Oregon's defensive line is beat up. Stanford has a well-known power running game. But many are ignoring just what Stanford has been all year long.
The storyline for this game was really quite simple. Stanford has the power! Oregon's defensive line is banged up! I mean, that pretty much writes itself, and so in the early part of the week, that's what people were writing.
But when people talk about Stanford's power run game, it really seems like they haven't been paying attention to Stanford all year. They seem to run much of the same offense that they've run the last couple years, but they have not been nearly as effective at it.
In 2010 and 2011, Stanford averaged over 210 yards per game on the ground on a 5.2 yard per carry clip. This was good for top 20 nationally in both categories and years. This year, Stanford has slipped to 57th nationally in yards per game with 166. They are averaging only 4.42 yards per carry, good for 60th nationally. In advanced statistics, they have dropped as well. They had rushing offenses ranked 22nd and 20th in 2010 and 2011, and this year have dropped to 63rd.
The Stanford rushing game simply isn't that good, and in most statistical comparisons is worse than the Cal team that Oregon faced last week. Here lies the early analysis. Oregon was run over by Cal! The defensive line is beat up! While true last week, Oregon should have it's starting corp back to play most snaps in the next game, and it's young players will have yet another week of practice under their belt. They will almost definitely play better than they did last week.
But while Oregon may have some vulnerability up front, Stanford is not an offense that can take advantage of that consistently. As kalon pointed out yesterday, Stanford is not a methodical offense. They are not an explosive offense. They will rely on short fields to get points, and may reel off only a couple long drives over the entire game. Their offensive success rate is only 41%. By contrast, Oregon's is 58%.
This is not a strategy that will lead to success over Oregon. Stanford will need to consistently move the ball. They will need to hold onto the ball for large stretches and give it's defense time to rest. They will need to get points on almost all their possessions. But they just haven't done this all season, especially on the road. In their two road losses, they have failed to score a single offensive touchdown.
Stanford's offense just isn't built to take advantage of an attacking defense like Oregon's. Even with improved QB play from Kevin Hogan, I believe that Stanford will continue to be what they have been for the entire season. And this will play right into Nick Aliotti's game plan. Aliotti will do what he does best, trade yards for opportunities to get stops. He has done this against Stanford over the past couple years, and will likely do it again. Oregon will look like they are getting pushed around for a few plays, and then come through with a big play, and Stanford's offense won't be able to overcome it.
It doesn't take much for Oregon to take control of a game. An offensive mistake can turn the game around in a heartbeat. Stanford's simply made too many this season to change now, and Oregon's defense will be there to take advantage of that.