Stanford ruined Oregon’s bid for a national championship with an upset win in their 2012 showdown. On Thursday night, the Ducks will be looking for some payback.
The two teams will square off in the biggest Pac-12 contest before this year’s conference championship game. No.3 Oregon is undefeated in the conference, while No.5 Stanford has one loss. A victory for the Cardinal, however, would put them in first place in the North division and move them up in the BCS rankings.
Last season, the Ducks appeared to be on their way to facing Alabama in the BCS National Championship Game. However, a 17-14 overtime loss to the Cardinal changed those plans. Stanford held the high-powered Oregon offense in check like no team had been able to do. That defeat is the only time in the past 35 games that Oregon has scored fewer than 34 points.
This time around, however, the Ducks don’t expect their offense to slow down. Their last win, in which they beat then-No.12 UCLA 42-14, was their lowest scoring output of the year.
"I feel we are a better team, just a new generation of players. We've got a lot of guys that can contribute to the offense and that's what makes this offense to dynamic," running back De’Anthony Thomas told GoDucks.com “"I feel like this team, we should at least put up 40."
Thomas returned to the team against UCLA after missing four games. He’s rushed for 369 yards in four contests. However, Oregon’s quarterback will be Stanford’s biggest concern. Marcus Mariota has played as well as any player in the country this season, throwing 20 touchdowns, rushing for nine more and not throwing an interception. Those numbers, along with his 2,281 passing yards have him as the favorite to win the Heisman Trophy.
Mariota is improved from a year ago, but he was still a top performer in 2012. Stanford's defense was able to limit him to his worst performance as a starter, completing a season-low 56.8 percent of his passes and throwing an interception.
"I thought last year he was the best quarterback in the nation, and I feel the same way this year," Stanford head coach David Shaw said. "I don't care about stats. Stats don't mean anything. You watch the film, you see a kid that makes every throw. Every throw is accurate. Twenty touchdowns and no interceptions? Every ball is perfect, every ball is in stride, every ball there's no wobble on it. Everything's pretty.”
The Ducks are the second-highest scoring team in the nation at 55.6 points per game. Stanford might have the hottest defense in the conference at the moment. In their last two wins, they allowed just 22 total points to UCLA and Oregon State, both ranked opponents. The Cardinal haven't given up more than 28 points in 2013.
Despite last year’s result, Las Vegas oddsmakers don’t seem to expect a repeat. The Ducks are a 10.5-point favorite at most casinos, with the over/under set at 61.5. Oregon failed to cover or tie the point spread just once this season.
Prediction: Oregon 37, Stanford 24