It's a probable top-20 matchup and ESPN Game Day may be coming to Autzen Stadium on Sept. 22. While the Ducks (2-0) are focused on finishing non-conference play, No. 9 Stanford (2-0) is looming around the corner.
The No. 20 Ducks aren't looking past San Jose State (0-2) to Stanford, but I am.
Can you blame me?
-Junior quarterback Justin Herbert vs. senior running back Bryce Love.
-Heisman Trophy hopeful vs. Heisman Trophy runner-up.
-Biology major vs. biology major (they both aspire to be doctors).
-Potential first round 2019 NFL draft pick vs. potential first round 2019 NFL draft pick.
An NFL scout’s dream game.
Yes, Oregon has to take care of business against San Jose State first.
“If you overlook a team, they can really embarrass you,” UO junior left guard Shane Lemieux said. “This week we have an emphasis on playing San Jose State and not focusing on who we have in the future.”
Beating the Spartans shouldn’t be an issue. I expect Herbert to throw up insane numbers against a team that ranks second to last nationally defending the pass. The real win on Saturday will be the Ducks walking out of Autzen without any injuries.
Stanford coach David Shaw announced Love will miss the Cardinal's week three game against UC Davis due to an undisclosed injury, but is expected to return at Oregon.
Oregon’s defense hasn’t faced anyone close to the caliber of backfield threat that Love presents. However, each of Oregon’s nonconference match-ups have featured a standout player that the Ducks had to game plan for.
Bowling Green’s leading rusher Andrew Green carried the ball 25 times for 113 yards. Oregon kept Portland State’s Preseason All-American and All-Big Sky Conference selection Charlie Taumoepeau in check, but the tight end still broke through a few big holes to score twice on 125 receiving yards on five receptions.
This Saturday, the Ducks will face San Jose State tight end Josh Oliver, a Mackey Award watch list candidate, who is a threat in space.
While Oregon’s cupcake nonconference games did not teach us much about who the Ducks are, it did offer the challenge for the UO defense to prepare for Green, Taumoepeau and Oliver.
Next up, Love, who is a different animal. After deciding to forgo the 2018 NFL draft as a junior, Love’s senior season opened quietly with 29 yards on 18 carries against San Diego State. He rushed for 136 yards and a touchdown last weekend in Stanford's 17-3 win over rival USC before leaving with an injury in the fourth quarter. It marked his 16th career hundred-yard rushing game.
Last season Stanford destroyed Oregon, 49-7, in a game in which the Ducks were without Herbert and penalties (nine for 109 yards) halted UO's offensive momentum. In that game, Love reached the 100-yard rushing mark in less than five minutes, and finished with 147 yards on 17 carries before leaving the game early in the third quarter.
Love isn’t the only Heisman Trophy hopeful throwing up statistics. Oregon is averaging 43.4 points per game in quarterback Justin Herbert’s 17 career starts. Through his first 19 games, Herbert’s 4,450 career-passing yards are the most all-time for an Oregon quarterback. Yes, even more than Marcus Mariota, who had 4,401 yards through 19 games.
Herbert says his full focus is on San Jose State and the rest Ducks are saying all the right things.
“We will worry about Stanford next week,” said junior UO wide receiver Brenden Schooler.
It’s a good thing I’m not on the Oregon football team.
Two likely undefeated and ranked Pac-12 teams vying for the North Division crown, playing in prime time… I can’t wait for September 22.