Regardless of the result, what I'm most interested in is seeing how the Stanford defense holds up against the relentless pace and precision of the Oregon offense. So much is made of Oregon's no-huddle offense, but that isn't just a gimmick; this is a highly-skilled offense with athletes who will likely be impact players even at the next level. The last two years the Cardinal defense has looked overmatched. I don't know if the Stanford offense is ready to play in a game of this magnitude, but I think the defense is. I look forward to finding out if I'm right.
But enough from me. I give you Matt Takimoto from Addicted to Quack, with a report on the Ducks. Great stuff, as usual...
I think Oregon is probably the scariest offensive college football team I've ever seen. How does this year's edition compare to teams from the last two or three years?
Chip Kelly has finally had enough recruiting years to be running his offense with players he handpicked to run it, and it's showing. This year's offense is more efficient and more multi-faceted than any other iteration we've seen. They're making fewer mistakes, they have a consistent running and passing offense, and they're better conditioned than they ever have been. In short, they're really good.
When I'm watching bits and pieces of Oregon games or catching highlights on ESPN, Marcus Mariota is running circles around the defense one week and throwing for six touchdowns the next. What are his strengths as a quarterback? Is he the perfect quarterback for Chip Kelly's offense?
If the NCAA passed a rule -- and they really should -- saying that a given team can only have one freakishly talented running back, which one would you keep, Kenjon Barner or De'Anthony Thomas? Why?
Barner is the feature back, a Heisman candidate, and is having one of the best seasons in school history as a running back. De'Anthony Thomas is a tremendous athlete, and one of the fastest people ever to hit a football field, but he isn't an elite running back yet. His current value lies as a receiver and a return man. He's still got a lot to learn about being a true running back.
As much hype as the offense gets, the defense is also one of the best groups in the conference, especially considering how much time they spend on the field. Who are the stars of this unit? Are there concerns about the depleted defensive line? Where might the Cardinal best attack this defense?
Oregon's defense plays 20+ guys during any given game, and is littered with standouts. Our veteran linebackers (Michael Clay, Kiko Alonso, and Boseko Lokombo, and Dion Jordan in a hybrid role) are probably our best overall position group at this point, partially because they're all currently healthy. Cornerbacks Terrance Mitchell and Ifo Ekpre-Olomu have been outstanding this season as well, combining for five interceptions.
Who is a player that we don't know -- on either side of the ball -- that just might have a big game on Saturday?
With a beat-up defensive line, strong play from the second unit is paramount against a good running team like Stanford. True freshmen Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner have played capably in a backup role, and have the talent to really shine if given the opportunity. The 6'8" Armstead used his size to force a bad throw and an interception last week, a play that really was the catalyst in turning a close game against Cal into a blowout.
Tell the truth. Are there any concerns in Eugene this weekend? Any chance the Cardinal shatters the Ducks' perfect season? How do you see this game playing out, and what's your final score?
For Stanford to win, they need to put together sustained drives, score touchdowns on all of those sustained drives, and hope Oregon shoots itself in the foot on offense. There's always a chance of that happening, but this is the best Oregon team I've ever seen, and they're playing in Autzen Stadium.
Oregon seems to be marching to the National Championship Game. Win or lose, I think that would finally convince college football fans across the country of what we in the Pac-12 already know: the Oregon Ducks are an elite football program. But are there any concerns that it could all come crashing down? What if Chip Kelly bolts for the NFL? What the NCAA pulls some scholarships? Do people in the fan base worry about those possibilities? Is the program strong enough to withstand either of those eventualities?
Chip Kelly leaving to the NFL is, in my mind, an inevitability. He's a gamechanger in terms of scheme, work ethic, and player management, and he's never shied away from a challenge. However, I think he wants to get Oregon a national title before he goes, and I'm okay with that arrangement. As far as potential sanctions go, we haven't heard any indication that the punishment will be anything major or program-altering, and even then, Oregon is to the level of national relevance of a USC or an Ohio State, and they're weathering those punishments just fine.