Lokombo and Michael Clay out of position as they provide more support to the run defense.

What Will Happen: Oregon is vulnerable. But it won't get tagged this season unless the offense lays an egg.

Stanford has a terrific defense, but not against speedy opponents that spread the field out on it. Haven't we seen this game enough times to know that the Cardinal can't stall Chip Kelly's system? Mariota is playing out of his mind, and will continue to get ample support from his backs and receivers. Maybe Stanford goes four corners and softens a bruised defense to remain within striking distance for a half or even into the third quarter. Still, it'll only be a matter of time before the Ducks rip off a gamebreaker on offense or special teams to pull away for good.

Oregon may be hurting on defense, but it still harnesses the offensive firepower to more than compensate on the scoreboard.

CFN Prediction: Oregon 48 … Stanford 21
ATS Consultants Line (Click for more lines and picks) Oregon -20.5 O/U: 64.5
Must Watch Rating (5 – Killing Them Softly, 1 – The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2): 5