The time has come for the annual November matchup against the Stanford Cardinal, a matchup that has derailed Oregon's past two national championship campaigns. Once again, the Ducks are in the thick of the national championship hunt. Don't let the Cardinal's 5-3 record fool you. Stanford has proved to be Oregon's kryptonite the past two seasons and the task won't be any easier this year, because this is Pac-12 football where anyone can beat anyone on any given night. Let's take a look at the Cardinal offense Oregon will face on Saturday.
Overall, the Cardinal have a totally different looking offense than what the Ducks have been used to seeing. This year, the Cardinal have thrown the ball 49 percent of the time. Last season, they threw the ball just 35 percent of the time. Unfortunately, it hasn't been working in their favor as they rank 91st in points per game with 25.8. Their elite defense, ranked second in the nation giving up just 12.5 points per game, is about the only thing keeping them above .500 so far this year.
Calling the shots for Stanford is third-year starter Kevin Hogan, who has a 21-6 career record with the Cardinal. This year, Hogan has thrown for 1,814 yards with 13 touchdowns and 6 interceptions. Hogan also leads Stanford with four rushing touchdowns. Last season against Oregon, Hogan threw the ball just 13 times for 103 yards. Stanford's two touchdowns came on the ground, including one by Hogan.
Last year, it was all about the rushing game with Stanford. This year, Hogan has been throwing the ball more, averaging almost 30 pass attempts per game compared to about 22 pass attempts per game at this same point in 2013. With the departure of Tyler Gaffney, Stanford has gone to more of a balanced offense than we've recently seen.
The Ducks will have to make sure they contain Hogan on the run as well. Last week, Hogan broke off a 37-yard touchdown run against Oregon State. Hogan has rushed for a touchdown in four of Stanford's eight games so far this year.
Good news, Ducks fans. Tyler Gaffney is gone forever. Last year against the Ducks, Gaffney carried the ball 45 times for 157 yards and a touchdown. His 45 carries in the game were a school record. This year, it's not as clear cut in the backfield for Stanford.
Remound Wright leads the Cardinal with 69 carries for 326 yards and two touchdowns. Also in the mix is Barry Sanders (yes, from the same family as THE Barry Sanders) with 40 carries for 290 yards and Kelsey Young with 38 carries for 212 yards. Neither have a touchdown however.
The Cardinal have not produced a 100-yard rusher in a game this year. Last year, the Cardinal had a 100-yard rusher nine times. Part of that is because Wright, Stanford's leading rusher, is averaging less than 10 carries per game. Oregon's weakness has been stopping Stanford's run game, and it does not look like that should be a problem this year.
Leading the Stanford receivers is Ty Montgomery who has 49 catches for 514 yards and three touchdowns. Devon Cajuste and Austin Hooper are next in the stat categories. Cajuste has 20 catches for 293 yards while Hooper has 22 catches for 246 yards. Along with Montgomery, Cajuste also has three touchdown catches this year, all which came in a 35-0 win over Army.
An area Stanford has seen drastic improvement in is the tight ends. Last year, Stanford tight ends combined for 10 catches, 69 yards and no touchdowns. That was Stanford's first year without Zach Ertz. This year, their tight ends have already combined for 34 catches, 477 yards and four touchdowns. That includes a pair of touchdown catches by Greg Taboda against Washington State. Taboda might not be an elite tight end like Ertz was, but it does give Hogan another option through the air as opposed to last year.
Who to watch for
Unlike last year, Kevin Hogan will need to step up into the spotlight if Stanford hopes to derail Oregon's national championship campaign for the third straight year. Tyler Gaffney is gone, and so is Stanford's punishing phone box style rushing offense where they would just wear out a defense four or five yards at a time on the ground all night. If Hogan can't get going, it doesn't look as if the Cardinal have a strong enough run game to hang with the Ducks.