With USC slipping down in the Pac-12 standings in recent years, Oregon and Stanford have emerged as the conference’s major powerhouse teams.
Over the past four seasons, the teams are tied at 2-2 against each other, indicating an even matchup at the top of the Pac-12 North.
The Ducks and the Cardinal, in many ways, are complete opposites. Oregon boasts one of the nation’s top rushing offenses while Stanford brings a dominant front seven to the table.
Stanford is known for its big, powerful bodies while Oregon’s smaller, speedy weapons are most effective with their athleticism and up-tempo attack.
However, last season, the two squads appeared to move a bit closer together. Oregon’s defensive studs such as Dion Jordan and Kiko Alonso performed like the kind of potent pass-rushers and run-stoppers that Stanford would usually put on the field.
Dual-threat quarterback Kevin Hogan also marked a transition at Stanford towards a more spread out, balanced attack.
Stanford took Oregon down in an overtime nail-biter in 2012, winning 17-14 on a Jordan Williamson field goal. However, the Ducks won big in 2010 and 2011 by a combined margin of 55 points.
Oregon’s Marcus Mariota is actually quite comparable to Hogan, as both stand in at 6’4” and run quite well. Therefore, their offenses may run similarly in 2013, especially considering the fact that both squads lose their starting running backs from a season ago.
However, Stanford returns most of its outstanding front wall and stellar defense, with studs such as Shayne Skov and Trent Murphy returning for another season, while the Ducks lose valuable defensive players such as Jordan, Alonso, and Michael Clay.
Given the fact that the Ducks are also losing head coach Chip Kelly to the Philadelphia Eagles, I would give the slight edge to Stanford in the Pac-12 this season.
However, in the future, Stanford will need to recruit well and David Shaw must keep up his outstanding coaching in order to compete with Oregon, a program that has truly become one of the nation’s elite.
The Ducks have been a running back factory over the past few years, and have consistently churned out athletic defensive stars. While they may have the advantage this year, the Cardinal will need to continue the trend of acquiring powerful defensive players to slow Oregon’s lethal offense.