As many of you know, SBNation has a new Stanford blog, Rule Of Tree. Scott Allen has been kind enough to join Dave and Tako on this week's podcast, and also answer some of our questions on the Stanford football team, while we answered some of their questions here. Below are our questions, and his answers.
After Oregon was taken down by the Toby Gerhart death machine last year, what should Duck fans expect from his replacements?
Don't expect one guy to get 38 carries and rush for 223 yards, but the Cardinal will try to assert their will on the ground. Stepfan Taylor, who had a career game against Notre Dame, seemed to get stronger as the game wore on and impressed Jim Harbaugh with his ability to pick up yards after contact. Sound familiar? Taylor should once again see the bulk of the carries, as two of the other members of Stanford's backfield by committee, Jeremy Stewart and Tyler Gaffney, are coming off of injuries. Is there a Heisman candidate in the bunch? No, but there's a stacked and experienced offensive line and a beast of a fullback in Owen Marecic clearing space for whoever takes the handoff.
Last year Andrew Luck threw down the field seemingly every play to beat the Oregon offense. Do you expect Stanford to run a similar offense this year? Or will they switch things up a bit?
Five of Luck's 12 completions in last year's game went for 25 yards for more, so yeah, he was definitely stretching the field. Luck threw only 20 passes--19 of which came in the first three quarters--in the Stanford win, and while the Cardinal would love to replicate those numbers, I think Luck will be asked to do a little more on Saturday. Luck forced a couple of throws into coverage last week and was burned with the first two-interception game of his short collegiate career, but he'll take advantage of the protection he receives to take a few deep shots to burner Chris Owusu and tight end Coby Fleener over the middle. Luck's go-to receiver, Ryan Whalen, returned to practice this week after suffering an elbow injury against Wake Forest.
We've heard a lot about the Stanford offensive line, but what about the Stanford defensive line? Will they be able to win their battle in the trenches against the experienced Oregon offensive line?
You don't hear as much about the Stanford defensive linemen because, unlike last year, there are now only three of them on the field. OK, so that was terrible, but the Cardinal's switch to the 3-4 under new defensive coordinator Vic Fangio has paid immediate dividends for one of the conference's weakest defenses in 2009. The man in the middle, senior nose tackle Sione Fua, has two sacks and two tackles for loss, and helped limit Notre Dame to 44 yards rushing last week. Of course, Stanford's defensive line hasn't seen an offensive line as experienced as Oregon's or a running back as dangerous as LMJ this season. The Ducks had their way with the Cardinal on the ground last season, but it will be interesting to see how the new scheme stacks up against the spread attack.
What's the most impressive part of Stanford's defense and how do you think they will impact the game on Saturday?
With nods to the aforementioned defensive line and Stanford's veteran-laden secondary, the linebackers have been the MVP of the Cardinal defense thus far. Marecic and Shayne Skov (he's the one who makes the interception in EA Sports' absurd NCAA Football simulation) have brought pressure from the inside linebacker spots, while Chase Thomas and Thomas Keiser have each made smooth transitions from defensive end to outside linebacker. Those four guys have accounted for nine of Stanford's 14 sacks. I expect Fangio will attempt to rattle Darron Thomas by bringing pressure from all over the place Saturday, possibly forcing an early turnover or two. That's assuming, of course, that the Cardinal can slow down James enough to force Thomas to try to beat them with his arm.
You're right, it probably wasn't the smartest idea to test Juju by mentioning the amazingly awesome 2001 game. That was a lapse in judgment on my part. How can I make it up to you, oh Juju? Would you accept a closet full of black Stanford jerseys? A copy of the Complete Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson signed by Jim Harbaugh himself? Spite Rule of Tree if you must, Juju. Spare Stanford.