A few week ago, Stanford came into the Washington game with one of the stingiest running defense in the nation.
That'll happen when the schedule consisted of Duke, San Jose State, Arizona, Washington State, and Colorado. At 6-0, the only marginally competent running team Stanford had faced was UCLA, who had nearly 150 yards and five yards a carry against them. The rest of those teams were utter garbage.
Since that stretch? Washington had 201 yards and 6.6 yards per carry. USC? 6.8 yards per carry. Sure, OSU only had two yards a carry on the Cardinal, but the Beavers haven't been competent running the football all year.
The secret on Stanford is slowly getting out. They've played three marginally competent running teams, and six garbage ones, and all of the marginally competent ones have shredded them. Their best defensive play (Shayne Skov) is out. Another (safety Delano Howell) is questionable after missing three games. They have little speed on the defensive side of the football. You see Stanford's 2.98 yards per carry against, and then you see that its come against one of the worst schedules of any BCS team.
Don't buy the hype. Stanford's run defense is vastly overrated.
Stanford's path to victory isn't shutting down the Oregon offense, they simply don't have the personnel to do that. Stanford's path to victory is the same as it was two years ago, which is to try and win a shootout, which they have the players on offense to do.
Oregon needs to do what Oregon does best: run the football. Stanford does not have the size or talent on the defensive line to do what LSU did earlier in the year, or Auburn and Cal did last year. Get the ball to LMJ, Kenjon, and DAT in space, and watch them gash the Cardinal defense for big gains. The Cardinal are disciplined, so we will see some negative plays, but Stanford doesn't have the speed to catch the Oregon backfield once they get going. Further, the only decent offensive line Stanford has played was USC, who just shredded the Cardinal. Oregon's line isn't going to be giving up significant penetration.
Darron Thomas will also be key to this game. Darron doesn't have to go out and win the game--our running game will do that. What Darron has to do is keep the defense honest by throwing good balls to the receivers. He struggled at times to do this against Washington, but came on as the game progressed. Huff and Tuinei can get separation against the Stanford secondary, and so long as Thomas can get them the ball, and they can catch it, it will really have the Cardinal going in every direction (this will necessitate that the law firm of Murphy and Hawkins be nowhere near the field of play). Once we get both the run and pass going, then we can turn up the pace and wear Stanford out, just like last year.
Of course, all kinds of nasty things can throw a wrench into this plan, such as turnovers and such. But, should the plan be executed, then its up to our defense. And when I compare those units, I really like our chances.