Bryce Love

Best and Worst from Oregon vs. Stanford

Best and Worst from Oregon vs. Stanford

Is your brain still reeling from Oregon’s almost upset over No. 7 Stanford turned overtime heartbreaking loss? The No. 19 Ducks’ defeat yielded plenty to be happy and sad about.

Before moving on to Oregon’s (3-1, 0-1 Pac-12) next game (another Top 25 matchup vs. the undefeated No. 24 Cal Bears in Berkeley, Calif.) did the good outweigh the bad against Stanford? You decide.

 

THE BEST:

Rising in Top 25: Did you think Oregon would drop in the AP Top 25 poll with its loss to Stanford? Think again. Oregon’s overall performance impressed voters and the Ducks moved up from No. 20 to No. 19 in the most recent poll.

Dillon Mitchell makes a statement: Mitchell had one of the best games in the history of the Oregon program. His career-high 239 receiving yards and 14 catches are the 2nd most in UO history. The connection between him and quarterback Justin Herbert was unstoppable; more than half of Herbert’s 26 completions went to Mitchell.

"I feel I can be one of the best receivers in the country," Mitchell said. "I'm not satisfied with my play, most definitely. I'm looking to come back much harder next week."

Healthy Ducks: Oregon did not sustain any serious injuries in the game against Stanford.

All aboard the Herbert for Heisman train: Herbert put on a show, his Heisman Trophy campaign was trending on Twitter, and he was a perfect 7-7 in the first quarter.

“The first NFL draft pick,” Mitchell said after one of Herbert’s best performances of his career. “That’s basically the only way I can say it. He’s going to come out there and do what he does every night.”

The junior completed 92.6 of his throws in regulation, passed for 346 yards and a touchdown, and rushed for 35 net yards against a Stanford defense that was allowing 7.7 points per game.

Hello, Oregon football 2.0: A once “speedy” team, Oregon coach Cristobal has changed UO’s style of football to be disciplined and physical. Winning the battle in the trenches is priority number one and Oregon did that versus the powerful Cardinal. 

The Ducks held 2017 Heisman Trophy runner-up Bryce Love to 89 yards on 19 carries. Oregon’s defense is allowing just 75.5 rushing yards per game through four weeks of the season, a 4th best in the nation.

Oregon finished with 178 yards rushing and held Stanford to 71 net rushing yards.

[That isn't a consolation prize but it does give reason to be optimistic that the Ducks physicality is helping close the gap on the top teams in the conference.]

What’s a field goal? The Ducks special teams was very dependable. After missing the first three games due to injury, sophomore Adam Stack made his debut as placekicker and made a 38-yard field goal that put Oregon up 24-7 just before halftime. Stack was the Ducks' punter as a true freshman in 2017.

 

THE WORST:

A myriad of mistakes that lead to defeat: It started with Oregon’s chance to take a 31-7 lead. With a first-and-goal at the 1, running back Cyrus Habibi-Likio fumbled for a 9-yard loss.  

Then, center Jake Hanson’s high snap to Herbert became a 89-yard Stanford touchdown.

Two yards and 51 seconds away from victory, redshirt freshman running back CJ Verdell (who led the team with 115 yards rushing and a touchdown) fumbled the ball, leading to a tying field goal.

Herbert’s nearly flawless game ended with an interception in the end zone on fourth-and-goal from the 10 in overtime, sealing the victory for Stanford.

Taj Griffin: Senior running back Taj Griffin, buried on the Ducks' depth chart, tweeted after the loss to Stanford that he is looking to leave the program

https://twitter.com/taj_griffin/status/1043742160535736320

Griffin has six carries for 31 yards and two receptions for 89 yards for the 3-1 Ducks. He entered the season wtih 848 career rushing yards. 

Ducks move up in AP poll with OT loss to Stanford

Ducks move up in AP poll with OT loss to Stanford

The Ducks (3-1, 0-1 Pac-12) moved up from No. 20 to No. 19 in the latest Associated Press Top 25 poll, after losing to Stanford in overtime. The Cardinal remains at No. 7. 

For almost the entire game, it looked like Oregon would upset Stanford but the Ducks lost in heartbreaking fashion in overtime, 38-31.

