As we start looking ahead to Saturday's showdown between Stanford and Oregon, it's worth taking a look at how they have matched up against common opponents this season. None of the four common opponents really challenged either team, though it's interesting to compare head-to-head how injuries and/or circumstances impacted the end result.
Arizona (both games were on the road)
Oregon Score: 56-31
Stanford Score: 37-10
What this told us about Oregon: Pretty much what we already knew. James is the marquee running back in the conference and was moving at a Heisman pace before he was injured two games later. Given his performance last week against Washington, he looks to be back on track.
Stanford Summary: Stanford lost linebacker Shayne Skov for the season and was without tight end Coby Fleener most of the game. The defense kept Foles from really breaking out on the long ball while the pass rush went crazy with five sacks. Big day for tight end Levine Toilolo -- four catches 102 yards and a touchdown.
What this told us about Stanford: This was Stanford’s first taste of adversity with Skov going down. They responded well and Jarek Lancaster and A.J. Tarpley have been very good this season in Skov’s absence. The three-tight-end formations stupefied the Arizona defense.
Colorado (Oregon was on the road, Stanford was at home)
Oregon Score: 45-2
Stanford Score: 48-7
Oregon Summary: Even with Darron Thomas and LaMichael James out because of injury, the Ducks cruised. Quarterback Bryan Bennett and tailback Kenjon Barner paced the Ducks to the blowout win while the defense shut down a staggering Colorado offense.
What this told us about Oregon: Like Stanford, the Ducks have tremendous depth. The loss of one or two players will not slow down what they want to do on either side of the ball. Oregon is the only team that can match Stanford’s depth at running back (or is it the other way around). Neither team will yield its offensive philosophies in spite of injury.
Stanford summary: This was perhaps Stanford’s most physical game on both sides of the ball. The defense picked up three sacks, the offensive line looked powerful on a couple of fourth-down conversions and fullback Ryan Hewitt looked sharp with two touchdown catches. Andrew Luck was brilliant in the no-huddle play-calling.
What this told us about Stanford: We really saw Luck shine in this game -- specifically putting Stanford into the proper formations with the play-calling. He was a crisp 26-of-33 with three touchdowns for 370 yards. When he plays like this, he is without a doubt, head-and-shoulders above any other player in college football.
Washington State (Oregon was at home, Stanford was on the road)
Oregon Score: 43-28
Stanford score: 44-14
Oregon Summary: After a fairly sluggish first half, where the Ducks held a 15-10 advantage after the first 30 minutes, Bryan Bennett replaced Darron Thomas in the second half. Thomas was returning from a knee injury and coach Chip Kelly said he thought Bennett gave them the best chance to win. Notable that Washington State wide receiver Jared Karstetter had his biggest game of the season: seven catches, 114 yards and a touchdown against the Ducks.
What this told us about Oregon: Bennett can be a suitable proxy for Thomas if needed. And that also opens up the possibility of gadget plays with both on the field at the same time. Also, Oregon can be just as explosive in the second half after a slow first -- where they have scored the bulk of their points this season.
Stanford summary: Like Oregon, it was a tale of two halves -- as is typical with Stanford on the road this year. Offense never really clicked in the first half, but the tight ends exploded in the second half and carried the Cardinal to a big win.
What this told us about Stanford: When the three tight ends are healthy and on the field at the same time, there is almost no way to stop them. However, this point might prove to be irrelevant depending on the health of Zach Ertz – who is doubtful for Saturday's game with a knee injury. Head coach David Shaw hinted that Levine Toilolo will probably play Saturday.
Washington (Oregon was on the road, Stanford was at home)
Oregon Score: 34-17
Stanford Score: 65-21
Oregon Summary: The Ducks’ offense rolled and Thomas looked sharper than he did coming back from injury against Washington State. James also looked solid, gaining 156 yards on the ground. But it was the defense, which forced three turnovers and sacked Keith Price six times -- that took center stage.
What this told us about Oregon: They aren’t just about offense. While their hurry-up, spread-triple gets a ton of attention, they are an athletic bunch up front that can get after the quarterback.
Stanford summary: Best rushing performance in school history. That’s really all that needs to be said about the offense. However, the defense gave up some big runs to Washington’s Chris Polk in the first half.
What this told us about Stanford: The Cardinal can dominate -- in a major way -- on the ground. As a team, they rushed for 446 yards and Stepfan Taylor and Tyler Gaffney both went for more than 100 yards. It also showed us that Stanford’s secondary misses Delano Howell.