LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 29: Members of the Stanford Cardinal offense huddle with quarterback Andrew Luck #12 before the game with the USC Trojans at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on October 29, 2011 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
The season is almost over, and it seems like it hasn't even begun. Why? Because Oregon lost to LSU, then proceeded to beat eight pathetically overmatched teams that everybody knew they were going to beat while waiting for this week's game. Everybody said that Oregon/Stanford would be the game of the year in the Pac-12. A game that would decide the Rose Bowl, and perhaps more. Here we are, and all of those predictions have proven true. And, while I'm feeling good about our chances, for the first time since game one, we enter a game without being able to feel like the overwhelming probability is an Oregon win.
Five Reasons why Oregon will beat Stanford:
1. Speed, baby. Speed. -- Offensively, Oregon is fast. Defensively, Stanford is not. They are a team that can stack the box to stop a traditional pro style offense, but don't have a lot of lateral quickness or top end speed. Oh, and their best defensive player is hurt. They are going to be doing a lot of watching up the field as guys named LaMichael, Kenjon, and DeAnthony run across the goal line, and with alarming frequency.
2. The defense is stout -- Oregon can be everything Stanford is not on defense. The game in Seattle last weekend showed what this team is capable of. Oregon will stack the box and limit Stepfan Taylor's gains. And they can do this because the talented corners can go one on one against Stanford's underwhelming receiving corps and still shut them down. Oregon pitched a second half shutout against the Cardinal last season, and will do the same this season.
3. Jackson Rice is a baller -- This game is going to come down to making stops, but that's only half the battle. Oregon has the best punting unit in the country, and if Stanford does make a stop, they're still going to have to drag their asses 80+ yards against Oregon's defense to get the touchdown. A tall task, even for young Andrew Luck.
4. Josh Huff is healthy -- Earlier in the season, figuring out a way to stop Oregon's run game would have been enough for a win. Not anymore. Josh Huff finally appears healthy, finally giving the Ducks a complete set of options in the pass game. And with Justin Hoffman back healthy as well, Will Murphy and Daryle Hawkins can take their case of dropsies to the bench.
5. Stanford Stadium is not a home field advantage -- There may be more Duck fans there than Stanford fans.
After the jump, I give you five reasons Stanford could win.
1. Andrew Luck is the best player in college football -- There is a reason NFL teams want to "suck for Luck." The best players shine in the biggest moments. And when his fifth TD pass of the day hits the hands of Coby Fleener despite good coverage to put the game away, we'll be handing Luck a Heisman and a spot in the National Title Game.
2. The run game is the real deal -- Despite the pub that is given to Luck, Stanford is a power run team at heart. Its one thing to shut down Chris Polk or Cameron Marshall, but this is one of the best offensive lines in the country. Oregon's undersized defensive line will be on their asses and the Cardinal find themselves in a perpetual second and two.
3. Stanford can win a shootout -- Oregon's defense can have an off game against almost anyone in the conference, and know that the offense will bail them out. Not here. Everyone remember 2009.
4. Stanford is the type of SEC smash mouth team that will out physical Oregon -- I'm not really sure what this means, but I saw it on ESPN, so it must be true.
5. The game is not at Autzen -- Anybody care to tell me the last time Oregon won a big game outside the friendly confines of Autzen Stadium?