[After losing to Stanford, here is a reason to be optimistic that the Ducks physicality is helping close the gap on the top teams in the conference.]

Also very notable, the undfeated Cal Bears snuck into the Top 25 at No. 24. Oregon plays at Berkeley on Saturday. 

The only other Pac-12 team in the AP Top 25 is No. 11 Washington. 

 

Despite loss, "Oregon football 2.0" has arrived

Despite loss, "Oregon football 2.0" has arrived

EUGENE - The nation turned to Eugene Saturday night for a battle of two Pac-12 teams with conference title aspirations.

The winner presumed to be the favorite to compete with Washington to win the North Division and a possible college football playoff contender.

For almost the entire game, it looks like that team would be the Ducks but No. 20 Oregon lost in heartbreaking fashion to No. 7 Stanford in overtime, 38-31. In a game where two fumbles and a strange pylon rule changed everything, one thing is clear: Oregon Football 2.0 has arrived. 

What is Oregon Football 2.0?

The Ducks (3-1, 0-1 Pac-12) showed glimpses tonight. It started with gains in the weight room in the offseason, led by strength and conditioning coach Aaron Feld who is so full of energy, his handlebar mustache may emit electricity. The linemen beefed up, quarterback Justin Herbert added 20 pounds, and winning the battle in the trenches became priority number one. A team once known for it's speed, changed its style of football to be disciplined and physical.
Did Oregon coach Mario Cristobal feel the Ducks gave a good showing of his smash mouth approach against the Cardinal?

"In a lot of ways we did,” said Cristobal. “At the line of scrimmage, particularly in the first half and then moments in the fourth quarter, we did a really nice job up front on both sides of the ball.”

To say Oregon has improved its rushing defense would be an understatement.

Last season Stanford squashed Oregon, 49-7. In that game, Heisman Trophy runnerup Bryce Love rushed for over 100 yards in the first five minutes. The Cardinal rushed for 248 yards and averaged six yards per carry. In short, the Ducks' defense was not a factor.

Fast forward a year and that was not the case on Saturday. The Ducks' defense held Love to 89 rushing yards and the team to net rushing yards of 71 after factoring in 19 total yards of sacks.

In 2017, the Cardinal rushed for an average of six yards per carry against Oregon, in 2018 the Ducks held them to three yards per carry.

That isn't a consolation prize but it does give reason to be optimistic that the Ducks physicality is helping close the gap on the top teams in the conference.

“Yea, I think today was a really good test of physicality and I think we won up front,” said left guard Shane Lemieux. “Obviously it wasn’t enough to win the game but I think we did a really good job of time of possession.”

It wasn't surprising the Ducks controlled the line of scrimmage in their three non-conference games. But Stanford and coach David Shaw’s physical approach is a different animal. Before coming to Autzen Stadium, the Cardinal defense allowed an average of 7.7 points per game, a nation’s best. 

The Ducks scored 31 points and their 178 rushing yards topped Stanford’s 71 rushing yards.

Herbert put on a show, his Heisman Trophy campaign was trending on Twitter, and he was a perfect 7-7 in the first quarter. He finished with 346 passing yards, completing 26 of 33, with one interception.

Of his 26 completions, 14 went to junior wide receiver Dillon Mitchell. Mitchell had one of the best games in the history of the Oregon program. His career-high 239 receiving yards and 14 catches are the 2nd most in UO history.
A spectacular night from Mitchell was not enough for the Ducks to upset the Cardinal.
As the schedule has it, Oregon will have another shot at a signature win in a few weeks against Washington at home. All is not lost for the Ducks, as they put on a good showing against the seventh best team in the nation.
“This conference is wide open, and you've got to get back on it right way,” said Cristobal. “You’ve got to shake it off, and shake if off fast. We ended up giving it up today, and you can’t let that beat you next week.”
Next Saturday is Oregon’s first road test at California (3-0). The Bears are undefeated and snuck into the latest Top 25 poll at No. 24. Oregon moved up from No. 20 to No. 19, despite the loss to Stanford. It'll be another Top 25 showdown for the Ducks at Berkeley. 

