No. 23 Stanford (4-2, 3-1 Pac-12) seeks to continue its three-game win streak against Oregon (4-2, 1-2 Pac-12) this weekend, in an 8 p.m. game at Stanford Stadium. Stanford is finally back in the AP poll, and a win here keeps them competitive in the Pac-12.
Though it’s easy to write off this game as a Cardinal win based on Oregon’s 33-10 loss last week, there are a couple of injury and penalty-based factors at play that make this a bit more complicated.
In the fourth quarter of last week’s game, outside linebacker Peter Kalambayi and defensive tackle Harrison Phillips both got ejected on targeting calls and won’t be able to play the first half of the game against Oregon. Phillips leads the team in total tackles as well as sacks, and Kalambayi trails right behind in sacks.
Stanford has enough depth from outside linebackers to manage, but even Coach David Shaw said, “we’re a little more thin” in terms of defensive tackles.
Look for the Cardinal to attempt to bolster their front 7 for the first half to make up for this loss.
Oregon has a solid rush attack in running back Royce Freeman, and though he didn’t practice on Tuesday, they have enough depth in the position to create a balanced offense, something that Stanford’s defense has struggled with in the past. That being said, Oregon’s starting quarterback, Justin Herbert, has a fractured collarbone, leaving freshman quarterback Braxton Burmeister to start his second game ever.
In his debut last week, Burmeister threw two interceptions and ended with 145 passing yards. Look for the Stanford secondary to capitalize on any residual nervousness with some turnovers, especially from Safety Justin Reid, who has 5 interceptions thus far, tying him for the lead in the nation.
However, while Burmeister struggled last week, a quarterback’s first game is hardly a good judge of his performance.
Moreover, two of Oregon’s top receivers, Charles Nelson and Dillon Mitchell, were injured last week but are on track to come back for this week’s game. Oregon Receiver Brenden Schooler said, “Without them last week it just felt like we didn’t have all of our weapons in our arsenal.”
With help from more veteran players, the Stanford secondary will have to step up to the plate to be able to stop the pass game while allowing the front seven to focus on blocking the run.
Regardless of how people feel about who should be starting at quarterback, Shaw gave Keller Chryst and KJ Costello “both about a B-minus,” against Utah, and has indicated that Chryst will start for most of the game, but that Costello will still see action.
When Stanford played Oregon last year, Chryst threw for 258 yards, and with JJ Arcega-Whiteside returning from an injury this week, our pass performance should improve from last week.
As of now, Oregon has the 10th-ranked rush defense in the nation, and while they haven’t seen anyone like Bryce Love yet, they’re certainly preparing. Oregon defensive line coach Joe Salave’a said that when he has seen running backs like Bryce Love “they play on Sundays.”
Though Oregon almost certainly plans to stack the box, Shaw said this of the Utah game, and it remains true: “We knew with enough opportunities Bryce Love is going to break one or two of them out.”
So long as the Cardinal offensive line keeps pressure off our quarterback and allows for the tiniest holes for love, there should be at least one breakaway run by Love, helping him continue his eight-game streak of at least 100 rushing-yards per game.
Stanford faces off against Oregon this weekend in an attempt to keep their Pac-12 dreams alive, and continue their upward trend on the season. The 8 p.m. Saturday game falls on homecoming weekend for Stanford, so expect excited crowds, whether in the stadium or watching on Fox Sports 1.
Contact Ariana Rollins at arianar ‘at’ stanford.edu.