Submitted by Jim Hurley on Friday, November 16, 2012 at 8:57 PM
You might think that Saturday Night’s nationally televised college football game matching the #13 Stanford Cardinal and the #2 Oregon Ducks is a longshot to cause BCS Chaos. After all, Oregon is favored by a whopping 20 points on its home field according to Las Vegas oddsmakers. Sports bettors might like Stanford to hang within the number. But, is the Cardinal capable of pulling off a shocker that would once again jumble the BCS rankings?
It was a year ago this week that USC visited Autzen Stadium in Eugene, Oregon and came away with a 38-35 victory as 17-point underdogs. There are five keys that will allow Stanford to do the same thing.
#1: Be Ready EARLY!
It’s become an Oregon trademark that they hit the ground running and blow by people in the first two quarters. It’s a true blitzkrieg that leaves opponents in shock and awe, and typically trailing by such a big margin that they can’t get back in the game. Stanford doesn’t have time for a feeling out process. They must be ready for a storm at the opening kickoff. USC won the first quarter and the first half last year.
#2: Own the Point of Attack
You don’t beat Oregon by getting into a fast-paced shootout with them. That’s exactly what they want because it wears down opponents. You have to slow the game down by owning the point of attack on both sides of the ball. That means running the ball successfully on offense (something Stanford does very well), and making plays in the seams on defense. It’s gotta be smash mouth football or any Oregon opponent will get left in the dust.
#3: Own Time of Possession
Oregon’s offense can’t hurt you if it’s standing on the sidelines! Southern Cal won time of possession last year 36.5 minutes to 23.5 minutes. It’s true that both teams will get roughly the same amount of possessions. Holding onto the ball disrupts Oregon’s offensive rhythm, and makes it harder for the Ducks to hit on all cylinders when they do have it. Shorten the game. Limit Oregon’s opportunities. Keep them rusty when it’s their turn to try and score.
#4: Win Third Downs
Southern Cal converted 54% of its third down tries in last year’s meetings, which allowed them to dictate the pace of the game. Going three-and-out against Oregon is almost the same as a turnover because field position means so little to them when they’re on a roll. If Stanford is punting in the first half, the game is going to get away from them very quickly.
#5: Win Turnovers
USC didn’t have to win turnovers last year because they were doing so many things well. This Stanford team doesn’t have a great quarterback…and therefore doesn’t have any sort of margin for error in close games. The Cardinal must protect the ball as they’re trying to slowly jam it down the field. And, they’ll probably need an extra steal or two if they’re going to pull off a shocker. They can cover the tall spread without winning this category. To cause BCS Chaos, they’ll need to win turnovers.
Oregon has covered five straight games, and is entirely capable of blowing the doors off this showdown and making it six in a row. What Stanford needs to do is very clear. Can they do it?
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