Thursday, July 7, 2011
Pac-12 North impact game
By Ted Miller
The question: What is the biggest impact game in the Pac-12 North?
The answer is obvious: Oregon at Stanford on Nov. 12.
In 2010, Stanford's visit to Oregon was the Pac-10 game of the year. The then-fourth-ranked Ducks fell behind the No. 9 Cardinal 21-3 in the first quarter, but erupted offensively and rolled to a 52-31 victory.
It would become the undefeated Ducks' marquee victory on their way to the national title game because it ended up as the only blemish on Stanford's ledger. The Cardinal would go on to dominate Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl, while the Ducks were nipped by Auburn on a last-second field goal for the national title.
Further, the game featured a pair of eventual Heisman Trophy finalists: Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck and Oregon running back LaMichael James.
So as the offseason churns toward the 2011 campaign, it's impossible not to see the rematch in Palo Alto as not only the impact game of the year in the first iteration of the Pac-12 North Division, but also the game of the year in the entire conference. And it might even become the game of the year nationally.
Both teams are almost certainly preseason top-10 teams. Both, in fact, could become national title contenders. The Ducks, in particular, could be riding high if they open with a victory against LSU. At the very least, the winner will be well-positioned to win the division.
Further, both Luck and James are back. They will be consensus preseason All-Americans and leaders on just about any short list of Heisman Trophy candidates. Luck would have been the No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 NFL draft if he had not decided to return to the Farm.
So the game has it all in terms of impact: Stars on a big stage playing for big stakes.