"Tonight was the first night we looked like us and felt like us."
That was Stanford head coach David Shaw after Stanford's 34-17 win over Washington State.
"For the first time this season, offensively it felt like us."
No, that wasn't an accidental copy-paste - that was David Shaw again after the Cardinal's 38-14 victory over Oregon State. Shaw's first declaration of an offensive epiphany was quickly met by one of the best clinics on how not to score a week later against Arizona State.
Why are we supposed to believe Shaw this time around? Stanford has struggled mightily on the road under his watch and you can bet Autzen Stadium will register on the Richter scale come Saturday.
Stanford's had some success slowing down Oregon the last couple of years, but the Ducks' furious rally in 2013 is a stark reminder of how hard it is to keep Marcus Mariota and company at bay for 60 minutes. Depth, especially on the defensive line, is essential for success against Oregon and Stanford is barren in that department at the moment. True freshman Harrison Phillips burned his redshirt and started at defensive tackle last week, but Oregon is a completely different animal. If David Parry is indeed unable to go, then Stanford's hopes hinge on Phillips, Nate Lohn, and the "Iranian Meatball," Alex Yazdi, being able to slow down Oregon offense. Advantage Ducks.
And speaking of Mariota, Oregon's signal-caller appears to be fully healthy heading into this matchup, unlike last season. Sure, Stanford shut down the Quack Attack in 2012 and 2013, but Mariota is better than ever and you know he's out for blood. There's no way you can simulate a quarterback with 4.4 speed in practice and Stanford will be in for a rude awakening in Eugene.
Meanwhile, Mariota's counterpart Kevin Hogan had a solid game against Oregon State, but forgotten in the aftermath of a comfortable win were his two interceptions and pair of fumbles in the first half. There's a circle in hell reserved for those who gift Oregon short fields to work with and if Hogan commits such a sin, it's going to be a long day for Stanford.
It's also worth noting that Hogan's favorite target Ty Montgomery will be draped by one of the best corners in the nation in Ifo Ekpre-Olomu. If Hogan ever decides to lock on to Montgomery and blindly throw the ball, Oregon will feast on that buffet.
The bottom line is that Hogan is very limited as a passer, but the lack of an effective running game will force Stanford to rely on his arm to win. That's just not going to happen in a hostile road environment and if Stanford's offense stalls with three-and-out after three-and-out, you know the shorthanded defense will get exhausted.
If this game does get ugly and Oregon sniffs the opportunity to hang 70, they will put up 70. A blowout of such proportions would kill any sort of momentum Stanford had going this season and put a dent in recruiting for the foreseeable future. It was a good run while it lasted, but the sun is finally setting on the Stanford Empire.