The cliché here is that it’s speed vs. strength. Of course that conveniently ignores the fact that Oregon is pretty strong (have you seen LaMichael James run people over?) and Stanford isn’t exactly slow (Stepfan Taylor and company certainly looked speedy against Washington and USC). Oregon won’t win if they don’t pressure the quarterback and get off the field on 3rd down, and Stanford won’t win if they can’t contain Oregon’s playmakers in the open field.
Or maybe neither team will have much success on defense and it’ll be a game of “first to 50 wins.” Whatever happens, you can be sure we’ll see more offense than we saw in the SEC game of the year. Everything else is a crapshoot.
For a long time I’ve been leaning Stanford in this one. They’re at home, they’ve got the nation’s best quarterback, and there’s a decent chance that this is “their year.” But Oregon is healthier, and Stanford’s aura of invincibility has taken a hit over the last two weeks with the narrow victory at USC and the sloppy first half against Oregon State. I keep thinking about how Oregon ended last year’s game on a 49-10 run. Yeah, it was in Eugene, but is Stanford’s defense any better this year? What have they done to solve their issues against Oregon’s high-powered offense?
And don’t underestimate Oregon’s familiarity with the big stage. The Ducks have spent the better part of two years being everyone else’s Super Bowl. The limelight won’t scare them. Stanford, meanwhile, hasn’t played a game of this magnitude in the Andrew Luck era. Yeah, they won the Orange Bowl, but what were the stakes there? Let’s see how the Cardinal handle the bright lights before we crown them kings of the Pac-12.
Like most everyone else, I expect a lot of offense. But I think the Ducks defense get to Luck and the Stanford offense more often the Cardinal find ways to slow the Oregon offense. At some point I think the Ducks will stop Stanford’s run of perfection in the red zone (they’re 52-for-52 so far) and that will be the difference.
Oregon 42, Stanford 38.
The rest of the week 11 picks
Arizona over Colorado (+10.5)
USC (-11.5) over Washington
Cal (-9.5) over Oregon State
Utah over UCLA (+7)
Arizona State (-12) over Washington State
55-16 straight up (4-2 last week)
43-28 against the spread (3-3 last week)