The Rundown: Stanford vs. Oregon

This Saturday at Autzen Stadium will be one of the most interesting matchups we'll see in all of college football for the 2010 season. The Oregon Ducks thrive on speed and innovation to stun opponents while the Stanford Cardinal uses size and physically dominating style of play to topple foes. If you're a fan of college football then you won't want to miss a second of this contest.

The ESPN Game Day crew will be in Eugene once again to add extra emphasis to how great this matchup really is. The Pac-10 race is rarely decided by week two of conference play, but both teams know a win on Saturday will go a long ways at the end of the season. Both teams are in charge of their own destiny. If you've seen either of these great looking squads play then you know a conference title is well within reach and a national championship run is very realistic. The loser of this battle will still be in the hunt for all of the post-season hardware but obviously the chances go down.

The storylines for this game are endless. You have two legitimate Heisman Trophy candidates in Stanford's quarterback Andrew Luck and Oregon's running back LaMichael James. These redshirt sophomores are considered by many to be the best players at their position in all of college football. The quarterback matchup is always something heavily examined. Luck is returning from a great freshman season in 2009 and hasn't done anything to make anyone question his greatness thus far in 2010. If Luck can keep his individual stats on the pace they are now and Stanford keeps winning at a high clip no one would be surprised to see him taken as the first pick in the 2011 NFL Draft. Oregon's quarterback Darron Thomas has a little different story. Thomas, a redshirt sophomore battled redshirt senior Nate Costa all through fall camp to win the starting position. The pro scouts aren't falling over themselves for Thomas yet, but he's been effective in the starting role throwing ten touchdowns to only three interceptions.

When comparing the numbers for these teams Oregon gets a slight edge, but Stanford has played a slightly tougher schedule basically evening things out. I'm a stat junkie myself like most hard core fans are. The four stats that tell the tale of just how good a football is are: points for, points against, rushing yards, and turnovers.

Stanford is fourth in the country in scoring with 48 points per game. Their defense isn't far behind with a national ranking of twelfth surrendering 13.8 points per game. Their ground game is impressive at 223.3 yards per game making it the nineteenth best rushing attack in America. Turnover margin can be deceiving this early in the year but it's still a factor and the Cardinal rank seventeenth at +1 per game. These are the kinds of numbers that will win a lot of football games and earn an overall national ranking of ninth.

The Ducks are hard to believe on paper. If you haven't seen them play yet this year you'll probably think these numbers are a typo. Oregon is first in scoring offense at 57.8 points per game, third in scoring defense at 11 points per game, fourth in rushing yards at 316.8 yards per game, and first in turnover margin at +2.75 per game. Last week in a "sloppy" road win the Ducks managed to score 42 points against what is easily one on the top three defenses in the Pac-10. It's hard to suggest a team is underrated with an overall ranking of fourth but these Ducks just might be.

Stanford Keys to Victory
Establish a solid running game giving Andrew Luck time to throw
Force Oregon to throw the ball
Have less than two turnovers
Take the crowd out of the game with long scoring drives
Score on either special teams or defense

Oregon Keys to Victory
Early success in the running game
Sustain the great red zone defense
Continue to score on defense and special teams
Use the superior depth to wear out Stanford in the first three quarters
Keep the crowd involved all game long on defense

Prediction: Oregon 51, Stanford 38


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