LaMichael James (left) and Andrew Luck (right) will be in the spotlight Saturday night in Palo Alto.It may not be the Game of the Century, but the conference battle between the Oregon Ducks and Stanford Cardinal Saturday night (8 ET on ABC) could be the game of the year in the Pac-12 and has significant national championship implications.
Stanford can clinch the Pac-12 North with a win in this game. Stanford hasn’t won a conference championship since 1999. With a win, Oregon puts itself in the driver’s seat in the Pac-12 North and a possible third straight outright Pac-12 title. USC is the only other school since the conference formed in 1959 to win three straight outright conference titles.
Stanford looking for revenge
Revenge will be on the minds of Stanford this weekend. The Ducks gave the Cardinal their only loss last season, a 52-31 walloping in Eugene. But since then, Stanford has won 17 straight games, the longest active streak in FBS.
Last year, Andrew Luck threw for a season-high 341 yards against Oregon, but struggled throwing downfield in the second half. Luck threw two touchdowns on passes of 10-plus yards in the first half, but in the second half he completed just 4-of-13 attempts on those throws, including two interceptions.
Unlike the defensive struggle in last week's LSU-Alabama game, this one will likely see some offensive fireworks. Both teams rank in the top 10 in scoring and total offense; Stanford has scored at least 37 points in every game, while Oregon has scored at least 34 in every game except the loss to LSU.
Stanford Passing by Target
Despite the similar numbers, the two teams are a contrast in offensive play-calling and schemes.
Stanford targets its tight ends more than any other top-10 BCS team. The Cardinal tight ends have caught a touchdown in every game this season and in 19 of 22 games since the start of 2010.
However, injuries among the receiving corps are a concern for the Cardinal against Oregon. Stanford may be without wide receiver Chris Owusu and tight end Zach Ertz, who have combined for 30.3 percent of the teams’ targets and 27 percent of the yards.
Oregon uses its speed to produce big plays and quick scoring drives. Since the start of last season, the Ducks lead FBS with 73 drives of two minutes or fewer and 36 drives of three plays or fewer.
LaMichael James has 30 rushes of 30 yards or longer in his career, the most by any FBS player since the start of the 2004 season. He tore through the Stanford defense last year, rushing for 257 yards, including seven runs of 10-plus yards and a 76-yard touchdown.
Stat of the game
With a win, Stanford will have back-to-back 10-win seasons for the first time in school history. In fact, entering last season, Stanford had only three 10-win seasons ever.