The Oregon Duck Mascot asks Bri a question

The Oregon Duck Mascot asks Bri a question

Every week I answer five of your best questions on Twitter and Instagram. Can No. 20 Oregon stop No. 7 Stanford and Bryce Love? Which team has the most to lose on Saturday? Which recruits will be on the sidelines? Also, the Oregon Duck mascot submits a question about spider 2 y banana. 

Question from Jake on Twitter: Can we stop Bryce Love and how? He ran for 147 yards and two touchdowns against us last season.

Answer: There is no doubt that Bryce Love is an offensive weapon. The Heisman Trophy runner-up reached the 100-yard rushing mark in less than five minutes against the Ducks in 2017. Containing him, while not getting burned through the air, will be a challenge for Oregon that starts in the middle, up front. It starts with sophomore nose tackle Jordon Scott. If Scott can defend the A-gaps and handle a few Cardinals, that frees Jalen Jelks, Justin Hollins and Troy Dye (among others) to contain Love.

So far this season, Oregon’s defense is among the nation’s best in stopping the run. Jelks and Hollins are a dangerous duo, combining for 9.5 tackles for loss with 5.5 sacks through three games.

Question from Mark on Twitter: Which team has more to lose on Saturday?

Answer: The correct answer here is both. The winner will take the early lead in the race for the Pac-12 North Division, be the front-runner for Pac-12 champion and announce its presence as a college football playoff contender.

Question from Thurios on Twitter: Given Coach Cristobal's confidence in Justin Herbert, how much freedom does Herbert have to audible based on shifting defensive looks?

Answer: A lot. The offense relies heavily on Herbert’s advanced knowledge of protections and the running game. Cristobal has repeatedly called Herbert a “field general” who understands the run game like a coordinator does. Cristobal has prepped Herbert to able to quickly get the offense into the right play, based on shifting defensive looks.

Question from The Oregon Duck (yes, the official mascot) on Instagram: Who is the primary receiver in spider 2 y banana?

Answer: Wow, who knew the Duck has such a high football IQ when it comes to play calling?! Is the Duck calling plays?!

The fullback is the primary target in Spider 2 Y Banana (craziest name ever) and it’s Jon Gruden’s favorite play. He actually taught it to former Duck Marcus Mariota on Gruden’s QB camp, check it out! The breakdown of the play is; The quarterback fakes the hand off and has two options: dump it off to the fullback rolling out in the flat or hit the tight end running a post route downfield.

[Five reasons why Oregon vs. Stanford is worth the hype]

Question from NBCSNorthwest on Twitter: What implications will Saturday's game have on the Oregon football program?

Answer: Besides putting Oregon in position to run the North Division, this game has major recruiting implications. Among the prospects in Eugene on Saturday will be 5-star quarterback DJ Uiagalelei, who announced his visit on Twitter. Uiagalelei is the No. 1 quarterback prospect in the 2020 class, according to 247sports.

There is a lot on the line… It’s show time for Oregon.

[Uniform update: All eyes on the "traditional" Ducks]

Jordon Scott: Oregon's secret to stuffing Stanford

Jordon Scott: Oregon's secret to stuffing Stanford

Oregon’s starting nose tackle Jordon Scott could be a future president of the United States. At least, that’s what coach Mario Cristobal said he “would most likely be”.

"Does he get my vote? Oh, yeah," Cristobal said. 

Scott’s big personality and high football IQ are crucial to Oregon’s front seven. The sophomore lightens up stuffy meeting rooms and his teammates gravitate toward and replicate his humble yet hungry attitude.

Even more essential than Scott’s personality, is his ability to defend the middle and control the A-gaps, the space between the center and either guard. Cristobal says Scott’s combination of size and speed make him a perfect fit for Oregon's 3-4 defense. Linebacker Troy Dye appreciates Scott’s consistent play that he considers the foundation of the Duck defense.

“You can’t even put into words what he does for our defense,” Dye said. “He’s probably the most integral part of our defense because it all starts up front and it all starts in the middle.”

