Oregon has moved atop the rankings thanks to its continued dominance of the Pac-12.It's something that Stanford is well aware of.The top-ranked Ducks can stretch their program-best win streak to 14 games and clinch the conference's North Division crown when they host the No. 14 Cardinal on Saturday night.The nation's highest-scoring team cruised to a 59-17 victory at California last Saturday. Oregon (10-0, 7-0) moved up to No. 1 when Alabama was upset by Texas A&M."That's what's so good about this team," said wide receiver Josh Huff, who had three touchdown catches. "We don't pay attention to the rankings and what's around us. We just play Oregon football."The Ducks are 32-2 in conference games under Chip Kelly and have won nine of their last 10 against Stanford (8-2, 6-1).The Cardinal can win the North with a victory this weekend and one over UCLA next week."This is pretty much our Pac-12 championship game," linebacker Chase Thomas said.Stanford has lost its last five trips to Eugene, with four coming by at least three touchdowns. Since Andrew Luck guided the Cardinal to a 51-42 victory over the Ducks in 2009, they have lost the last two meetings by a combined 44 points.Luck and the Cardinal were 9-0 heading into last season's 53-30 home defeat.Coach David Shaw references Oregon all the time in practice to motivate his team."They have great athletes, they have a great scheme in all three phases, they know how to adjust those schemes based on what you're doing, which to me is the biggest key," Shaw said. "You don't see them stopped for long. If you're doing something well that can hold them down, they're going to make a tweak and make you pay for it."That was the case for the Ducks last week as they were held to a season-low 180 rushing yards, with Kenjon Barner limited to a per-carry average of 3.3 yards - 3.5 below his average.It didn't matter because Marcus Mariota threw for career highs of 377 yards and six touchdowns."We're about the end results," Kelly said. "I don't care if we run it, I don't care if we throw it. If you're gonna let us throw it for 377 yards and six touchdowns, we'll take that every week."The coach doesn't expect that type of production this week. Stanford is limiting opponents to a conference-best 320.7 yards per game, leading the nation by limiting foes to an average of 58.8 yards on the ground."I think it'll be a huge challenge offensively getting matched up against what will be the best defense we've faced so far," Kelly said.The high-octane tempo Oregon plays at has paid dividends each of the last two years against Stanford in second halves in which the Cardinal have been outscored 59-14."They do this thing where they play close for a half and then they just take off," Stanford senior defensive tackle Terrence Stephens said. "It's going to take our best game to win."On the other side of the ball, Stanford no longer has Luck as it prepares for its second game with Kevin Hogan as the starter.The redshirt freshman completed 22 of 29 passes for 254 yards and three touchdowns in last Saturday's 27-23 home win over then-No. 13 Oregon State. Hogan made his first career start after Shaw decided earlier in the week to permanently bench an ineffective Josh Nunes."Kevin Hogan's probably a little bit better runner than Josh was so there's a little bit more quarterback on the perimeter stuff," Kelly said. "Their system is their system."The Cardinal will likely want to try to control the clock with a rushing attack led by senior Stepfan Taylor, who is fourth in the Pac-12 with 106.1 yards per game. Taylor has amassed 212 yards rushing over his last two games against Oregon."I don't think he gets enough publicity or enough notoriety for what he's done," Kelly said. "He's going to go down as one of the all-time great running backs in Stanford history."The Ducks, meanwhile, have totaled 620 rushing yards over the last two years against the Cardinal.
BERKELEY -- Stephen Carr ran for a fourth-quarter touchdown two plays after Southern California's defense forced one of its six turnovers and the fifth-ranked Trojans won their 13th straight game, 30-20 over California on Saturday.
USC (4-0, 2-0 Pac-12) has dominated the series with its in-state rival by winning 14 straight against the Golden Bears (3-1, 0-1), but this was one of the tightest matchups in years as the game was tied early in the fourth quarter.
Sam Darnold threw for 223 yards and two touchdowns for the Trojans but also had an interception and was under pressure for much of the day.
It was the defense that stepped up for USC, intercepting a pass from Ross Bowers in the first quarter to set up a field goal and then delivering the big play early in the fourth quarter after Chase McGrath gave the Trojans a 16-13 lead with his third field goal of the game.
Bowers finished 22 for 50 for 303 yards with one touchdown, four interceptions and two lost fumbles.
SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA: The Trojans struggled for much of the game without starting RB Ronald Jones (ankle) and WR Steven Mitchell (groin) but managed to pull away late in their first road game of the season.
CALIFORNIA: The Bears used an improved defense to start 3-0 under first-year coach Justin Wilcox but this was supposed to be the test of how far they had come. Cal showed plenty by sticking with a national title contender for three quarters. A sequence on the opening drive of the second will haunt the Bears. Patrick Laird dropped a potential TD in the end zone and Matt Anderson then missed a 29-yard field goal that kept the game tied at 13.
A win against an unranked team should do little to alter USC's poll position.
SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA: Visits No. 18 Washington State on Friday.
CALIFORNIA: Visits No. 24 Oregon on Saturday.
Stanford has a penchant for recruiting the overachieving student-athlete. Even among those standards, Harrison Phillips is a rare find. The senior defensive tackle helps feed the homeless every Friday morning at a local shelter. He often visits the kids in the oncology ward at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital. He was named to the Pac-12 All Academic First Team and will graduate in December with a double major and a minor. He is a team captain and heir apparent to Solomon Thomas, the 49ers third overall pick in this year’s NFL draft.
“One thing you love about Harrison is, every day he’s going to get something done,” head coach David Shaw told NBC Sports Bay Area. “On the field, off the field, in the community, he’s always got a million things going on. But nothing ever suffers.
"He does everything at a high level.”
At 6-foot-4, 290 pounds, Phillips is a mountain of a man. His skill set is different than that of Thomas, but he can be just as disruptive. He plays over the center. He plays over the guards. His self-proclaimed job is to eat as many blocks as possible to keep the linebackers free.
“He’s such that hard point for us. He’s that guy up front that’s getting knock back, that force in the run game that you gotta have,” defensive coordinator Lance Anderson explained. “You have to have that strong solid point in the middle of your defense, and he provides that.”
Phillips had a game-high 11 tackles, five of them solo, in the Cardinal’s loss to USC. No other defensive lineman on the field had more than three.
“He’s outstanding against the run. He’s a very good pass rusher,” Shaw added. “He’s got a lot of tools that can work inside.”
Phillips main instruments of domination are strength, knowledge of leverage and abnormal flexibility for a man of his size.
“He can do the splits on command,” Thomas said laughing from in front of his locker after a recent 49ers practice. “He loves showing it off. We get on him for it. But he loves doing it.
And, according to Thomas, his former Stanford teammate loves to bench. So it comes as no surprise that Phillips’ upper body strength stands out.
“He’ll be really low in a position that you think he’d get knocked over in,” Thomas explained. “Because of how flexible he is, it’s not a problem for him to get in that position and stay there and move on from there. It definitely shows up on his film.”
No doubt, Phillips says, that ability comes from his wrestling experience. His high school curriculum vitae includes, “Nebraska State Wrestling Champion, Heavy Weight Division, Sophomore, Junior and Senior years.”
Phillips first year on The Farm, he vividly remembers his Stanford coaches testing him. Just a mere 245 pounds at the time, they put him up against Joshua Garnett and Andrus Peat, two offensive linemen now in the NFL and each well over 300 pounds.
“They’d double team me, almost 700 pounds on you, and I would somehow find leverage and be able to sit on some of those double teams,” Phillips said. “I think the violence that wrestling brings, and balance and being comfortable in weird positions, wrestling has a ton of scrambling, as it's called, you just know your body and know what you can do. I have tremendous flexibility, and I use everything to my advantage.”
One thing Phillips is not allowed to do is use his explosiveness away from the football field. At one time, Phillips could do a back flip off the wall, but he no longer attempts it.
“I’m not a big fan of the back hand springs,” Shaw said. “I’d like for him to stay on his feet.”
Phillips doesn’t argue. He lost his entire sophomore year to a knee injury, and doesn’t want to risk another. He has NFL aspirations and put himself in position to graduate in three-and-a-half years should he choose to enter the 2018 draft. But just as he has done at Stanford, he is looking to be more than just a name on a jersey should he play on a professional level.
“I want to build something that is really lasting,” Phillips said of his life goal, “and put my name on something to touch people’s lives and change people’s lives, pay it forward as much as I can.”