JASON SAYS: Stanford team of 2011 destiny
Just think: Oregon could play Penn State in the Rose Bowl.
The Nittany Lions are 8-1 overall and 5-0 in the Big Ten. Of course, football itself hasn't been on the minds of anybody thinking about Penn State these days. The child abuse scandal that has rocked the university, and cost Joe Paterno his job, has been dominating the news cycle, obviously way more important than the game on the field.
Remember, it is a game. So, to the relief of many, game day is coming up, and we'll get to enjoy the diversion of Oregon vs. Stanford, 5 p.m. Saturday at Stanford, Calif.
The Ducks are 8-1 overall and 6-0 in Pac-12 play, the Cardinal one step better at 9-0 and 7-0. The game has Rose Bowl and BCS implications.
It's quite a showdown, between clearly the league's two best teams, with contrasting styles - the Ducks the quicksilvers, the Cardinal the bruisers. The X factor is No. 12 for Stanford, of course, the great Andrew Luck, who torched the Ducks in 2009 and then fell victim to UO's second-half attack last season.
From the time Luck decided to stay in college rather than be the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft, I had the Nov. 12 game pegged as a Stanford win, maybe even a rout. I still do, but the Ducks have bettered their game since being overrated entering the season and falling to LSU. Good enough offense, solid special teams, improving defense. The Ducks have speed, tenacity and good coaching. Plus, the Ducks are the two-time league champions.
I see chinks in their armor. I'm not sure QB Darron Thomas is 100 percent after his knee injury; he looked shaky against Washington and maybe, just maybe, the shadow cast by backup Bryan Bennett bugs him somewhat. Although the Oregon defense had a terrific day against UW, I still think it has some issues.
Stanford runs the ball well and has the prototypical offensive orchestrator in Luck. I'm just wondering how much the Ducks' defensive speed can make a difference against the Cardinal's extremely efficient offensive unit. Luck has been sacked only four times.
The Cardinal defend the run well. But, I'm wondering how much the Stanford players can keep up with the Ducks' bevy of athletes - LaMichael James, Kenjon Barner, De'Anthony Thomas, Josh Huff, etc. Darron Thomas will be a key.
My cohort, Stephen Alexander, thinks that Oregon is more battle-tested by virtue of its game against LSU and that Stanford is going to have fits with the UO offense. He picks it 41-31, Ducks.
I think that Oregon is a proud champion and will put up a fight, but it seems to me that Stanford is a team of destiny with its great quarterback.
THE PICK: Stanford 38, Oregon 34