When Oregon visits Stanford on Saturday, a streak will end. Stanford has the longest winning streak in big-time college football at 17. Oregon has won 18 consecutive conference games. The winner wins the Pac 12. If Stanford wins, it might play for the national championship. With so much at stake, ESPN will use its Game Day program to focus the eyes of the football nation on The Farm in Palo Alto, California.
Both teams, by turns, have looked great but beatable over the past few weeks. In it’s last game, Oregon State tested Stanford more than the 38-13 score would indicate. Once again, Stanford’s best wide receiver, Chris Owusu suffered a concussion. (If I were his dad, I’d urge him to retire. He’s suffered too many concussions.) Also missing for are two tight ends who have caught many of Andrew Luck’s passes.
By contrast, Oregon’s starting quarterback and best runner recently returned from injury. But Oregon’s offense did not impress me against Washington, despite the 34-17 score. Although Darron Thomas has performed brilliantly at times, at other times, he looks shaky, especially in the first couple possessions of big games. Oregon never quite replaced its clutch receiver from last year, Jeff Maehl. Against Washington, a few drops kept Oregon’s score down. Also, Oregon continues to have some issues with turnovers.
I focus on the offense, because offense dominated the last two meetings. In 2009, Stanford won 51-42 with methodical, run-first drives. 52 runs plus 20 passes for Stanford added up to 505 yards. Oregon’s 570 yards of offense made for an entertaining game. In 2010, the teams combined for 1144 yards of offense and 83 points in Oregon’s 52-31 home win. Perhaps the sad turning point in the 2010 game was another Chris Owusu knock out. He was out cold and dropped the ball before dropping to the ground. Oregon scooped it up and turned the game around.
Stanford will again rely on the run as much as possible to keep Oregon’s big-play athletes off the field. Stanford will march down the field and score at least 35 points. (It averages 44 points per regulation Pac-12 game). Oregon’s defense is looking pretty good and is pretty healthy (despite the absence of All-American Cliff Harris).
Oregon also averages about 44 p.p.g. against Pac-12 competition. Oregon will score on special teams to make up for whatever fumble or interception it gives away.
As of this writing, the betting lines have not been posted. This is a tough game for picking a winner. I think Stanford’s loss of three pair of receiving hands will neutralize its home field advantage. In my mind, however, that only means that the slight tip in Stanford’s favor is gone, making the outcome a coin-flip. In Jeff Sagarin’s computer schemes, the predictor rating ranks Stanford above Oregon.
Oregon has too many game breakers. Final score: Oregon wins: 44 – 42. (I’ll be there with my Stanford alumnus ticket wearing Duck clothing.)
P.S.: Look for the fun side show between mascots: the Stanford tree and Puddles, the Oregon duck. Here’s the Stanford Tree taking care of the Virgina Tech Turkey. (Come on, who can’t beat up a turkey.) The Oregon Duck is known for Harley riding and a viscous smack-down of a Cougar.