Fentress and Maldonado: Fall Camp Adjustments
As the season gets underway, Jordan Kent takes a stroll through each and every game on the Ducks schedule. What to look for, what to be wary of and what to expect as an outcome.
Eugene, OR – Last season the Oregon Ducks found themselves right in the thick of the national championship picture. Sitting at 10-0, all that stood between them and a trip to Miami was a home game against the Stanford Cardinal, minus Andrew Luck finally; and a Civil War matchup against the Beavers.
Duck fans were contemplating making trips down south, until Stanford pulled off one of the most shocking upsets of the season, stunning the Ducks 17-14 in overtime, at Autzen Stadium, to lock the Ducks out of the National Championship picture.
Fast forward to 2013, and while the Ducks find themselves in familiar territory atop the polls, they have some company, as Stanford is also seen as one of the pre-season candidates to win a national title this season. The Cardinal are riding a lot of momentum from last year’s success, and return quarterback Kevin Hogan along with David Shaw who is making a claim to be one of the best coaches in the country.
Are the Cardinal really that good this season? Call me crazy, but I’ll be one of the first people to tell you that I’m not buying what Stanford is selling this season. Don’t get me wrong, the Cardinal are a powerhouse, and I would comfortably rank them as one of the top 15 teams in the nation, but I don’t think they have the fire power on offense to consistently stomp on teams, meaning their very impressive defense is going to have really carry the load.
Starting with the defense, good luck finding a weakness. They return linebackers Shane Skov and Trent Murphy, who were brilliant against the Ducks last season, and S Ed Reynolds will patrol the secondary. The Cardinal are going to flat out shut many teams down this year, and will easily be the Ducks most difficult defensive opponent they will face in the regular season.
On offense, are where I see some question marks for Stanford. They return Hogan and OT David Yankey who could very well be an All-American, but my goodness did they lose a lot on the production side of the ball. Five of their top six receiving threats are gone, including tight ends Zach Ertz and Levine Toilolo. Ertz was almost single handedly responsible for defeating Oregon last season, as no one on the field for the Ducks was able to match up with him as he churned out first down after first down. Stanford also loses star RB Stepfan Taylor, who was one of the most underrated and productive backs in the conference last season. Losing a starting running back, and five receivers will leave an impact on your team, I don’t care who you are.
How will this one play out? This is going to be an instant classic Thursday night game. Oregon will struggle to sustain long drives, and will have to rely on their speed advantage to pop big plays here and there for their points, as the Cardinal are too disciplined on defense to let teams churn out 12-16 play drives and march down the field. Oregon will be able to keep Stanford in check with the Cardinal have the ball, thanks to Oregon’s lock down secondary, but this is a huge game for Oregon’s linebackers to really step up and eliminate many of the tight end options and slow down Stanford’s running game.
This will be a back and forth game really decided by turnovers and what team can execute more precisely than the other, and when it all winds down, I have the Ducks winning a squeaker 20-17 over Stanford and solidifying control of their own post season destiny, as only three weeks remaining.
Next up for Oregon, and home date with the Utah Utes before potentially their scariest game of the year.