One of the biggest games in Stanford history has finally arrived. On Thursday night, a pair of top-five BCS programs -- No. 5 Stanford and No. 3 Oregon -- will meet at Stanford Stadium.
Cardinal Sports Report caugnt up with A.J. Jacobson of Duck Sports Authority to preview the contest.
Cardinal Sports Report: Is there a consensus around the Oregon program on how Stanford held the Ducks' offense in check last year?
A.J. Jacobson: I think many around the program just tip their hat to a very good Stanford defense that year. The front seven for the Cardinal was very stout, yet for some reason, the Ducks insisted on testing it continuously. The offensive game plan was a bit stubborn and ineffective that game.
CSR: Along those lines, what do you think the Ducks' offense needs to do better this year to be more effective on offense?
AJ: This year the offense is much more adept through the air than last years' version. So far it has appeared that the Ducks are able to spread the field vertically better, which in turn has generally opened the running game even further. So far just UCLA, for one half, has been able to hold the Duck offense in check.
CSR: Chip Kelly, Kenjon Barner and Colt Lyerla are gone, but many of the Ducks' top offensive weapons returned this season. In what ways is Oregon's offense different this year than last, if at all?
AJ: As alluded to above, the Ducks are a better passing team than last year. The wide receiver group of Bralen Addison, Josh Huff and Keanon Lowe have consistently gotten themselves open and caught the ball when delivered. Marcus Mariota is throwing with great confidence this year.
CSR: After losing several players to the NFL in Dion Jordan and Kiko Alonso, how is Oregon's defense different this year than last?
AJ: Conventional wisdom was that the Duck defensive would suffer at the linebacker position with Alonso and Michael Clay gone out of the three. So far though others have filled in well, with Derrick Malone leading Oregon in tackles after replacing former leading tackler Clay.
CSR: What's the Oregon defense's biggest area of vulnerability in facing Stanford?
AJ: Interior run defense is always tough against Stanford and this year appears to be no exception. The Ducks don't have many gigantic run-stuffing bruisers in the middle of the defensive line and rely on rotation to keep the unit fresh. Oregon will likely use their back seven in a variety of blitz type run support to try to keep the defensive line stiff.
CSR: What's your prediction and why?
AJ: I think the Ducks have too much offensive weaponry and balance for the Cardinal defense to keep the score as low as in the past. Oregon's defense is proving to be as good as last years' version. Oregon 42 - Stanford 28