A year ago at Autzen Stadium in Eugene, Ore., the Stanford Cardinal held the high-flying Oregon Ducks in check, holding then-No. 2 Oregon to a season-low 14 points in a 17-14 win.
Stanford went on to play in the Rose Bowl and derailed Oregon’s BCS title hopes in the process.
The teams renew acquaintances Thursday night in what has quickly become the elite matchup in the Pac-12 North. The 8-0 Ducks are No. 3 in the most recent BCS standings, the 7-1 Cardinal are ranked No. 5 in the same table.
As always, defense is the key and Oregon won’t lack for confidence … with good reason.
The Ducks are second in the nation in scoring at 55.6 points per game. They are gaining 632.1 yards a contest—331.5 on the ground and a “paltry” 300.6 through the air. Their defense hasn’t been bad, either, ranked seventh in FBS allowing 16.9 points per game. Oregon’s season-low in scoring came in its last game … a 42-14 win over UCLA.
Stanford doesn’t have that kind of firepower offensively. The Cardinal is 46th in the country in scoring offense at 32.6 points a game, 36th in rushing offense at 196.4 yards a game and 96th in passing offense at 193.3 yards per game.
It’s defensively where Stanford will have to come up big. And they’ve been issued a challenge.
“I feel we are a better team, just a new generation of players,” Oregon running back De’Anthony Thomas told GoDucks.com. “We’ve got a lot of guys that can contribute to the offense and that’s what makes this offense so dynamic.
“I feel like this team, we should at least put up 40.”
The thing is, Thomas has a point. Only once in the last 34 games has the Ducks offense been held to fewer than 34 points. That would have been in the loss to Stanford last season.
But the Cardinal defense is nicked up. Defensive end Ben Gardner is out for the year after tearing a pectoral muscle in Stanford’s 20-12 win at Oregon State on Oct. 26. However, the Cardinal got a piece of good news—defensive end Henry Anderson will be back for Thursday night after missing six games with a knee injury.
Revenge, a little bit of talk … it adds up to the game of the year in the Pac-12, with the North Division title likely once again hanging in the balance.