Prediction draft No. 7, and hopefully the last one. Back and forth. I’ve flipped on this more times than a gymnast after sucking down a six pack of Red Bull.
I know what my eyes tell me. And I know what my brain tells me. And they tell me different things. My eyes say Oregon is just too fast. My brain tells me Stanford is more prepared mentally and schematically than it was last season. If I’m a Stanford fan, I’m worried. If I’m an Oregon fan, I’m worried. If I’m a college football fan, I’m elated. This game has the potential to be the game of the year. And I can say with total confidence this will not be a 9-6 final. So here we go…
Prediction: Stanford 45, Oregon 38
Why they’ll win: Stay with me for a minute. Remember Karate Kid? Wax-on, wax-off? Mr. Miyagi was teaching Daniel to block without him knowing. Then, he tests him and he blocks every punch and kick. Stanford’s defense is a little bit like that. They have been installing elements specifically designed to stop Oregon’s offense without the players realizing it at the time. But now that it’s here, they don’t need to completely re-write the playbook. The tools have been in place all along -- only now they are being awakened for this specific purpose.
Offensively, it’s all about No. 12. Andrew Luck is the best player in college football playing on his home field. Tough to bet against that. The Cardinal have the offense to go blow-for-blow with Oregon’s speedy backs. So it comes down to which defense makes a stop -- and the Cardinal have shown when they absolutely have to make a play. It won’t be pretty, but it will be enough to get the job done.
You put these teams on a neutral field and they play 10 times, each one probably wins five. But for this one game, in this moment in time, it’s Stanford. Revenge can rip you apart or it can motivate you to work harder than you knew. I’m betting on the latter. And this is not a neutral field.
In the spotlight: Anyone who has the responsibility of making a tackle. The offense is going to be fine. It will be balanced and efficient. The defense is the cause for concern. When Stanford clicks -- there aren’t many teams in the nation that can score on them. But Oregon is one of those teams that can. Even when the Cardinal are at their best, Oregon can be better. But one tackle -- just one hand on an ankle -- can make a difference. And with Delano Howell back this week at safety, I feel better about the defense than I did a week ago.
Out on limb: Luck and tight end Coby Fleener will team up for at least three touchdowns. Fleener is the biggest mismatch Stanford has on its roster -- and they have to exploit it. No one can keep up with him. No one can out-muscle him and no one can deliver a ball to him the way Luck can. Fleener goes for more than 100 yards -- and has at least one touchdown of 45-plus yards. As always, that’s just me going out on a limb…