Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott made no bones about the fact that he wanted this game in a primetime, stand-alone situation and that’s exactly what he is getting. Well, at least it looks like it will turn out that way anyway. The National Football League also plays on Thursday night but thankfully for Scott, the match-up is Minnesota and Washington which isn’t nearly as enticing as the game he is serving up.
That said, Oregon and Stanford are once again poised to throw significant monkey wrenches into the final BCS. An Oregon win will solidify their standing in the national polls and will essentially lock up the Pac-12 North as well. Remember that Stanford has already lost once (to Utah) and a loss to the Ducks is basically like falling behind them by three games not just two.
Last year in Eugene, the two Pac-12 titans hooked up for an epic defensive battle that was settled in overtime by a 17-14 score. The loss allowed the Cardinal to get to the Rose Bowl while the Ducks settled for a Fiesta Bowl route of Kansas State.
If you look back over the last ten years, last year’s defensive tussle may have been an anomaly. In the seven meetings prior to last season, Oregon was averaging 47 points per game. That’s pretty impressive considering Stanford still averaged about 28 points per game during that same stretch. Averaging 28 points per game but still losing by an average of 19 points per game is a bit humbling.
Oregon was 6-1 against Stanford over that seven game stretch.
With all those points being scored, how then did last year happen and could a defensive type game break out again tomorrow night? Anything is possible but I get the feeling that there will be some defense played in Palo Alto and will be coming from the guys in green.
With all the talk about Oregon’s offense, and rightfully so, the Ducks’ defense has been pretty darn good too. Oregon leads the Pac-12 in scoring defense and ranks number one in defensive pass efficiency. They rank fourth against the run which I believe Stanford will try to establish early and often.
The Oregon defense also does one other thing pretty well and that’s creating turnovers. While they’ve given up just nine touchdown passes, they’ve also recorded 13 interceptions. Stanford quarterback Kevin Hogan has thrown just five interceptions on the season but he’ll be tested by the speed of the Ducks’ secondary.
The Numbers Game
Oregon is currently a favorite by 8.5 points. Knowing this game is on the road, that number is pretty impressive. The most recent over/under total is 65.5 so you can tell Vegas aren’t expecting another defensive showdown. In the last six games at Stanford five times the total has gone over and it seems like a real possibility once again.
The Cardinal really doesn’t have too many numbers in their favor. Over their last 11 games at home against the Ducks, they are 3-8 against the spread. The Ducks meanwhile are 9-2 straight up in their last 11 games versus the Cardinal. In their last five games at home against the Ducks Stanford is 1-4 against the spread.
I really think this is a different Oregon team under Mark Helfrich. I believe you’ll see more offensive aggressiveness and I believe the defense will make plays as well. I think Stanford hangs around in the first half but the numbers just aren’t going the way of the Cardinal. I like Oregon to cover the spread but I’m going to go for the under on the total.