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How We Go: Stanford's weakness is playing in space. That bodes well for Oregon

Stanford matches up excellent with pro-style offenses. Spreads? Not so much.


"Stanford's defense is elite."

We've heard that one before. Statistically, Stanford's defense would appear elite. They give up only 2.02 yards per carry, and 4.48 yards per play overall. Stanford's defense ranks 9th in S&P+, better than the last two seasons, but they haven't faced Oregon yet, and, as Kalon pointed out, its only four spots ahead of Fresno State. Meanwhile, Oregon's offense ranks first in S+P in both offense and passing offense.

The is largely the same Stanford defense that Oregon has faced the last two seasons, where they put up 50+ in both games. Its a really talented, physical front seven. They have a defensive line that occupies blockers and gets into the backfield. Behind them, a dynamic linebacking corps. This front seven has caused mayhem against pro-style offenses this season. Of the eight pro-style offenses the Cardinal have faced this season, only two teams have scored 20 or more points, with Oregon State's 23 being the high. If you think you are going to beat Stanford by running off-tackle, you are going to get shut down. It doesn't matter that the corners are subpar, because there is no time for receivers to get downfield.

But the problem for Stanford is that there is the game where they didn't play a pro-style offense (I won't count Wazzu, because Wazzu sucks). When Stanford played Arizona, the Wildcats put up 48 points and over 600 yards of total offense. Matt Scott passed for 471.

Stanford's defense is very good at beating up a power run game, or neutralizing a good quarterback who is working under center with a poor offensive line (see USC and Washington). They don't play well in space, they don't get to the edges, they have little speed on the second level of their defense, and they don't control quarterbacks who can move around and buy time for receivers to get open (to be fair, few teams do those things well, and the ones that do are generally vulnerable to power running pick your poison).

Oregon is going to do the same thing they've done to Stanford in the past. You'll see a steady diet of outsize zone reads, stretch plays, bubble screens, and smoke routes to get the defense moving laterally. That will not only open up the run, but also the downfield passing game. Meanwhile, I expect the changing looks on defense to give trouble to a freshman quarterback making his first road start, and that the Ducks will get a couple of opportunities to score off of turnovers.

The last two years, Oregon put up 50+ on Stanford, and beat an Andrew Luck led team by three scores in both seasons. The Ducks have a better, more dynamic offense, and Stanford's offense is significantly worse. I'm not saying Stanford has no chance to win in Eugene, but it would take a level of derp that we haven't seen by the Ducks since the last time they played on a field that wasn't green. The Cardinal were able to beat Arizona in a shootout. But its simply not a viable model for beating Oregon.