Oregon faces Stanford and an improved defense will help the Ducks.

The Oregon Ducks (6-3, 4-2) take on the Stanford Cardinal (8-1, 7-0) this Saturday at Stanford Stadium, and Mark Helfrich is looking for his team to compete. A few weeks ago many would have written off the Ducks after a pounding Oregon took at home against Utah. However, after three straight wins, two of those on the road, the Ducks appear to be back on track.

One of the significant reason for Oregon’s steadily improved play is that quarterback Vernon Adams is fully healthy and living up to the tag, Big Play VA. Adams has found ways to frustrate the opponents and at the same time find open receivers for touchdowns as he did against Arizona State on a fourth-and-goal with time expiring to evade tacklers and hurl the ball into the endzone where Dwayne Stanford pulled the ball in for the score. That enabled the Ducks to go into overtime and the Ducks won the game after three overtime sessions, 61-55.

A second factor has been the improved play of the Oregon defense, notably in the last game against California. Even though the Ducks are dead last in the conference in scoring defense (38.2 ppg), total offense (489.7 ypg) and passing defense (319.2 ypg) the Ducks managed to force California to punt the ball six times last game and kick two field goals and intercepted one pass. That is nine of Cal’s 13 drives not counting Cal’s last drive of the half which last nine plays for 63 yards, but the Bears were unable to score and drive ended with the conclusion of the first half.

Comparing that to the Utah game that the Ducks lost, Utah punted the ball three times, kicked two field goals and was not picked off or fumbled the ball in fifteen drives.

It should be noted that another factor in Oregon’s win over California was that Defensive Backs Coach John Neal was moved from the field to the press box where he was better able to communicate the defensive schemes to players on the field and thereby put the defense in better position for success.

Against Arizona State, Oregon gave up 742 yards of total offense including 398 yards of passing and 344 yards of rushing; most importantly 55 points. Against Cal, the Ducks allowed 432 yards of total offense (329 passing and 103 rushing) and 28 points.

This upcoming game could be the biggest game for both teams. For Stanford, a loss would most certainly drop any Pac-12 team from being considered for the NCAA Playoff. A win for Oregon keeps its hopes for an appearance in the Pac-12 Championship game alive.

Odds makers have Stanford as a 10-point favorite. When Helfrich was asked about being an underdog, he said he hasn’t talked about being an underdog.

“We’re attacking with total confidence, total commitment (and) total belief from all angles,” said Helfrich. “We’re preparing to play Stanford and we’re preparing to improve and compete.”

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