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2010 Oregon Football Preview :: Stanford Cardinal

Part five in a series on Oregon's 2010 season opponents

Part 1: New Mexico | Part 2: Tennessee | Part 3: Portland State | Part 4: Arizona State


8:15 PM PST :: October 2, 2010 :: Autzen Stadium

Opponent Stanford
Nickname Cardinal
Location Palo Alto, CA
Enrollment 15,319
Head Coach Jim Harbaugh (17-20)
Stadium Stanford Stadium (50,000) : natural grass
2009 Record 8-5, (6-3 Pac 10)
Starters Returning 8 Offense : 8 Defense
Base Offense Pro-style
Base Defense 3-4
Blogs none
Newspapers The Stanford Daily, San Francisco Chronicle

Top Returners

Category Player
Rushing Andrew Luck :: 61 Rushes : 418 Yards : 2 TD
Passing Andrew Luck :: 162/288 : 2575 Yards : 13 TD : 4 INT
Receiving Ryan Whalen :: 57 Receptions : 926 Yards : 4 TD
Tackles Delano Howell :: 78 Total
Sacks Thomas Keiser :: 9 Total
Interceptions Delano Howell, Richard Sherman :: 2 INT

Stanford comes to town for the fifth game of the season, and we finally see a team that should provide the Ducks with a challenge. This was the one conference team that gave Oregon all kinds of problems last season, as they physically manhandled Oregon from the opening kickoff. They surprised many people last season, finishing in a tie for second in the conference, and were picked fourth in the media poll this season.

They have one of the best coaches in the conference in Jim Harbaugh. While they lose Toby Gerhart, they return a whole myriad of options offensively to the one offense in the conference that was statistically better than Oregon last season. And while they return eight starters on defense as well, there is a lot of evidence to suggest that it was an extremely lucky defense last season. Stanford should be a good team again this season, but how much production they get in place of Gerhart and whether the defense has improved any appreciable amount will determine whether Stanford will contend for a conference crown, or be heading to Vegas for the holidays.

2009 Offensive Statistics

Statistic Stanford Oregon
Pass Offense 209.38 (70) 180.31 (98)
Rush Offense 218.23 (11) 231.69 (6)
Total Offense 427.62 (19) 412.00 (33)
Scorng Offense 35.46 (11) 36.08 (8)
Pass Efficiency 139.58 (30) 128.03 (59)
Sacks Allowed 0.54 (2) 1.00 (10)
3rd Down Conversion % 44.59 (23) 35.12 (95)
Yards/Play 6.5 (8) 6.0 (24)
Points/Play 0.539 (4) 0.522 (6)

Stanford's offense was scary good last season, and we saw their blueprint in the Cardinal's offensive domination of the contest last year. A big, physical offensive line that pushed our smaller defensive line around, a physically punishing Toby Gerhart plowing through those holes, and arguably the best QB in the conference, Andrew Luck, throwing beautifully accurate passes to take advantage of one-on-one coverage in the secondary. So dominant of a performance was it offensively, that Oregon scored 42 points but was never really in the game.

Luck returns as the quarterback, and last year's performance is even more impressive when you remember that he was a redshirt freshman. His 56.2 completion % is lower than I thought it would be, but the 13/4 TD/INT ratio tells you a lot about his decision making. He throws a beautiful ball, and is fairly mobile for a pro-style QB (418 yards last season). He also had a lot of help last season. That big, physical offensive line only gave up half a sack a game last season, and Gerhart took enormous pressure of the young Texan.

Four starters return on that offensive line, where right tackle is the only new starter, where first team all Pac-10 tackle Chris Marinelli is being replaced, likely by senior Derek Hall. Phil Steele calls this the best offensive line in the Pac-10, and all four returning starters make his preseason Pac-10 teams. After seeing what this unit did to the Oregon defensive line last season, its hard to disagree with him.

They return both starters at wide receiver, where Ryan Whalen and Chris Owusu combined for 94 receptions and well over 1500 yards Tight end Coby Fleener also caught 21 balls last year, and they have some talented underclassmen waiting in the wings. At these three positions, the offense will be solid again.

However, there are big question marks at running back, where two sophomores, Stepfan Taylor and Tyler Gaffney, are competiting for the starting job. Both are power backs in the Gerhart mode, though neither are quite as big. Whoever wins the job will put up big numbers, its almost guaranteed with the offensive line and quarterback that they have. But they won't put up Gerhart type numbers, and on the whole, and it will be interesting to see what affect that has on the offense. Also, former starting fullback Owen Marecic is switching to linebacker full time this season, so it will be interesting to see how he is replaced at that position.

2009 Defensive Statistics

Statistic Stanford Oregon
Pass Defense 264.77 (110) 207.62 (44)
Rush Defense 137.92 (55) 128.69 (42)
Total Defense 402.69 (90) 336.31 (35)
Scoring Defense 26.54 (69) 23.77 (51)
Pass Efficiency Defense 139.61 (98) 112.30 (25)
Tackles for Loss 4.46 (108) 6.31 (40)
Opponent 3rd Down % 42.94 (95) 37.91 (51)
Turnover Margin 0.00 (60) +0.15 (51)
Yards/Play Allowed 5.6 (75) 4.4 (12)
Points/Play Allowed 5.8 (90) 0.311 (28)

This was not a very good defense last season. Neither their total nor per play stats inspire much confidence. The secondary was swiss cheese, the defensive line underwhelming. And while being ranked #69 in scoring defense is hardly good, there is significant evidence to suggest that they were incredibly lucky to be ranked even that high. They switch from a 4-3 to a 3-4 defense in hope of playing to their strength at linebacker this season.

Guard Sione Fua is the only returning starter on the line of the 3-4 Stanford defense. The 307 pounder was honorable mention all-conference last season. Experienced backups will fill in the two end spots on the line, but this is a mediocre D-line that the Oregon offensive line should be able to handle.

The linebacking corps is the best unit on the defense. They return three starters, plus move former starting fullback Owen Marecic to one of the inside spot. Thomas Keiser was first team all Pac-10 on the outside and had nine sacks last season. They have a lot of depth on this unit, and the switch to a 3-4 should help thier pass defense tremendously (though possibly at the expense of their rush defense, which would certainly work in our favor).

If there is one knock on Harbaugh, its that the secondary has gotten progressively worse every season he's been the coach. They return three starters, but none of them are terribly good. The switch to a 3-4 should help, but this is a secondary you can pick on.

2009 Special Teams Statistics

Statistic Stanford Oregon
Kick Returns 27.53 (3) 24.91 (10)
Punt Returns 7.63 (77) 12.00 (27)
Kickoff Returns Against 19.79 (22) 20.85 (42)
Punt Returns Against 6.83 (T-36) 6.83 (T-36)

Like Oregon, Stanford has very good special teams. Based on last year's stats, the return games are a wash, and should provide no advantage for either side. However, we saw last year that Chris Owusu is one of the most dangerous return men in the confernece. They return both their kicker and punter. Kicker Nate Whitaker and went 16-22 with a long of 54. Punter David Green was inconsistent last season, but finished with an average of 40 ypp.

Final Analysis

Stanford is the one team in the conference that can match Oregon's defense point for point. And there is no reason to to expect another shootout this season. However, there are things that give me hope that this season's game will be different. The young Oregon defense is a year older with few significant losses. Toby Gerhart is nowhere to be found. Whoever wins Oregon's starting QB job should be more of a passing threat to pick on Stanford's weak secondary, and the game is at Autzen, where we should have a significant advantage. But this is going to be a physical game, and Oregon is going to have to show more tough and grit than they did last season. This should be very close.