Thearon W. Henderson
Stanford has been the also-ran in the conference for the last three years - having great success, 10+ win seasons, high rankings and two consecutive BCS bowl appearances. What they haven't been able to do is beat the Ducks, losing the last two games by over 20 points each. With Andrew Luck and multiple linemen gone to the NFL, the Cardinal have focused on the returning starters for their defense, having one of the strongest defenses in the nation. Unfortunately for them, that strength is largely against the run - and Oregon has quite possibly the best quarterback in the nation in Marcus Mariota.
FEI is the Fremeau Efficiency Index, created by Brian Fremeau. Brian Fremeau is an author at Football Outsiders, ESPN and BCFToys. FEI is an advanced statistical measure for college football that tracks drive efficiency instead of per-play success.
S+P is created by Bill Connelly. Bill Connelly is an author at SBNation, RockMNation, Football Study Hall and Football Outsiders. S+P is an advanced statistical measure which combines success rate, explosiveness per play and opponent adjustments.
How S+P sees the game:
Has the Ball ...
|When Stanford has the ball...|
||ORE Off||Stanford Def||ORE Def||Stanford Off|
|S&P+ Rk||2 (267.6)||23(230.7)||1(144.4)||9(128.1)||15 (123.2)||51 (102.6)|
|Rushing S&P+ Rk||3 (145.8)||8(132.7)
|Passing S&P+ Rk||1(154.4)||11(133.1)||7(142.5)||40 (112.8)|
|Std. Downs S&P+ Rk||4 (133.4)||7(133.1)||42 (106.6)||67 (101.1)|
|Pass. Downs S&P+ Rk||25 (126.1)||25(125.3)||8(147.3)||36 (119.1)|
|Raw S&P||1 (1.129)||14(.602)||17(.609)||73(.751)|
|Raw Success Rate||1 (57.8)||21(37.0)||26 (37.6)||77(41.6))|
|Raw PPP||1 (.55)||11(.23)||12 (.23)||64(.33)|
The S+P love affair with Oregon's defense is finally over. Oregon went from #2 before USC to #15 now. The biggest drop is on the rushing defense; Oregon's rushing defense has become fairly mediocre overall. Our passing defense has remained pretty good. But man, to see how good we were early on and see how we are now...hope those guys get healthy.
Oregon's offense still is climbing up the offensive ranks - even at #1, we have improved a few points. While our rushing didn't do us any favors against Cal, our passing S&P went up a whopping 9 points. There's yet another Mariota value - Oregon has the highest S+P passing rank in the nation now, even beating the love affair that S+P has with Tyler Bray and Tennessee. We even improved on standard and passing downs.
Neither of these things should surprise anyone who watched the Cal game. Oregon struggled to consistently run the ball or stop the run. The passing game was simply awesome for the second week in a row, and Oregon's passing defense made Cal's offense look even more inept - and the two interceptions Oregon got were on passing downs.
Similarity scores for S+P: Stanford is similar to Washington (46th), Cal, (55th) and worse than Arizona State (41st) on offense. On defense, Stanford is the best defense Oregon has faced, but it is not as amazing a difference as you might think; Fresno State (13th) is only 3.4 behind. Fresno State has different splits, however; they're better against the pass and on passing downs than Stanford is, and much worse against the run and on standard downs.
For Stanford, Oregon is significantly better than anything that Stanford has faced on offense; the closest is Arizona (10th) and USC (13th), but the difference between Oregon and Arizona is 20.3 points; this is the same difference as the difference between Stanford (51st) and USC (13th). On defense Oregon is worse than Notre Dame (6th, about 9 points) and better than Oregon State (20th, 5.7 points).
Oregon's offense vs. Stanford's defense
Stanford's defense is the best defense Oregon will face until a bowl game. It's better than Oregon State, better than UCLA, better than USC, and better than anything we've faced so far. That being said, it is not dominant like Alabama's and isn't so much better than Fresno State that we should think we can't do anything. While there's a good advantage for Oregon's offense running the ball (13.1), the big advantage is in passing: Oregon has a 21.3 differential between their passing offense and Stanford's pass defense. I would expect that Stanford will have early success against Oregon as Oregon tries to establish the run a bit, but then will have a lot of problems dealing with receivers and play action. Oregon should be able to run on Stanford but it won't be a crazy blowout like ASU or USC; it'll probably be similar to Cal and Washington. But on passing, Oregon should get some success.
That being said - success here means a few scores and some long drives. It does not mean scoring 42 before halftime.
Oregon's Defense vs Stanford's offense
This shocked me when looking at it - but Stanford's run game isn't actually that amazing according to S+P. It's actually significantly weaker than their pass game. Stanford's offense overall is fairly mediocre though it may be significantly better now with Kevin Hogan as their QB; it's honestly too soon to tell. Stanford wasn't playing amazingly well against Oregon State, in any case. More importantly, Oregon matches up quite well on defense against Stanford. Specifically Oregon is great against the pass, having almost a 30 point advantage here. Oregon matches up evenly on run defense (a 6 point advantage, nothing special) and a big 28 point advantage on passing downs. Similar to Cal, expect that if Stanford gets behind in the count for whatever reason they will almost certainly be stopped. And while I expect that Stanford will get some running yards I also expect Oregon to stop them some of the time, as eventually Oregon will dare Kevin Hogan to win the game.
