With one of the biggest football games in Stanford history upon us, we asked Patrick Malee of Oregon’s The Daily Emerald and Jack Blanchat of The Daily to tell us what might happen if their worst fears are realized on Saturday night.
Why Stanford will win
My feelings about this game have swung in so many different directions that I’m starting to get dizzy. On one hand, Stanford is banged up, missing its best defensive player (junior linebacker Shayne Skov) and most explosive receiver (senior wide receiver Chris Owusu). With junior Oregon running back LaMichael James nearing a full recovery from his elbow dislocation against California and junior quarterback Darron Thomas inching closer to his old self, the Ducks are near full strength. Oregon has speed to burn, along with a defense that has shown flashes of dominance, and there’s no reason to think it can’t pull the upset on Saturday.
I think about all of this, but then I remember one thing: Stanford still has Andrew Luck.
Maybe I’m buying a bit too much into the hype. Oregon, after all, handled the presumptive number one NFL draft pick just fine last season in a 52-31 victory at Autzen Stadium. He’s not completely immune to mistakes (as the USC game two weeks ago attests), and even a brilliant performance might not be enough to keep up with Oregon’s explosive offensive attack.
But there’s something about this season—this “last hurrah” campaign for Luck—that gives me a bad feeling about Saturday. Sometimes, particularly in college football, a team just seems to have destiny on its side. Last year it was Oregon, which seemed to avoid every injury, saw every key piece fall into place and came out ahead in every close game (as the Cardinal knows very well).
It’s hard to explain, and practically impossible to quantify. But how else do you explain USC’s Curtis McNeal fumbling at the goal line in triple overtime? How else do you explain a 17-game winning steak, or the very fact that Luck returned in the first place? It just feels like an LSU-Stanford showdown in New Orleans is waiting to happen.
Of course, there are plenty of factual reasons to pick Stanford in this game. Like, you know, that the Cardinal leads the Pac-12 in both scoring offense (48.2 points per game) and defense (a mere 16.6 points per game). It’s also a fact that Oregon’s secondary has been inconsistent at best this season, and Luck could very well pick them apart on Saturday. Were it not for a number of costly drops, the Washington game last weekend could have been a lot closer for the Ducks. The receivers were open.
It’s easy to forget, more than a year later, that Stanford opened up a 21-3 lead against Oregon in 2010. That could absolutely happen again this time in Palo Alto, and it would be a tall order for Oregon to repeat that epic second-half comeback. If the Ducks get off to another slow start, it might be too late to overcome this year’s team of destiny.
I hope I’m wrong.
–Patrick Malee, The Daily Emerald
Why Oregon will win
First, let me start by saying this is the hardest thing I have ever written. Sorry, Cardinal. I wish I knew how to quit you.
The Ducks will win this game because of one thing and one thing only: BIG PLAYS. The Webfoots are going to roll up more offense than you can fathom. Future Heisman winners James and freshman running back De’Anthony Thomas are going to burn through the Cardinal defense so hard it will leave senior safety Michael Thomas and company with hot tire tracks on their backs.
The Ducks have rolled up 46 plays of 25 yards or more this season, and everybody knows that Stanford loves to give up the big play. Observe Washington’s Chris Polk going for more than 100 yards on two touchdown runs, or USC’s Curtis McNeal sprint down the left sideline for two scores of his own, and you’ll know that the Duck run attack is gonna get theirs in this game. And by get theirs, I’m talking 400-plus yards rushing. Even Stanford fans—who know that Stanford holds teams to less than 100 yards on the ground this year—don’t trust the ability of their defense to hold it together against the F-1 speed of the Ducks.
What’s more, the Oregon defense is going to put Luck on his back so often, he’s gonna need a new jersey by halftime. The nasty Duck D has the nation’s sixth-most sacks, and anybody who watched the game last year remembers just how many times Luck got clobbered.
Lastly, the Ducks have this one in the bag because the only thing quieter than a Stanford library is Stanford Stadium. When Oregon got down early in the game last year, Autzen responded by making the second half hell on earth for the outmatched Trees, bearing down on Luck and company with all the vigor of 60,000 voices. There’s absolutely no way that happens this Saturday, as the wine-and-cheese crowd that shows up to Cardinal games is more likely to have a jolly good time joking about the Republican presidential candidates than making noise in support of their football team.
In the end, it means that three things will be up in flames at the end of Saturday’s slugfest—Andrew Luck’s Heisman campaign, the Cardinal’s perfect season and a big, fat victory cigar in Chip Kelly’s mouth.
Can I go home and wash the vomit out of my mouth now?
–Jack Blanchat, The Stanford Daily