Stanford-Oregon promises a shootout


Stanford-Oregon promises a shootout

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

Cal’s Sonny Dykes: Quick turnaround ‘not ideal’ for Bears


Cal’s Sonny Dykes: Quick turnaround ‘not ideal’ for Bears

BERKELEY  — Two days before California plays its second game in less than a week against a well-rested USC team, coach Sonny Dykes was still trying to figure out why the Golden Bears were put in this position.

The quick turnaround and short week following Friday's double-overtime win against Oregon forced Cal to condense its normal schedule, something that wouldn't bother Dykes so much if there weren't so many other factors involved.

The Bears already had to trim a day off their regular routine because Thursday night's game is on the road. On top of that, several Cal players are in the middle of midterm exams, reducing their availability for practice even more.

It's a topic that Dykes has been simmering over for a few weeks now and one he wasn't ready to back off of Tuesday.

"When you sit down and look at the schedule, clearly it's not ideal," Dykes said "It's one of those deals where you just go, 'How in the world did this ever happen? How could somebody let this happen?'"

Cal (4-3, 2-2 Pac-12) was coming off a 12-day break when it beat Oregon in Berkeley on Friday night in a game that lasted nearly 4 ½ hours and didn't end until almost midnight local time. The Bears ran 118 plays offensively against the Ducks, which Dykes said was the equivalent of playing two games.

On the other hand, USC (4-3, 3-2) hasn't played since thumping Arizona 48-14 on Oct. 15.

While some team would have had to play the Trojans coming off a bye, Dykes can't understand why the Bears were selected to do it on short rest — and on the road.

"We've had to make a lot of schedule changes and do a lot of different things out of the norm," Dykes said. "It's one thing to do it on six days' notice. It's another to do it on the road. But our guys have handled it well."

The Bears shortened their work week to try to get everything in.

Players were given Saturday off but were back on the field Sunday afternoon. Cal practiced on its normal day off, Monday, but several players were unable to attend due to academic responsibilities.

"The challenge you always face is making sure that you balance keeping them fresh with getting enough reps and developing your young players," Dykes said. "Just teaching them all the things you need to teach them about your opponent in a limited amount of time. We've got to balance getting some work done but at the same time making sure we're fresh."

Cal's players don't seem bothered by the quick turnaround.

Defensive back Cameron Walker and left tackle Aaron Cochran said the short week means more emphasis on studying USC and doing extra film work.

Quarterback Davis Webb, on the other hand, doesn't think it will be much of an issue at all.

"It's a challenge but I think it's a mindset at the same time," Webb said. "We understand that's how the schedule rolled for us this year and there are no excuses. We have to play a tough team on Thursday night and we look forward to the challenge. If you don't know the game plan and what they're going to do by Thursday then you're in trouble."

Chryst to make his first career start for Stanford


Chryst to make his first career start for Stanford

STANFORD  — Stanford junior Keller Chryst will make his first collegiate start at quarterback at Arizona on Saturday, coach David Shaw said Tuesday.

He'll replace senior Ryan Burns, who went 4-3 (2-3 Pac-12) in his seven starts. Burns completed nearly 63 percent of his passes for 1,058 yards and five touchdowns. He's also thrown seven interceptions.

"I hate to get to this point," Shaw said. "But it's the best thing for this offense. We need more production at that position. It's our challenge to support Keller."

Burns led the Cardinal to wins over Kansas State, Southern California and UCLA to open the season but has struggled ever since, averaging 11 points in Stanford's last four games, punctuated by Saturday's 10-5 loss to Colorado.

"It can't just be about the quarterback," Shaw said. "We need to help Keller be more effective. We need to be able to score points with this personnel."

Chryst, the son of former 49ers offensive coordinator Geep Chryst, has appeared in 10 games over the past two years, throwing for 122 yards on 12-of-27 passing. He's thrown for one touchdown and one interception.

"I've been working with both all year and they're both great people," Cardinal receiver Trent Irwin said. "Sometimes you just need a change. We'll see where it goes and have fun with it."

Stanford ranks last in the Pac-12 in scoring (17.0) and total offense (299.1). The offense has scored just 10 touchdowns all year, fewer than Washington's John Ross and Arizona State's Kalen Ballage, the conference co-leaders with 11 touchdowns.

"Both quarterbacks are good," Stanford safety Zach Hoffpauir said. "Maybe it does stimulate the offense a little bit."

NOTES: CB Elijah Holder will miss the rest of the season due to an unspecified injury. ... OL David Bright and Johnny Caspers are questionable. ... FB Daniel Marx is out