(PHOTO) Washington Huskies quarterback Keith Price (17) is sacked by the Oregon Ducks during the game at Husky Stadium. Oregon defeated Washington 34-17. Credit: Steven Bisig-US PRESSWIRE
"I'd like to send him to the moon for the weekend," Chip Kelly said about Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck on Tuesday during his weekly media conference. The No. 8 Oregon Ducks (8-1, 6-0) travel to Stanford to take on the No. 4 Cardinal in this week's marquee game.
Kelly was asked if he would rather face Andrew Luck in open space or in the pocket.
"I'd like to have him in outer space," Kelly responded with a slight grin about Stanford's shining star. "I'd like to send him to the moon for the weekend."
Kelly knows there is a monumental task ahead for his team in a game starting at 5:00 p.m. and carried on ABC. The winner of the match up will have a leg up in winning the Northern Division of the Pac-12 conference and a berth in the inaugural conference championship game that could either be played in Eugene or Palo Alto.
While Kelly is a great admirer of Luck, the junior signal caller for Stanford is a thorn in the Oregon coach's side, like he is with every coach that plays the Cardinal. Widely regarded as the leading candidate to win this year's Heisman Trophy and surely the first pick in the NFL draft should the lanky playmaker decide to cash in on his skills at the end of the year; Luck leads the conference in passing efficiency with a QB rating at 174.05, based on completing 194 passes on 272 attempts with 26 touchdowns and only five interceptions. Luck directs an offense that is the scoring offense leader in the conference at 48.2 points per contest. Two years ago, when Luck was just a freshman, the Oregon coaching staff worked overtime to try and come up with schemes that would confuse and confound Luck, but – no luck then because Stanford took the Ducks 51-42 for Kelly's only conference loss since he's become top bird at Oregon.
Last week, Stanford traveled to Corvallis and put the Oregon State Beavers out of any possible post-season bowl consideration by delivering a 38-13 whipping of OS. Meanwhile, Oregon took care of arch-nemesis Washington, 34-17 in the farewell game to Husky Stadium on Saturday night.
The contest between the two combatants has all the trappings of a big time game with the winner improving on a series record of 44-29-1 (in favor of Stanford). While Oregon has won eight of the last nine contests between the two schools including last year's 52-31 Oregon win, it is hard to imagine two teams more evenly matched.
For Kelly's part, he believes the game will really be a match between Stanford's offensive line and Oregon's defensive line.
Stanford's offensive line has paved the way for a balanced offense that is second in the conference in rushing (224.7 ypg) and sixth in passing at 281.1 ypg.
Oregon's defense is ranked fifth in total defense allowing 383.6 ypg but is ranked third in the conference in scoring defense at 20.8 ppg. Last week, the Duck defenders contained Washington's Chris Polk to 80 yards, more than 40 yards below his average. Oregon played a very physical and aggressive defense last Saturday night and recorded six sacks. The defensive line showed an aggressive side that surprised many who have followed the Ducks all year long. Defensive tackle Wade Keliikipi was particularly impressive with his play against the Huskies, particularly on the speed he was able to get to the quarterback and make a sack.
"I think Wade has really come along," said Kelly of Keliikipi. "He's played really great football for us in the last four or five games."
Oregon's well known pace not only is displayed every week on offense, so too does it show up when the defense takes the field. The Ducks play as many as 26 defensive players in a game so consequently, there aren't many guys lounging around on the sidelines. Defensive Coordinator Nick Aliotti has been very pleased with his group of linemen. The Ducks usually rotate four linemen into the game in the course of a contest. Besides Keliikipi, Oregon relies on Taylor Hart, Isaac Remington and Ricky Heimuli to hold the line against opposing offenses, all being hard workers and as Aliotti puts it are physical, tough guys that "get it." If Aliotti were to issue out grades to the group, they'd be making the Honor Roll.
"They're all close to getting A's in my opinion," Aliotti says of frontline defenders. "They are getting better and better."
Kelly is quick to point out that the defensive line has been a question mark by observers, but in the end those questions get answered.
"In the three years we've been here people keep questioning going in (to the season) because of the players we've lost from the year before, but at the end of the year you go ‘wow, the DLine played pretty good," reminded Kelly.
Aliotti credits the defensive line's success with the hard work the group puts in and with all the effort according to the Defense's boss, good things happen.
"Those guys are good," Aliotti said of the defensive line. "They work hard every day therefore the game is easy for them."
No Luck Then Let Big Men Fight It Out
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