Following an absence against the UC Davis Aggies, star running back Bryce Love will return to the lineup against the Oregon Ducks. So what are realistic expectations for Love in his first game back on the road?
In a clash that features the No. 7 Stanford Cardinal against the No. 20 Ducks, the Oregon defense looks deceptive headed into Saturday.
Oregon has allowed 20 points per game, letting up a scant 77 rushing yards every outing. At first blush, the defense could look different from years past, maybe even impressive. Jalen Jelks leads the defense with 20 tackles and has gathered 2.5 sacks.
He is the start of a front that gives this defense their teeth, with the top three players in tackles and tackles for loss on the team led by a defensive lineman (Jelks), middle linebacker (Kaulana Apelu) and linebacker (Justin Hollins). The front seven showing talent combined with Love coming back from the severe hit to the noggin suffered in the USC game makes the Ducks look like a home favorite. An offense ranked 8th in scoring, paired with a defense that can slow a crippled Love means this game is a lock for the ducks right? Wrong.
Oregon has a habit of packing their schedule early with weak teams that poss weaker rushing attacks. Two of the three of the Ducks wins come against FCS schools, a trend for a team that has not faced a ranked opponent in the opening three games of a season since 2015.
The Ducks are some of the best at padding stats before conference play; this season is no exception.
What to expect -
Even when Love returned early from his high ankle sprain last season, he broke off 69 yards (nice) and a score against Washington State. The road will also have little impact on Love, against a team he has torn into the entirety of his career.
Last season, Love was good for 147 yards, and two touchdowns on 17 carries against the Ducks, posting 8.6 yards every time he touched the ball. The year before, when he started seeing some daylight behind Christian McCaffrey, Love took the rock for 82 yards on five carries (16.4 per touch).
Oregon has already shown their hand before taking the field, their tackling studs are down the middle of the defense, where Stanford has struggled running the ball all season.
Look for Love and the Cardinal to go outside on counters, stretch plays and pitches with their running attack, forcing corners and safeties to make a play on Love in the open field.
The key for the Cardinal all game long will be finding the edge, using tight ends and pulling linemen to seal off the linebackers and defensive ends that will keep the Ducks in the game. On the outside, big receivers like J.J. Arcega-Whiteside and Trenton Irwin keep the gaps wide for Love, and his shifty, change of direction speed will flummox safties trying to make a play in the open field.
Love will eat up this Ducks defense, just like he has for the past two seasons. Some things do not change with time.
Prediction: Love dashes for 115 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries.