Game of the Week: Week 11
Ryan Trapp | Orange Bowl
The Oregon Ducks and the nation’s top offense play host to the Stanford Cardinal and the Pac-12’s top defense. In one of just three ranked matchups this weekend, Oregon can secure the Pac-12 North with a victory over the Cardinal. It’s a showdown of strengths in this week’s Orange Bowl Game of the Week.
The Ducks have rattled off win after win behind the offensive brilliance of quarterback Marcus Mariota and their talented backfield featuring DeAnthony Thomas and Kenjon Barner. The two have combined for 2,478 yards of offense and 31 touchdowns, leading the way for the nation’s top scoring offense. Equally as impressive is the performance of Mariota, a redshirt freshman who had to earn the starting job over Bryan Bennett in training camp. He has thrown for over 2,100 yards and 28 touchdowns this season, and leads the nation in passer rating (177). The problem for Oregon could be their defensive front seven, where they only had one healthy player on their two-deep by the second half of last week’s win over Cal. While the likes of Dion Jordan and Taylor Hart are on pace to play this weekend, they’ll need to have all gears grinding to stop Cardinal running back Stepfan Taylor.
The Cardinal offense has looked like a new machine since Kevin Hogan took over under center two weeks ago. Leading Stanford to a 27-23 victory over then-No.11 Oregon State was an impressive feat, as are his 447 yards and six scores in just 53 pass attempts. However, the real offensive threat on this squad is Taylor, their senior tailback. With 1,061 yards and nine touchdowns so far this season, he’s a true workhouse back who has carried his team to their 8-2 record. While few teams have the speed on defense to keep up the high-powered Ducks, Stanford just might. Chase Thomas and Shane Skov have been one of the best linebacker combos in the country, tallying 99 tackles, 16.5 for loss and six sacks. They play excellent sideline to sideline, and just might have the range and quickness to control that Oregon ground game.
Oregon has had Stanford’s number over the past decade, owning a 9-1 record against the Cardinal since 2002, highlighted by a 53-30 thrashing on the road last season. However, 16 top three teams have fallen in the final three weeks of the season during the in the BCS era, and with a trip to the conference championship on the line there’s no telling what could happen in Autzen this weekend.
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