"Week Nine": (8) Oregon @ Stanford

The Bootleg's Scott Cooley was on hand for Tuesday's weekly press conference and provides us with a preview of what we can expect from the Saturday's match-up against Oregon. It will be the Cardinal's unstoppable power running game against the Ducks' formidable "read-option" spread offense. November games are relevant once again for the Cardinal as we head into Stanford Football's "final four".

"Week Nine": Oregon @ Stanford


The well-rested and hopefully "improved" Cardinal will aim to defeat its second ranked opponent of the season as the Oregon Ducks flock to Stanford Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

 

Back on September 26th, Washington mushed into Palo Alto as the No. 24 team in the nation, brimming with confidence after a Week 3 win over perennial conference bully USC, but was dethroned and humbled by the Cardinal, 34-14. 

 

This week the No. 8-ranked Ducks, also sky-high after defeating the Trojans decisively on Halloween, will try to continue their surge as one of the premier programs in the country by ending Stanford's four-game home winning streak.

 

"Everybody is excited, this is a huge opportunity for us," running back Toby Gerhart said. "There isn't a feeling of fear around the locker room. This is an opportunity to make a name for ourselves and show we're moving up into the top tier of the Pac-10."

 

History does not bode well for the home team, however. Stanford has dropped seven consecutive games to Oregon and five of those losses have been by a margin greater than 24 points. But this season's Ducks offense may be the most prolific the Cardinal has encountered in recent years.

 

Oregon leads the conference in rushing and ranks No. 8 in the country with a 233.3 yards per game average. The team is throwing gaudy numbers onto the scoreboard, averaging more than 35 points per outing – good for the nation's No. 9 ranking.

 

The Ducks predominately run a version of the spread offense labeled the "read-option" offense. The team's most dynamic player, quarterback Jeremiah Masoli, receives the ball in a shotgun formation and then determines the course of action after reading the zones.

 

"It's as well-executed an option game as you are ever going to see," Harbaugh said of Oregon's read-option offense. "And in any option game, you have to account for the dive, the quarterback and the pitch."

 

Oregon also utilizes a quick-snap, no-huddle approach to try and catch defenses out of position. The Ducks pace of play will be quicker than any team Stanford has faced this season. Harbaugh iterated that the team's recent practices have attempted to resemble that style of play.

 

"You try to simulate it as best you can, but you can't do it at their tempo," he said.

 

In an attempt to emulate an elusive and speedy Masoli, the coaching staff has used a trio of players as the scout team quarterback. Alex Loukas, Michael Thomas and Tavita Pritchard have all donned a Masoli jersey this week.

 

Boise State and UCLA are the only teams to hold Oregon under 30 points in 2009. Perhaps there is a common defensive theme from those two teams that Stanford can factor into the equation?

 

"I just actually got done watching the Boise game," said linebacker Clinton Snyder. "Boise was playing them much how we want to play them – making them feel uncomfortable with what they're going to run. If you can get them out of rhythm by stopping their zone game, then you are going to get them uncomfortable."

 

Snyder also mentioned that "sure-tackling" will be imperative – an area Stanford has fallen short in during some games this season. Oregon's ground game thrives on missed tackles and exposed USC last week in that department.

 

The Cardinal offense also has a gameplan for tempering the Ducks offensive attack. Stanford has won the time of possession battle in six of eight games this season and will look to keep Oregon's offense off the field for extended periods of the game.

 

"They love getting plays in on offense; time of possession doesn't seem to be a big deal for them," quarterback Andrew Luck stated. "We don't want our defense out there too long so we definitely want to control the ball. I feel like we are going to work really hard on taking care of the ball and putting long drives together this week."

 

Stanford has amassed 76 points and 1,057 yards of offense during the last two games so Saturday's contest could turn into a shoot-out. The Ducks surrender 121.5 yards per game on the ground so this is one of the softer run defenses Stanford has seen in many weeks.

 

The Cardinal hope to erase the painful memory of last season's game against Oregon in Eugene. Stanford led 28-27 with 2:18 left in the contest, but a LeGarrette Blount three-yard touchdown run with six seconds remaining sealed the victory for the Ducks.

 

The last time Stanford defeated Oregon was in 2001 on the road at high-decibel Autzen Stadium. The Ducks were ranked in the Top 5 before that miracle 49-42 upset  – the only blemish on Oregon's record that season.


About the Author: Scott Cooley is a seasoned sports writer who was groomed as a reporter for ESPN.com, and he most recently served as the media relations manager for the San Jose SaberCats arena football team. He earned a Business and Economics degree from Hendrix College where he also played baseball. Cooley has a passion for producing sports content, and his writing evokes thought into the minds of his readers with a witty and entertaining style. He is a freelance writer who has been published on multiple media platforms and is always looking for additional opportunities. Cooley and his wife, Christina, reside in Palo Alto where she is pursuing a Ph.D. in chemistry at Stanford. Contact him at
scottwcooley@gmail.com


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