Saturday, November 17, 2012
Oregon vs Stanford Preview 2012
Stanford comes into the game nationally ranked #1 against the run, #1 in TFL (tackles for loss), #17 in Total Defense, and a less publicized stat #9 in Yards Per Play allowed at a stingy 4.48.
Conversely Oregon comes into the game nationally ranked #3 in Rushing Offense, Passing Efficiency, and Total Offense. Oregon also ranks #1 in Yards Per Rush Attempt at 6.07.
It's obvious to see that the first order of the matchup is a lot about strength vs strength. Oregon will try and spread Stanford out and get their players one on one in space. This has worked well for Oregon the past two years beating Stanford by a combined 44 points. Stanford will try to contain Oregon and keep them boxed inside so they can get a numbers advantage and gang tackle. This approach has worked well for Stanford most of the time the past two years. The difference in this match up the last two years has been the explosion plays for Oregon. We'll see if Stanford can stop the explosion plays and the Ducks Offense this year.
The Cardinal are very tough in the front seven and have been dominant against the run game in their eight wins this year. They held USC which averages 462.9 yards per game to just 280 total yards and only 26 yards rushing. They held Notre Dame 50 yards below their rushing average and Arizona 90 yards below their rushing average.
As good as the Cardinal have been against the run they have really struggled against the pass this year. At first glance they appear much better against the pass than they are, ranked #25 in PED (Pass Efficiency Defense). However if you look closer they are allowing opponents to complete 61.5% of the passes thrown against them which would rank them #80 out of 120. Also Stanford has a relatively low interception percentage and allows 6.15 yards per pass attempt. Further proof of their struggles against the pass are the game against WSU where they gave up 401 yards passing and barely beat the struggling Cougs by 7.
If there is one thing Stanford must do to beat Oregon is stop the run. If Oregon runs the ball effectively it could be huge trouble for the Cardinal. Stanford is 1-2 when allowing over 100 yards rushing, Arizona (126 yards in OT Win), Washington (136 in Loss), and Notre Dame (150 in OT Loss).
The most similar team to Oregon offensively that Stanford has faced is Arizona which the Cardinal beat in Overtime 54-48. The Wildcats gained 617 yards in that game passing for 491 of those.
It's no secret that Oregon has one of the best rushing attacks in college football. It's similar statistically (rushing) to the dominant Nebraska teams of the mid 90's that would just wear its opponents down as the game went on and in the second half would eventually pull away no matter who it was. What makes this team more dangerous is the emergence of their passing game with Marcus Mariota. Mariota leads the nation in Passing Efficiency and has thrown 28 TD's and 5 Int's. All five interceptions came early in the season as he has not thrown a pick in the last 4 games. Mariota's threat in the passing game gives Oregon the most balanced attack in all of college football. He also runs a 4.4 40 yard dash and has shown he can take it the distance and run away from defenders in the secondary.
With all there is to be impressed with Mariota the thing that sticks out the most to me is his situational statistics and where he excels. He is best in the 1st and 4th quarters, 3rd down and 1-3 yards to go, and of course when the game is within 7 points either way. With as good as he is in those situations he is at his best when in the Red Zone with an unreal QB Rating of 249.02 with 18 TD's and 0 INT's.
Stanford's runs a pro style offense and likes to pound the ball with Stephen Taylor and then when you load the box to stop the run they get you off balance with the play action pass. The Cardinal offense ranks #84 in total offense, #57 in rushing offense, and #71 in passing efficiency. Stanford features one of the best running backs in the country in Stephen Taylor and two huge playmaking tight ends in Ertz and Toilolo. Stanford has had some trouble at QB since losing Andrew Luck last year and it has shown in the overall production of the offense this year. They have had some costly turnovers and at times have struggled to move the ball against over matched opponents. RS Freshman Kevin Hogan who is replacing Josh Nunes will make his first road start at Autzen this weekend and we will learn a lot about him this evening. He appears to have all the physical tools to be an excellent QB in the Pac 12 so it will be interesting to see how he performs.
Oregon has taken some major set backs on defense recently with injuries. They have lost many key players and last week at one point played an all freshman defensive line against Cal. After some initial set backs the youthful line held up just fine in the second half. The defense currently ranks #28 in Yards Per Play Allowed, #18 in Pass Efficiency Defense, and #47 against the run however they give up 4.06 Yards Per Rushing Attempt which is #50.
It's hard to measure the Ducks defense as they've played approximately 67% of the season as a starting unit. One thing is for certain, that Oregon struggles when they don't get pressure on the QB. The best example of this is the USC game where the Trojans torched the Oregon secondary. There were some questionable calls in the secondary however, there's no excuse good enough to explain giving up 484 yards passing to anyone.
Oregon will need to stop the Stanford rushing attack between the tackles and force them to try and outrace Oregon to the edges which would be in high favor of the Ducks speedy linebackers. Stanford lacks elite speed at wide receiver but makes up for it with solid route runners and two huge tight ends. Zach Ertz is a good router runner for his size and will be Hogan's primary target. Ertz is particularly dangerous in the middle of the field because of his size. It will be important for the defensive line to get their hands up disrupting the passing lanes when they can't get to Hogan. Hogan has above average speed and is not scared to run the ball if everyone is covered. Last week against Oregon State he showed patience and his ability to check down from his primary receiver. He extended a few key plays with his feet including a touchdown pass to Stephen Taylor who appeared to be his 3rd receiving option. Being Hogan's first road start, it will interesting to see how he deals with the noise in the "House of Loud".
Oregon's defensive line is ailing from injury's and I think Shaw will try to pound the ball early in the game with some Jumbo Sets mainly at the right side of Oregon's defensive line. If the Cardinal can establish the run early they will then run play action which could give Oregon some trouble. Stanford also has the physical ability to disrupt the Oregon run game. The problem they have is limiting the big plays. The last two years they have had success on most plays but then allow an explosion play. If Stanford can eliminate the explosion plays it increases their odds of upsetting Oregon greatly.
As good as Stanford is on defense, I don't think they have enough depth and speed in the secondary to stop Oregon's explosion plays all game long. The fact that they struggle against the pass is enough evidence for me to think Mariota will have another huge day. Oregon will find a way to exploit the mismatches and get their playmakers in one on one situations. Mariota's running ability will play a key in the run game as he is by far the best dual threat QB that Stanford will have faced this season. Last year Stanford keyed in on the running backs in the read option and several times Darren Thomas had running lanes but did not execute for whatever reason. Expect that to change this year. The screen pass was also highly effective against the Cardinal last year and expect to see more of the same today.
The Cardinal have only played one true spread option no huddle attack and that was Arizona. Stanford really struggled to stop Arizona and Matt Scott so I see no reasonable evidence that they will be able to stop Oregon. Oregon has been solid defensively this season however they have struggled more against the pro style offenses than spread attacks. I do expect Stanford to move the ball and score some points but its hard to see them scoring more than 24.
The big X Factor in this game is Oregon's D-Line and how effective they are against the Stanford run.
I expect Mariota will have another huge day with 300+ yards, look for DAT to get back on track with some big plays of his own. Also expect the Oregon defense to show up with a solid performance. I would take Oregon and the 21 points.
Ducks Big 55-21
Thanks for reading,