Saturday, November 17, 2012
Can Stanford solve Oregon?
By Ted Miller
EUGENE, Ore. -- It's going to be cold and rainy at Autzen Stadium for No. 13 Stanford's visit to No. 2 Oregon, so maybe that will rattle the Ducks' seemingly unrattleable quarterback, Marcus Mariota, a redshirt freshman from warm, sunny Hawaii.
It's unlikely Mariota has played a game on a rainy day when temperatures are in the 40s.
Hey, it's something. Media sorts have spent much of the season wondering what might go wrong for Oregon as it hunts for a fourth consecutive Pac-12 title and a second chance in three seasons to play for a national title. So far, the potential pratfalls have been mirages.
For the past two seasons, Stanford has been a dominant team. Until it played Oregon. Then it got dominated. The basic story was the same, if the execution of those two losses were different: The Cardinal couldn't handle the Ducks' superior speed on both sides of the ball.
Has that changed? It would appear that the Ducks, again, are the faster team. Moreover, Stanford isn't sending Andrew Luck out to face the Autzen Stadium crowd. It is turning to Kevin Hogan, who was installed as the starter last weekend against Oregon State. This will be his first road game, and it's inside the Pac-12's toughest venue.
But Oregon doesn't arrive here without questions. Its defense is banged up. Safety Avery Patterson is out for the year with a knee injury. Defensive tackle Wade Keliikipi also is almost certainly out with a leg injury.
Those are a lot of good players who might not be on the field. That might allow the Cardinal power running game to mount long drives that keep the ball out of the hands of the Ducks offense. A few Oregon miscues, and things might get interesting.
There's a lot at stake, as both teams vie for control in the Pac-12 North race.
A Stanford upset not only would change that national picture, it also could end Oregon's three-year run atop the Pac-12.