Last season, the Stanford Cardinal proved to be the only team in the country capable of slowing down the Oregon Ducks, clipping their high-flying offense and holding them to just two touchdowns in a 17-14 overtime win for the Cardinal. This week, the two Pac 12 heavyweights square off again, this time in Palo Alto, and Stanford is looking for an encore performance. Ducks’ running back De’Anthony Thomas says don’t count on it though and guarantees a big day out of the Oregon offense on Thursday.
When asked by Oregon’s official website if he felt that Stanford would be able to slow down the Ducks like they did last season, Thomas replied: “I don’t think so. I feel like, this team, we should at least put up 40.” For Oregon this season, that would actually be a step back. The Ducks are the No. 2 scoring team in the country, averaging 55.6 points per game and have scored at least 42 points in every game this season and have eclipsed 50-points in six games, including the first five of 2013.
The key for Oregon this season has been their abundance of playmakers on the offensive side of the ball. Thomas, who missed four games with an ankle injury, is averaging over seven yards per carry this season and might not be the most dangerous running back on the roster. Byron Marshall has stepped up in a major way as the workhorse back for this Oregon offense, eclipsing 100-yards rushing in each of the last five games (since Thomas’ injury). True freshman Thomas Tyner has also provided a nice spark in the running game, racking up 437 yards and eight touchdowns while averaging less than 10 carries per game.
And let us not forget the work of quarterback Marcus Mariota this season. The sophomore has been as near perfect as you can be in 2013 in building a strong Heisman Trophy resume, completing 64 percent of his passes for 2,281 yards with 20 touchdowns and zero interceptions. He’s also second on the team in rushing while averaging a whopping 9.13 yards per carry on his way to 511 yards rushing and nine touchdowns on the ground. He’s been spreading the wealth in the passing game, too, with Josh Huff and Bralon Addison catching 38 passes a piece this season with a combined 13 touchdowns.
Stanford will have a tall task ahead of them to slow this group down again like they did last season in Autzen Stadium. David Shaw is going to need his defense to be at their most disruptive on Thursday and focus on knocking this Oregon team off rhythm. They seem to be hitting their stride defensively, which is good news for Stanford, since their 27-21 loss to the Utah Utes. In their last two games, the Cardinal D has dominated offenses that were red-hot coming in against the UCLA Bruins (held to 10 points) and Oregon State Beavers (12).
But this Oregon team is a whole different challenge. There are few teams that can boast the speed and athleticism at so many positions like Oregon does and they will test the Cardinal defense in all manner of ways. Can Stanford repeat their dominant showing from 2012 or is De’Anthony Thomas’ prediction of 40-plus points going to be the case? The answer to that question will likely decide the Pac 12 North race this Thursday.