Stanford Cardinal: Defeating the Ducks Is Key To Title Hopes


This weekend, an old rivalry will open a new chapter. The Stanford Cardinal are hosting the Oregon Ducks, coming to Palo Alto looking to avenge losses of their past, while Stanford will be looking to defend its College Football Playoff hopes.

There has been quite a lot of action over the past few weeks, with dozens of ranked teams dropping like flies and losing their hopes of making it to a New Year’s playoff bowl game. Stanford, however, has weathered these storms, coming out on top no matter what has been thrown on them in conference play thus far.

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They have met the challenge and taken down then-sixth ranked USC, crushed #18 UCLA, and taken care of business against Oregon State, Arizona, Washington, Washington State, and Colorado.

The only game against an unranked team that was close was the game against Wazzou, who like Oregon, is a team that should not be taken at face value. Wazzou put up an impressive fight, behind their blazing offense and a stout defense, and were merely a field goal away from squeaking out a huge victory.

All of this has to be comforting for Stanford, as they were picked by the official College Football Playoff committee this week as the seventh seed, just three spots out of the playoff group.

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  • Out of all three games remaining, by far the biggest one will be their post-Thanksgiving showdown at home against the current number six seed, and fellow one-loss team, Notre Dame. The matchup with the Fighting Irish will be their penultimate test, but in order to get there, the Cardinal must first get by two of their biggest rivals, Oregon and Cal.

    As the Ducks fly south for kickoff this week, they are looking for more than just another conference win. They need to win to prevent Stanford from clinching the Pac-12 North Division, and thus their spot in the Pac-12 title game at Levi’s Stadium in December. This 2015 Oregon squad is far off from the Ducks of the past several years, who were contending for Rose Bowl berths every year.

    The Ducks are obviously down a Heisman, as Marcus Mariota graduated and went into the NFL Draft, but the atmosphere of the team is different. Without Mariota at the helm, the Ducks stumbled early, losing close matchups to Michigan State and Washington State while being blown-out by Utah.

    All the while, the Ducks were shuffling quarterbacks weekly, with Division II transfer Vernon Adams suffering broken finger, and several other quarterbacks looking underwhelming while leading the offense.

    Despite their rocky start, as of the last few weeks, the Ducks are rolling. They have taken down Washington, ASU, and Cal behind a healed Adams, who looks more like the athletic dual-threat QB that Oregon saw when they recruited him away from Eastern Washington last spring.

    Just last week against Cal, the Ducks’ offense put up 777 yards and held highly regarded NFL prospect Jared Goff in check, limiting him to only 18 completions on the night. 

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    While Stanford will be the favorite in this clash, the key for the Cardinal is not to get ahead of themselves, and take things one week at a time. Kevin Hogan, Christian McCaffrey, and company need to do their jobs, and put points on the board to keep up with the breakneck pace of the Ducks’ offense. On defense, they need to come at Oregon early and often, using their major size advantage to compensate for Oregon’s quickness on both sides of the ball.

    Given the caliber of the other one-loss teams they are being compared to weekly by the playoff selection committee, the Cardinal can’t afford to slow down now. If Stanford plays smart, and comes away with a win, they will be one step closer to the ultimate goal: a chance to be in the College Football Playoff come January.