Every year since 2009, when the Stanford schedule is finalized and published, I mark one game on the calendar. The Oregon Ducks. Stanford has already dominated USC this season and now it is time to do the same to Oregon. This game was where Stanford football was reborn, this is the game where Stanford has shown why power football wins, this is the game where Stanford claimed their stake as a powerhouse football team. Oregon is always going to be that marquee win that put Stanford over the top in 2009.
Many people would argue that 2007 at USC was the win that sparked Stanford's future success but looking at that year and the year after, Stanford was 4-8 and 5-7, respectively. It wasn't until 2009 and the incredible victory 51-42 victory against the Duck's that turned Stanford's program into "...A heck of a football team". That was the year everything turned around and in 2009, it was the first time Stanford finished the season above .500 since 2001. After that year Stanford became the powerhouse we know today. Every year since 2010, this game has determined the Pac-12 North and this year is no different. This game has impacted why and how I watch football, that is why I circle the game every year.
Saturday will be Stanford and Oregon's 78th meeting (Stanford leading the series 46-31) and what a better way to clinch the Pac-12 North title than against Puddles and the gang.
Offense Impact Players
Oregon: Vernon Adams Jr.
I know it is probably a cliché to have the quarterback as Oregon's impact player, but against Stanford what he needs to do well is pass the ball. Vernon Adams is only completing 58% if his passes this season which is one reason why Oregon has not lived up to the preseason expectations. Oregon has the #1 ranked rushing attack in the Pac-12 averaging 300 yards per game, but their passing offense ranks just #8 in total yards. Most teams need to start the run game early on in the game to set up the passing attack, but for Oregon it is the opposite. Stanford knows that Oregon is going to run the ball as much as they can, but if Oregon can effectively pass the ball downfield, Royce Freeman will have a day.
Stanford: Joshua Garnett
Garnett should be the offensive impact player every week. What he does for this team is so amazing. Garnett will sure to matched up against star Deforest Bucker some of the game and that in itself will be an extremely difficult matchup. But what Garnett does best is pull and reach defenders at the second level. McCaffrey relies on Garnett so much because he is the one getting the key blocks to set the edge. He also creates massive holes in which Stanford's running backs exploit for big gains. Garnett is a major part of this offense and will have to play a huge role if Stanford wants to clinch the Pac-12 North title.
Defensive Impact Players
Oregon: DeForest Buckner
Buckner is a top 15 player in this upcoming 2016 draft according to some analysts. He stands at 6"7 and 300 lbs. but he is a constant matchup nightmare. For Oregon, it all starts in stopping the run and Buckner needs to be an instrumental part in that. He needs to live in the back field and blow up every play possible. That being said Stanford needs to double team Buckner every single pass play because he will eat up any one offensive linemen on him. I would love to see Joshua Garnett line up against Buckner because these two guys are at the top of their respective positions. Buckner is a monster that Oregon needs to release to stop this top notch run game.
Stanford: Peter Kalambayi
Peter Kalambayi will need to show his athleticism on Saturday because of Oregon's spread scheme. Oregon likes to run jet sweeps, speed options, outside zone plays so that means Kalambayi will need to get to the edge before whatever running back Oregon plugs in. Setting the edge will be the most important part of Stanford's defense this week and if they can't do it Oregon will get their average of 300 yards per game. Kalambayi can't do this alone so others such as Kevin Anderson/Joey Alfieri, Blake Martinez, and Kevin Palma will have to step up their play even more.