Stanford at Oregon: Five Things to Know For Saturday
In the words of UFC Ring Announcer Bruce Buffer, “Its Time!” for the battle in the PAC 12 North between the Stanford Cardinal and the Oregon Ducks.
It is the “irresistible force” of the Oregon Ducks, against the “immovable object” of the Stanford Cardinal.
This season, Oregon has again showed that the Ducks are one of the top teams in the nation by racking up victories over well-named opponents with their “high-flying” offense. The Ducks have dominated on the offensive side of the ball this season, and will have their stiffest test of the season with the vaunted Stanford Cardinal defense.
Stanford enters the contest with a sub-par record in their eyes, and the Cardinal are looking to make a statement that they still belong as an elite program in the PAC 12. Stanford will need a solid performance on both sides of the ball if they are to have any chance at besting the Oregon “Quack Attack”.
Here are five things to watch for on Saturday night:
Can Stanford stop Marcus Mariota? This season, Stanford has been exceptional on the defensive side of the ball, and is 2nd in the nation in holding teams to an average of 12.5 points per game. Stanford has not faced a talent like Quarterback Marcus Mariota yet, and this may prove to be a difference maker. Mariota is a top tier talent, and barring any unforeseen issues, will be a top pick in the upcoming 2015 NFL Draft. Mariota has tremendous arm strength, and has the ability to get outside of the pocket and make a play in a moments notice. However, one thing has eluded Mariota, he has never beaten Stanford while under center for the Ducks. He has lost two close contests, and last year seemed to be on his back for the bulk of the game. Mariota has something to prove, and look for him to make a statement this week.
Will the Offensive Line of Oregon hold up against the Cardinal Front Seven? Oregon has been saddled with injuries along their offensive line since training camp. Many were projecting that the Ducks were going to have their best Offensive Line in years, until the injury bug hit. The Ducks have survived the injury bug for the most part, and are getting healthy along the line. Oregon is led by Pre-Season All American Hroniss Grasu at Center, and have kept Marcus Mariota upright all season. However, the Ducks have not faced a defensive front like the Cardinal, and will be tested from the opening drive by Seniors Henry Anderson and A.J. Tarpley. This will be a great battle to watch on Saturday.
Can Stanford score in the Red Zone? This season, the Achilles heel for the Cardinal has been their play inside the Red Zone. To describe their play inside the Red Zone, one word comes to mind, “dreadful”. In the past few years, Stanford prided themselves on strong play inside the Red Zone, and boasted one of the best touchdown percentages in all of college football. This season, they have lost two games because of their mistakes in the Red Zone. Stanford cannot have another bad game in the Red Zone, or they will not be able to keep up with the high-powered Ducks offense.
Will Special Teams be the deciding factor? Oregon and Stanford have two of the most prolific return squads in all of college football. Senior Ty Montgomery of Stanford has been nothing short of amazing while returning kicks this season. Many professional scouts and coaches all say Montgomery will be exciting crowds on Sunday’s for years to come as a receiver and return man. Oregon is led by Freshman Charles Nelson, who has brought the Ducks fans to their feet with several of his kick returns. Both squads have the manpower to change a game with a return, and both could become the deciding factor.
Matchup of the week: Ty Montgomery and Ifo Ekpre-Olumu – This week, the premier matchup will be two stars that will continue their battle after this week into the professional ranks with Stanford Wide Receiver Ty Montgomery and Oregon Cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu. Montgomery has been a Swiss Army Knife for the Cardinal, and has been their main offensive threat all season. Montgomery has the ability to change the game with the ball in his hands, and will be in for his most difficult test this season against the talented Ekpre-Olomu. Ekpre-Olomu is a physical corner that does not shy away from contact. Ekpre-Olomu is a true shutdown corner, and has been projected to be a top pick in the upcoming NFL draft. This matchup may turn out to be the key to the success of the Cardinal or the Ducks on Saturday.