Scott is going to have to continue his work in the trenches this Saturday against No. 7 Stanford and Heisman-Trophy runner up Bryce Love.  Love is an offensive weapon with quick change of pace and explosive speed, at any moment he can burst through a hole and take it the distance.

So far this season, Scott’s hard work has been evident in how his teammates have shined. He can hold down a double or triple team, freeing up Jalen Jelks and Justin Hollins to put up impressive numbers. The duo has combined for 9.5 tackles for loss with 5.5 sacks through three games.

“I think he's undervalued in the passing game. You don’t hear his name much, but he creates so much push in the pocket that it prevents the quarterback from stepping up and allows the edge rushers to get there,” Cristobal said.

While Scott has proven invaluable to the Ducks’ front seven, the stat sheet doesn’t accurately show his domination of the middle. That may change this week, as Scott has been putting in extra practice time to work on his pass rush moves. Stanford quarterback K.J. Costello could have number 34 barreling his direction. 

[Five reasons why Oregon vs. Stanford is worth the hype]

Scott came to the Oregon football program from Largo, Fla., weighing in at 370 pounds. He shed 40 pounds and became a Freshman All-American. His progression from year one to year two makes defensive line coach Joe Salava’e grin from ear to ear.

“He’s a big body that can move and cover short distance bursts, and can cover sideline to sideline,” said Salava’e. “For a big guy, that size moving that fast, that’s a tremendous attribute to have.”

Whether his stat line jumps off the page or not, Scott is confident heading into Saturday.

“Right now, our front seven versus their front seven… I like our guys,” Scott said.

His own guys like him, too. Jelks, who rooms with Scott on the road, says his teammate is a “goofball” that constantly makes him laugh. Jelks spending so much time on the road with Scott begs the question, does he snore?

“No," Jelks said before calling out former UO defensive lineman DeForest Buckner.  “I roommed with De-Fo before. He is the biggest snorer ever. (Scott) does not snore so I can sleep.”

Just another way Scott is helping the Oregon defense.

Five reasons why Oregon vs. Stanford is worth the hype

Five reasons why Oregon vs. Stanford is worth the hype

The undefeated No. 20 Oregon Ducks get the opportunity to upset No. 7 Stanford at home in front of the nation, in prime time (5 p.m. on ABC). The winner will take the early lead in the race for the Pac-12 North Division, be the front-runner for Pac-12 champion and announce its presence as a college football playoff contender.

Here are 5 reasons why this game is worth the hype:

1. Heisman Trophy hopefuls and Sunday’s potential stars:

This match-up is basically an NFL scout’s dream. Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert and Stanford running back Bryce Love are both potential first round NFL draft selections. Saturday is a chance for either (or both?) to put themselves on the top of draft boards and forefront of Heisman Trophy talk. Who will seize it?

Love is a 2017 Heisman Trophy runner-up. An offensive weapon with quick change of pace and explosive speed, at any moment he can burst through a hole and take it the distance. The senior sat out last week with an undisclosed injury, but will return against Oregon. Against the Ducks in 2017, Love reached the 100-yard rushing mark in less than five minutes (ouch!), 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 42.9 points per game in quarterback Justin Herbert’s 18 career starts.  He is tied for second in the nation with 12 touchdown passes in 2018. 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.

It’s not just Herbert and Love that could shine on Sundays, eight of the top-100 NFL prospects will be on the field this Saturday. Jalen Jelks is left off of CBS’s list but is ranked as the 21st best prospect by NFL.com.

 

2. Oregon and Stanford; It’s like looking in the mirror...?

Oregon and Stanford’s star players have more in common than you might think. Besides being potential first-round draft picks, Herbert and Love both are biology majors that aspire to be doctors. In fact, Love decided to forgo the 2018 NFL Draft in part to finish his undergraduate degree so that when his NFL career is over he can made a quick transition to medical school.

Both teams want to control the line of scrimmage. Stanford coach David Shaw’s physical approach has proved successful, his career record for the Cardinal is 76-22. Two weeks ago the Cardinal sacked USC quarterback JT Daniels four times. 

Oregon coach Mario Cristobal’s smash-mouth approach emphasized weight-room gains for linemen and the entire Ducks team; including running back Tony Brooks-James(15 lbs) and Herbert (20 lbs).

