The preseason Pac-12 "Game of the Year" is finally upon us. For the second consecutive season, it is a revenge game between Oregon and the one conference team that beat Oregon the previous season—Stanford, in this case. Like USC the year before. Stanford started the season ranked in the top 5. Like USC the year before, Stanford lost to an unranked team before the Pac-12’s premier matchup. Like USC the year before, Stanford has played in a series of close games against mediocre foes whilst Oregon has crushed every team in its path by an average of 39 points a game.
Last season’s Pac-12 Game of the Year featured arguably current Heisman-frontrunner Marcus Mariota’s best game as a starter. It was two weeks before inarguably the worst game of his career when the 12th-ranked Cardinal—a three-touchdown underdog—pulled off a historic upset in Autzen Stadium.
Much has been said and written in the year since Stanford’s 17-14 overtime victory. Stanford’s defensive coordinator Derek Mason became the Best. Defensive Coordinator. Ever. for holding the Oregon offense to 14 points—39 points fewer than his defense gave up to the Ducks the year before. The Cardinal went on to win the Rose Bowl in a dominant six-point victory of the mighty 8-5 Wisconsin Badgers. The 12-1 Oregon Ducks, victors of the Fiesta Bowl, got to watch Alabama hoist up another national championship after sodomizing a hapless Notre Dame squad.
Stanford has defeated Oregon three times this century. The Cardinal gave the Ducks their lone loss of the season twice: 2001 and 2012. After the former, Oregon rattled off seven-consecutive victories over Stanford by an average score of 39-17. How will the Ducks respond this time?
Keys to the Game
Super Mariota 4 Heisman —
The Pac-12’s standing agreement to make every Pac-12 game played after bed-time on the east coast has left Marcus Mariota with few of the “Heisman moments” that have benefitted his turnover-prone competitors Jameis Winston and Johnny Manziel. Tonight is a legitimate chance to shine on national television against the highly ranked team responsible for the only loss of his career.
Gaffney vs the Oregon defense —
Stanford’s offense is based on the idea that by putting seven offensive lineman on the field and a fullback, their running back Tyler Gaffney can gain about four yards. If the Ducks can stop that play tonight—out “Manball” the Cardinal, if you will—victory will be assured.
Because, you know, Stanford beat Oregon last year. As an aside, I remember bumping into some players at a campus bar after last year’s game. They were in a state of anger and utter disbelief, wondering how they possibly could have lost to those guys.
40 Points-gate —
While we’re on the topic of silly motivation, De’Anthony Thomas stated that he expects Oregon to put up 40 points
on the “vaunted” Cardinal defense. One could look at this as high praise for the Cardinal by predicting it to hold Oregon under its scoring average. Many fans, at least, have seized upon this talk show banter material and begun to worry that this will motivate Stanford. [Now they’ll REALLY try to beat us lol—Ed.
]A look around the Pac-12
... eh, who cares?