How FEI sees the game:
Some definitions from the FEI site. For offense, these are the drives that the offense does. For defense, these are the drives that the defense has allowed. Also note that these are not weighted by defensive strength or anything like that, so they correspond best to raw overall numbers.
First down rate: the % of drives that result in at least one first down.
Available Yards: the ratio of yards gained by total yards to go
Explosive drives: the % of drives that average at least 10 yards per play.
Methodical drives: the % of drives that take 10 or more plays
Value Drives: the % of drives that start on their side of the field and make it to the opposing 30 yard line or better.
Has the Ball ...
|When Stanford has the ball...|
||ORE Off||Stanford Def||ORE Def||Stanford Off|
|FEI Rk||3 (.281)||13 (.174)||8(.477)||4(-.634)||15 (-.511)||51(.071)|
|Field Position||18 (.540)||5(.562)|
|Raw OE/DE||3 (.752)||16(-.443)||12(-.523)||64 (-.002)|
|First Down rate||12 (.775)||11(.563)||23(.608)||82(.646)|
|Available Yards rate||4(.624)||12 (.341)||25(.383)||57(.464)|
|Methodical Drives||13 (.216)||66(.143)||58 (.137)||98 (.106)|
|Value Drives||4(.585)||13(.266)||38 (.333)||70 (.374)|
|Special Team rank||23(1.603)||30(1.389)|
|Field Goal efficiency||107(-.395)||96(-.281)|
|Punt Return efficiency||16(.103)||25(.037)|
|Kickoff return efficiency||30(-.024)||34(-.054)|
|kickoff efficiency||46 (-.182)||5(-.322)|
Due primarily to Oregon's ranking in S+P and its consistently meh value in FEI, we've dropped a bit in the F/+ rankings. And FEI really isn't thrilled with Oregon in general. Oregon is balanced but not amazing in either offense or defense, and once again Oregon's offense and defensive values are swapping some; Oregon's offense went to #8, and Oregon's D went to #15. We did actually improve overall in FEI, but Oregon doesn't look like a worldbeater as far as FEI goes. This is mostly due to our schedule; FEI weighs better teams going against other better teams as a much bigger deal than S+P.
Similarity scores for FEI: Stanford is significantly better than any other team Oregon has faced on defense. The closest is Fresno State (#29), but the difference there is -.323; that's the same difference as Fresno (29th) and Georgia Tech (65th). On offense, Stanford is similar to Washington (54th), Arkansas State (47th) and better than Arizona State (60th)
As far as Stanford goes, Oregon is closest to Oregon State (17th) and significantly worse than Notre Dame (1st) on defense and slightly worse than Arizona (5th) and better than Oregon State (14th) on offense.
Interestingly Oregon has the hardest future strength of schedule as far as facing defenses goes; no one else in the nation has a harder time in their last two games.
Oregon's offense vs Stanford's defense
This is a very close matchup as far as FEI is concerned, with Stanford having a decent but not overwhelming advantage. One interesting weakness that I highlighted above is the methodical drives; Stanford has not been good at all at stopping methodical drives by comparison to the rest of their stats, and Oregon has been great at everything. By comparison Stanford stops explosive drives as well as anyone; don't expect a bunch of big plays. Though that may be more a function of who Stanford has played as much as their defense. Against Arizona they gave up tons of big plays. In any case, I would expect Oregon to have a number of 10+ play drives that end in scores. And similarly, not a ton of big plays relative to our normal rate (so maybe 1 in 10).
Oregon's defense vs. Stanford's offense
This ends up being the larger advantage - again, similar to Cal - where Oregon's strength on defense really shows up against Stanford's major weaknesses. Stanford is best at getting at least a couple first downs on every drive, but otherwise they're poor; poor at methodical drives, poor at explosiveness, poor at getting 30 yards or more. What they do best is get field position (5th in the nation) and then converting. This is what I would expect Stanford to do against Oregon; not a lot of sustained drives, but being opportunistic when they get the ball in close. If Oregon can stop short fields don't expect a lot of production from Stanford.
Stanford and Oregon are very similar to each other here. Both have horrible field goal kicking, do well on punt returns and do well on kick returns. Where they differ is that Oregon is great at punting and okay on kicking; Stanford is just okay on punting but absolutely stellar on kickoffs. I would expect some good returns on punts for Oregon and almost no returns on kicks for Oregon - and a few decent kickoff returns for Stanford.
So what does this all mean?
While I was concerned about our defensive line depth, one of the real weaknesses right now for Oregon's depth is the secondary. That being said, Stanford isn't the team to challenge Oregon there. Oregon as of this writing has 4 of their 5 defensive line starters coming back, meaning that Oregon's D will resemble the early season success against the run more than the recent games against Colorado, USC and Cal. Taylor Hart, Ricky Heimuli, Dion Jordan and Isaac Remington are all coming back, it appears. There's no sign that Stanford has anything on offense that can compete with a great Oregon line.
On the offensive side of things, Oregon will face a very difficult team - but there will be opportunities, especially on short passes and quick receiver screens. Stanford's secondary is brittle and the primary way that Stanford stops teams passing is via their pass rush. If Oregon can negate or at least mitigate the pass rush - likely through things like the threat of Marcus Mariota running - Oregon should have a lot of success.
The spread is 20.5; I expect this will increase with the news about Oregon's injuries. And I'm going to be optimistic. While I don't think Barner is going to have a great game I think Mariota may have his best game yet. I expect the defense to be solid. And I expect an Oregon win and a cover.