(Side note- Oregon’s offensive line must win in the trenches to give Herbert a chance against a Cardinal defense that has allowed a nation’s best average of only 7.7 points per game.)

Both Oregon and Stanford are coming off of lackluster victories. The Ducks’ closer-than-expected 35-22 victory over San Jose State exposed uncertainty at the running back position while Herbert had an uncharacteristic performance and tossed two interceptions. The Cardinal were without Love in a 30-10 home win over UC Davis.

“We’re just really focused on Stanford and playing a great game,” linebacker Troy Dye said. “Our goal is to take the Pac and win the Pac-12, so we just have to go out there and start off on a great foot and get a win.”

 

3.  Eugene will be rockin’

I can guarantee one thing for Saturday. Autzen Stadium is going to bring it. Ducks fans have been waiting a long time for a match-up like this.

It’s perfectly timed with the University of Oregon's academic calendar. Classes begin next week, bringing students to Eugene (and Autzen's student section) just in time for this weekend's game.

Saturday will mark the 10th time the Ducks have hosted ESPN’s College Game Day. It'll also be the first time since September of 2014, against Michigan State, Oregon has been highlighted as the national game of the week. The show will air from 6-9 a.m. on ESPN, and will be staged in the grass area of Oregon's memorial quad. More info here.

Oregon is a 2-point underdog and it’s a night game. That is a combination for a rowdy Autzen Stadium, and Cristobal wants nothing less.

"It's very welcome. It's exciting," said Cristobal. "Autzen is unmatched as it is, now throw in the extra ingredient of GameDay, ABC, and everything that goes with it. We expect, we want, and we need Autzen to be Autzen at its finest. We expect that to happen."

 

4. A brief history lesson to boil your blood

Over the last decade, Oregon and Stanford are 4-4.  The teams have rich history of spoiling the other’s seasons.

It started in 2009 when unranked Stanford and freshman quarterback Andrew Luck uprooted the then-No. 7 Oregon’s first season under head coach Chip Kelly, handing the Ducks their only loss in conference play.  

The next season, revenge was sweet for the Ducks. 2010 was the year Oregon blasted the entire conference en route to the national championship game.

In 2011, the Cardinal were riding a 17-game home winning streak and Luck was a Heisman front runner. No. 6 Oregon handed undefeated No. 3 Stanford its first loss on the season and ending its BCS Championship Game hopes.

2012, not so sweet for Oregon. David Shaw got his first win in the series when No. 14 Stanford shut Autzen Stadium down in overtime with a 17-14 victory over the undefeated No. 1 Ducks.

For the second-straight year, in 2013, Oregon was undefeated heading into the Stanford game. Duck quarterback Marcus Mariota was limited due to a knee injury. The Ducks lost 20-26, putting Stanford into the Rose Bowl for the second season in a row.

In 2014, Mariota was healthy and No. 5 Oregon smoked Stanford 45-16 on their way to the inaugural College Football Playoff.

Oregon’s last victory over Stanford came in 2015 when the unranked Ducks upset No. 7 Stanford 38-36 at Stanford Stadium, keeping the Cardinal out of the Playoff.

The Cardinal has dominated in the last two matchups.

Stanford pummeled Mark Helfrich’s final Oregon team 52-27 during the 2016 meeting at Autzen.

Last season, Stanford destroyed Oregon under Willie Taggart, 49-7, in a game in which the Ducks were without Herbert and with plenty of penalties (nine for 109 yards).

https://www.instagram.com/p/Bn5gK2wlJ86/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link

 

5. Future

We are barely midway through September but the first game under the lights for Oregon could have some major future implications for the Ducks.

A win would give the Ducks a chance to make a run at the Pac-12 North title, and legitimize the idea that Oregon is back as one of the Pac-12's best teams. Not to mention, upsetting Stanford (in Nike swag) would play well on the recruiting trail.

“You need to meet a team like this head-on,” Cristobal said. “You have to play your best football.”

Among the prospects in Eugene on Saturday will be 5-star quarterback DJ Uiagalelei, who announced his visit on Twitter.

