Kirk Herbstreit: Mariota for Heisman?
I showed up in Corvallis Saturday night for the Stanford-Oregon State game with some expectations.
I thought OSU would give the Cardinal a close game, for one thing. That happened. But it didn't come down the way I thought it would. First off, in no way did I expect the Cardinal to have to scrounge for points the way they did. They got 20 on OSU and seven of those came after recovering a fumble of the second-half kickoff at the Beaver 12.
Really, Stanford -- 20 points? The Beavers have given up 49 to Eastern Washington, 30 to San Diego State, 17 to Colorado, 24 to Washington State and 17 to California. My expectation was that the Cardinal would line up and physically blow the Beavers off the line of scrimmage, setting them up for wide-open play-action passes. But nothing of the sort happened.
There were some crazy statistics from this game but ponder these: the Beavers had 23 first downs and the Cardinal had 13; Stanford had only 273 total yards; the Cardinal passed for just 88 yards; the Cardinal rushed for 185 yards but lost two fumbles.
And Stanford came out of that as the No. 5-ranked team in the BCS, the highest-ranking one-loss team in the country.
Now there are mitigating factors at work here. No. 1, Oregon State caught the Cardinal in an in-between week -- after UCLA and before Oregon. It's possible Stanford wasn't as geeked up for this one as it is for most games. Also, let's face it -- matchups make the game. Perhaps the Beavers might match up better, for some reason, against Stanford than the Ducks will. PERHAPS.
But I doubt it.
Yes, I know -- Stanford held the Ducks to 14 points last season in Autzen, sneaking out with a 17-14 overtime win that basically ruined Oregon's regular season. And while I don't believe the Stanford defense is as tough as it was last season, the Cardinal has a very physical defense once again. (Man, the Beaver receivers caught a lot of passes but paid a heavy physical price Saturday night. They got smacked hard after every catch and, by the way, Stanford doesn't miss many tackles.)
That said, I watched Stanford and have a difficult time believing it can score more points than the Ducks. For one thing, Oregon is better on offense this season -- much better, I think -- than last season. And I don't think the Cardinal is going to be able to keep the score down this time. Oregon seems capable of scoring 35 points almost by accident -- with its ability to explode both through the air and on the ground. This is the most balanced Duck team we've seen in years and if the Cardinal can hold them to even 28 points it would be a terrific job.
But then can Stanford score 29? Not from what I saw Saturday night in Corvallis. The Beavers are so well coached and improve every week but there is no way I could put their defense on the same level as the Ducks. And so for me, scoring just 20 against OSU didn't do anything to make me think they could run up big numbers vs. Oregon.