Stanford Cardinal hit the road to face the Oregon Ducks

PALO ALTO, CA - OCTOBER 14: Bryce Love
PALO ALTO, CA - OCTOBER 14: Bryce Love /

Another top-20 matchup is on hand for the Stanford Cardinal with the Oregon Ducks awaiting them in Eugene as conference play gets underway.

Without Bryce Love in the lineup, the Stanford Cardinal came away from last week’s win over UC Davis with offensive issues. With the non-conference slate over, the Cardinal must resolve the problems as Pac-12 play officially commences this week.

K.J. Costello overcame a sluggish start — which included throwing two interceptions — to put away the Aggies, 30-10, in front of a small crowd at Stanford Stadium. Costello would finish with 214 yards passing and two touchdowns.

Coach David Shaw is not worried about the resolve of Costello, the mistakes on offense have often derailed drives by the Cardinal. Penalties are just one issue keeping Stanford from building more significant leads which has been evident against USC and UC Davis.

Stanford Cardinal Football
Stanford Cardinal Football /

Stanford Cardinal Football

As for the running game, anemic best describes the depth chart behind Love, as the Cardinal only mustered 137 yards on the ground. Love accumulated the same amount against the Trojans before leaving the game in the fourth quarter.

Love did not play against UC Davis for precautionary reasons. He left the game against USC with an unspecified injury. With a tough stretch of three games ahead for Stanford, resting Love was a smart move, despite his Heisman odds taking a hit.

Walker Little, who is a critical piece of the Cardinal offensive line, also did not play. Little and Nate Herbig are the two who help create the gaps for Love to break through. With three games in the books, the big running plays have yet to be seen out of Stanford.

Overall, the important takeaway is the Cardinal defense did not have a letdown performance, shutting down the Aggies. The touchdown allowed came on the final play and did not reflect the outing by the defense.

Stanford already got a taste of a top-20 matchup at home against an overrated USC squad, and now will get another dose on the road in Eugene. Excitement is escalating, and Autzen Stadium is going to be loud, with Oregon hoping to return to the national spotlight.

Oregon is beginning to trend upward, and are on the road to becoming title contenders again — an element not seen since the days of former San Francisco 49ers head coach, Chip Kelly, and when Marcus Mariota was the quarterback. The Ducks are still in search of an identity, and this week’s contest could establish one.

Mario Cristobal is the one in charge after Willie Taggart chose to slither his way to Florida State, for his so-called dream job. The Ducks have been much better without the snake, as the Seminoles are a sub-par 1-2. It seems to be an impulse hire for Florida State, as Taggart has yet to prove himself as a head coach, though he is a good recruiter.

Under Cristobal, the Ducks have a better mindset, and currently, have one of the best-recruiting classes for 2019. A huge reason for the success is defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt, who is continuing to rebuild the Ducks’ defense.

But, through the first three games, Oregon is not clicking, causing concern as Stanford’s defense is in mid-season form. Dropped passes by the young receiving corps of the Ducks is just one of many problems facing the team before the season got underway.

More from Golden Gate Sports

All the issues became apparent in the season opener against Bowling Green, as Oregon overcame a sluggish start to win. Missed tackles, dropped passes, and a poor run game, highlighted the questions the Ducks faced throughout camp.

Justin Herbert is looking to make a case for Heisman consideration this week. The quarterback did not play last year at Stanford after suffering an injury weeks before the game. His presence was sorely missed by the Ducks.

Tony Brooks-James appeared to be the every-down running back, but has gotten off to a slow start. The rushers behind him have yet to be a difference in the games played, but have promise in freshman Cyrus Habibi-Likio from St. Francis High School in Mountain View. He currently has four touchdowns on five rushing attempts.

Jacob Breeland and Johnny Johnson III will be the primary targets for Herbert in the air, after the Ducks took a hit at the tight end position during the opening game. Oregon will try to go up-tempo if they are moving the ball downfield effectively.

As for the Cardinal offense, having Love back at full strength will be beneficial as the Ducks’ defense is not looking strong. Expect Costello to utilize any one-on-one matchups with JJ Arcega-Whiteside, as he will look to pick Oregon apart.

Oregon against Stanford, in the past, has been one marquee matchup in the Pac-12 North Division race. With both teams in the top-20 again, the stakes are high as this game could potentially dictate the standings.

ESPN College Gameday is making a return to Eugene. The last time came in 2014, when Oregon hosted Michigan State in what became an instant classic. Stanford has won the previous two meetings in Eugene but should expect a louder atmosphere with the implications at stake.

Game time is at 5:00 pm with a broadcast on ABC.

dark. Next. Stanford Cardinal Face UC Davis Aggies

Autzen Stadium is about to get loud as Stanford looks to remain undefeated in their first road game of the year. Love hopes to get his Heisman campaign back on track and deal damage to Oregon’s defense.