Uiagalelei is the No. 1 quarterback prospect in the 2020 class, according to 247sports.  

There is a lot on the line, it’s show time for Oregon.

The Ducks aren't looking past San Jose State to Stanford, but I am

The Ducks aren't looking past San Jose State to Stanford, but I am

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.”

True. However, SJSU is near the bottom of the FBS level statistically in a number of categories; total offense, total defense, scoring offense, scoring defense, etc.

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.

Weekend wrap: Seahawks lose their marbles -- but haven't we all?

Weekend wrap: Seahawks lose their marbles -- but haven't we all?

WEEKEND WRAP-UP -- A summary of what I had my eye on for the last couple of days.

[NBC Sports Gold “Blazers Pass” 15-game Blazers package for fans without NBC Sports Northwest $34.99 – click to learn more and buy]

  • ARMY-NAVY FOOTBALL : Fun game. Love seeing those kids caring so much about who they are and what they're doing. And what they're doing is preparing to protect us for a good portion of their lives.
  • YANKEES MAKE TRADE FOR GIANCARLO STANTON: Derek Jeter sent his former team a very nice Christmas present. Obvious bottom line to that deal was the group Jeter represents did not have enough money to buy and operate the Miami Marlins. When you have to come in and practically give away your best player and one of the biggest gate attractions in baseball -- along with laying off some very long-tenured people in the front office -- you probably shouldn't have made the purchase in the first place. And oh yes -- I am NOT one of those people who think baseball's better when the Yankees are great again. Just the opposite for me. I grew up watching them dominate the game and am still sick of it.
  • THE SEAHAWKS LOST A GAME SUNDAY -- AND THEN LOST THEIR MARBLES: Michael Bennett deserves a suspension for seemingly trying to hurt another player. And, confidential to pro players, I don't care if fans are throwing beer at you (and they obviously shouldn't be doing that) just keep walking to the locker room. Do you think you can climb into the stands and beat somebody up? Does that really sound like a good idea? You can't win by doing that. Go tell a security guard and keep moving. It's harder to hit a moving target.
  • THAT GOT ME THINKING:  I think everyone has lost their marbles these days. Literally. I haven't seen a marble in decades. Do they still exist outside of grandpa's attic?
  • ALAN TRAMMELL AND JACK MORRIS GO INTO THE HALL OF FAME courtesy of the Modern Era Committee. I would have voted for Trammel but not Morris. I would've voted for Dale Murphy, too -- but you already knew that. Murph being left out again proves that you can keep people out of the Hall for reasons of character and/or integrity, but those qualities won't help you get into the Hall.
  • BAKER MAYFIELD WINS THE HEISMAN TROPHY:  I had a vote again this year and Mayfield got it. Was really impressed with his accuracy, especially on the deep ball. I had Bryce Love second and that's where he finished. I voted San Diego State's Rashaad Penny third and he finished fifth. If you never saw him play, you missed out. He's a very exciting running back. And by the way, I'm still one of the stubborn guys holding to the rules of Heisman voting -- not revealing my vote until after the winner is announced.
  • CARSON WENTZ OUT FOR THE SEASON WITH A TORN ACL:  NFL quarterbacks just have to figure it out -- stop with the unnecessary running. Know who you are. Instead of dropping your head and trying to power for an extra yard, hook slide. Duck and cover. Marcus Mariota, in the midst of his worst season as a pro, has been playing through injuries all season due to his penchant for running.  Just sit back and throw the ball until you're in the fourth quarter of a Super Bowl, guys.

Ducks' backs must outduel Bryce Love for UO to win at Stanford

Ducks' backs must outduel Bryce Love for UO to win at Stanford

Oregon's running game had better show up Saturday night at Stanford or this game will be over before Cardinal running back Bryce Love reaches the 175-yard mark. 

Forget about what happens at quarterback for the Ducks (4-2, 1-2 Pac-12). Braxton Burmeister? Taylor Alie? Both? Doesn't matter at this point. Whatever Oregon gets from that position will be gravy and it's not as if Stanford's quarterbacks do much damage, either. 

