So, how good are the Stanford Cardinal? We will probably find out this weekend but a quick glimpse gives me a one-word answer: Very.
Reading one draft gurus early first-round selections Thursday morning showed no less than four members of the Stanford Cardinal projected as first-round picks. Four! Thats more than No. 1 LSU and No. 4 Alabama. And thats really good for any football team.
Looking ahead to Saturdays game against Oregon, what might not be so good is the fact that all four projected first-rounders play on the offensive side of the football. And, going into this game, the Stanford defense is the unit that needs to step up.
Thats what makes Saturdays game so compelling.
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Both Stanford and Oregon can score -- thats a given. So the bottom line in this game comes down to who can stop the other guy from scoring.
Another interesting aspect to Saturday is that this is the game that could put a headlock on the Heisman Trophy for Andrew Luck. If he comes up big, puts up big numbers and keeps the ball out of the hands of the other guys, hes a shoo-in for the sports most coveted trophy.
But, this game doesnt play to that scenario and nobody would share that thought more than the quarterback. If Stanford is going to win this game against Oregon it has to run the football and limit the Ducks' offensive possessions.
I do believe this game is going to be a shootout, but it needs to be a controlled shootout for the Cardinal to win. Meaning, take time off the clock, move the football, have long drives, limit turnovers and get the best of field position. I know that sounds like coach-speak but if it turns into a track meet, the Cardinal lose.
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Honestly, I dont think this version of the Oregon Ducks is quite up to the team that went to the national championship game last year -- at least on the defensive side of the ball. Stanfords offense just wears people out. They pound an opponent until all thats left is some sort of gelatinous glob with a number on it, and by games end the Cardinal can pretty much do what it wants. But, Oregon presents a different sort of problem.
The Ducks are able to set tempo because they simply run more plays than anyone else. They play quick, they score quick, and they knock opponents back on their heels to the point that theyre trying to beat Oregon at the Oregons own game.
So let me get to the bottom line and go quietly off into the sunset to watch what should be a great game.
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Stanford has to have sustained drives. It has to set the tone of how fast the game is played. It must limit what coaches call Explosion plays, and it has been vulnerable to them this season. Defensively, Stanford has to be disciplined and make the right reads or Oregon will eat their lunch.
Id feel a lot better about this game if Shayne Skov hadnt gone down with a season-ending injury, but do I think the Cardinal can win. Yes.
Its the rhinoceros of Stanford against the rabbits of Oregon, and we all know how mean and strong a rhinoceros can be -- if he can find you.
And thats the hard part.
Barry Tompkins is a regular contributor to Chronicle Live and CSNBayArea.com.