Scouts Inc. picks the Ducks to win 42-35.
This will be a shootout between potent offenses with opposing styles. Look for Kelly to spread the Stanford defense out and force it to play in space against his stable of playmakers. The Cardinal simply won't have enough speed in the back seven to contain this high-powered attack. On the flip side, watch for injuries to be too much for the Stanford offense to overcome. Oregon will keep the Cardinal rushing attack in check just enough to win the game. Luck will turn in a valiant effort to keep Stanford in the game, but the Ducks have too much explosiveness on offense and will end the Cardinal's national title hopes.
Scouts Inc. gives Oregon the edge at running back, receiver, defensive back, special teams and coaching.
It gives Stanford the advantage at quarterback, offensive line, defensive line and linebacker.
It rates the key matchup as Ducks defensive end Dion Jordan versus Stanford offensive tackle Jonathan Martin:
Jordan (6-foot-7) has come on strong as a junior and uses his length and athleticism to his advantage. He will be challenged by Martin, though. Martin is one of the better in-line run-blockers in the country with a nice combination of strength, balance and aggressiveness.
What about the matchup between the Ducks' offense and the Stanford defense?
Discipline and awareness also will be key for the Cardinal's last line of defense. The fast-paced offense of Oregon coach Chip Kelly will provide little time for the Stanford defense to align and make any pre-snap calls or adjustments. The secondary can ill afford to become flustered and overzealous filling in run support, or try to get an early break on quick-hitting perimeter passes. The Ducks do a great job of frustrating defenses, creating confusion and then capitalizing on play-action downfield. Thomas is much-improved as a thrower this season, and TE David Paulson and WR Lavasier Tuinei have the size and long strides to exploit vertical seams. Stopping the Ducks' ground attack is a big challenge on its own, and giving up big plays in the passing game, as well, would mean a very long day for the Stanford defense.
And, vice versa, the Cardinal offense and the Oregon defense?
The amount of pressure Oregon is able to apply to Luck will be crucial to the outcome of this game. The Ducks have notched 29 sacks on the year, with DEs Dion Jordan and Terrell Turner flashing first-step quickness and athleticism off the edge, and defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti being creative and aggressive bringing pressures from various launch points on the second and third levels. Stanford LT Jonathan Martin and RG David DeCastro are first-round prospects, but the offensive line as a whole has allowed some leakage in protection and has issues communicating against the blitz. Stanford has given up only four sacks on the season, but much of that is thanks to Luck's elite pocket presence and mobility. Oregon must apply pressure but must do so under control and maintain gap integrity because Luck has the ability to extend plays and to make accurate throws downfield -- or use his feet to pick up big chunks of yardage.
Scouts Inc. also notes another key: injuries. Stanford has more concerns than Oregon, with wide receiver Chris Owusu out and tight end Zach Ertz doubtful and offensive tackle Cameron Fleming questionable.
Still, what seems to be a common and, yes, fairly obvious theme for those favoring Oregon is this: The Ducks' superior overall team speed still eclipses the brains and physical talents of Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck.
Ah, but we shall see.