Stanford vs. Oregon: Four (Not So) Preposterous Predictions

Here are four things that probably won't (but maybe will) happen Saturday at Stanford Stadium. Vote for the least preposterous prediction and feel free to leave your own in the comments section. 

1. Oregon will rush for fewer than 200 yards. 

Why it's preposterous: Where to begin? The Ducks average 298 yards per game, fifth-best in the country. They torched the Cardinal for 388 yards -- 388! -- in last year's 52-31 win and have added true freshman De'Anthony Thomas to the LaMichael James-Kenjon Barner rotation. The only team to hold Oregon to fewer than 200 yards was LSU in Week 1. In their eight other games, the Ducks have topped 400 yards twice and 300 yards three times. The Stanford's third-ranked rushing defense was stout against the weaker running teams on its schedule, but less so against UCLA, Washington, and USC. None of those teams are explosive as Oregon and some have argued that the Cardinal's rushing defense is vastly overrated

Why it could happen: James hasn't looked quite himself in his first two games back since dislocating his elbow against Cal. He had 53 yards on only 13 carries against Washington State. LMJ showed signs of returning to his old 200-yards-per-game ways by rushing for 156 against Washington, but as Stanford demonstrated, the Huskies rushing defense isn't the greatest measuring stick. Chris Polk and Curtis McNeal each broke of 60-yard touchdowns against Stanford. The only way this happens is if the Cardinal tackles better when Oregon's backs get to the second level. It'll help to have safety Delano Howell back. The defense has to be sick of hearing about how its lofty ranking is the product of a soft schedule. This is a chance to shut the doubters up once and for all. 

2. Oregon's kicker(s) will miss at least three field goals. 

Why it's preposterous: It's unlikely that Alejandro Maldonado, who has handled most of the placekicking duties this season, and incumbent Rob Beard, who has reportedly been battling a quad problem since the season-opening loss to LSU, will even attempt three field goals. Between the two of them, the Ducks have attempted 11 field goals all year. Besides, what are the odds of Games of the Century featuring three missed field goals by one team in consecutive weeks?

Why it could happen: If you've been paying attention to how opposing kickers have fared against Stanford this season, you know this isn't all that far-fetched as it may initially seem. The latest victim of the Cardinal Kicker Curse was Oregon State's Trevor Romaine, who had a field goal and an extra point blocked last week. Meanwhile, Oregon's Maldonado, who benched 300 pounds during winter conditioning according to GoDucks.com, is 5-for-9 on field goals this season. He was 2-for-4 in last week's win at Washington. 

3. Griff Whalen will catch at least three touchdowns. 

Why it's preposterous: With the running backs and tight ends accounting for most of Stanford's scoring this season, Whalen has only two touchdown receptions. There's little reason to believe that the Cardinal will alter its offensive gameplan, particularly in the red zone, where a heavy dose of Stepfan Taylor, Anthony Wilkerson, Ty Gaffney, and Jeremy Stewart has helped Stanford come away with points on all 52 trips. Whalen's not a deep threat and has proven to be a bigger weapon between the 20s than around the goal line. 

Why it could happen: With Chris Owusu out, Luck may look to Whalen even more often than usual. The senior has quietly emerged as one of Stanford's most dependable targets with 27 catches over his last five games. Oregon ranks 71st in pass defense and will be without the suspended Cliff Harris, who gave Luck and the Cardinal fits in last year's game in Eugene. With so much focus on stopping Stanford's running game and containing Coby Fleener and Levine Toilolo, Whalen is a sneaky pick to be the X-factor in this game.  

4. Stanford will win by at least 21 points.

Why it's preposterous: Oregon's going to find the end zone, and as the Ducks proved last year, no lead is safe against Chip Kelly's quick-strike offense. Even in 2009, when Stanford controlled most of the game, the Ducks managed to make things interesting late. Mighty LSU only beat the Ducks by 13. This team is used to blowing opponents out, not being on the receiving end of a smackdown. These are two evenly matched teams and most pundits expect a close game. 

Why it could happen: Hey, Oregon won by 21 last year at home. If LSU put up 40 points on the Ducks, Stanford could easily surpass the 56 it put up against USC -- in regulation. How 'bout a MAC-like final score of 62-41? It'll take a few mistakes by Oregon and the best performance of the season by the Stanford defense, but a Cardinal rout isn't beyond the realm of possibility. Remember the Orange Bowl.

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