What matters most for Oregon is that the offensive line doesn't let down the team again like last week during a 33-10 loss at home to No. 8 Washington State (6-0, 3-0) by gaining just 132 yards. The linemen admitted their mistakes. So did their leader, co-offensive coordinator Mario Cristobal. UO coach Willie Taggart made it clear that the players around the quarterback position must play better in order for the Ducks to win and he was mostly talking about the offensive line. 

"Just our entire performance was frustrating," Cristobal said. 

After a week to lament, the offensive line will have a chance to redeem itself and replicate the 328-yard rushing performance the team put forth two week ago during a 45-24 win over California. When the line is humming, the running back trio of Royce Freeman, Kani Benoit and Tony Brooks-James usually dominates. They are one of the best trios in the nation. But even they can't get loose with no place to run. 

Stanford's defense isn't playing as its usual dominant self. The Cardinal rank ninth in the conference in rushing defense (182 yards per game) while Oregon is averaging 239.3, good enough for third right behind Stanford (260.5). 

So, there's no excuse for the Ducks not to get the job done in the running game. Not even the reality that the Cardinal could key on the run, as did WSU, knowing that sophomore quarterback Justin Herbert isn't at quarterback to burn it with the passing game. 

Stanford hasn't needed strong quarterback play to balance out the run game. The Cardinal is averaging 188.3 passing yards per game with Keller Chryst and K.J. Costello having split the duties. But, they haven't turned the ball over much with just two interceptions thrown, both by Chryst. 

The Cardinal relies heavily on Bryce Love who has rushed for 1,240 yards on the season. That's 46 percent of the Cardinal's offense. The scariest part is that the 5-foot-10, 196-pound Love doesn't require much running room in which to operate. 

“This kid can find the smallest hole and get through it," Taggart said. "And that’s a challenge for a lot of defenses.”

Oregon, on paper, appears equipped to handle Love. Or, at least not let him run wild. The Ducks rank second in the Pac-12 an 10th in the nation in in rushing defense allowing 93.7 yards per game. However, UO has faced the two worst rushing teams in the conference, WSU (82.7, 125th in the nation) and Cal (96.8, 122nd), and the ninth-ranked rushing team, Arizona State (129.4, 97th). Nebraska (148.5) ranks 79th in the nation and Wyoming sits at 118th (100.4). 

Furthermore, none of those teams has a running back like Love. And, none run the style of offense that Stanford does. Nebraska comes close but Stanford's power running game with multiple tight ends and a pounding fullback working in concert with a strong offense line is another animal. For Oregon to be successful against Love, the Ducks cannot blow pursuit angles or expect that someone closer to the ball will make the play. 

"Stack the box," UO senior cornerback Arrion Springs said. "Staaaack the box. Everybody just has to be ready to stop the run. Everybody has to contribute. It's not just going to be the front seven."

Said Taggart: "We've got to gang tackle. It's not going to be one guy bringing him down. "He can get stopped for two or three plays and the next thing you know he will break one for 60."

So figure that Love is going to do his thing. The quarterbacks for both teams will be pedestrian, although Oregon's should be helped by the return of sophomore receiver Dillon Mitchell (concussion) and potentially, senior slot receiver Charles Nelson (ankle). 

That leaves Oregon's running attack as the only reliable aspect of the team that could lead the Ducks to a win. 

That's not a bad situation to be in if the offensive line brings its A-game. 

Oregon at No. 23 Stanford

When: 8 p.m., Saturday, Autzen Stadium. 

T.V.: FS1. 

Betting line: Stanford minus 10.5.

Records: Oregon (4-2, 1-2 Pac-12), Stanford (4-2, 3-1).

Last week: Stanford won 23-20 at Utah. Oregon lost 33-10 at home to No. 8 Washington State (6-0, 3-0).

Coaches: Ducks' Willie Taggart (44-47, 4-2 at Oregon); Stanford's David Shaw (68-17).

Fear factor (five-point scale): 5. If Burmeister (or Alie) improves dramatically overnight the Ducks will have a strong chance of pulling off the upset. But only if UO's rushing attack is on point. 

Final pick: Stanford 37, Oregon, 27.  UO shows improvement on offense but not enough to combat Stanford's rushing attack led by Love.