While the Oregon Ducks have been compiling impressive stats all season long, the most impressive perhaps is one stat that sits at zero. Even as Marcus Mariota takes on more offensive responsibility in the passing game, resulting in 20 touchdown passes this season, the most impressive part of his game this year is that he has yet to throw an interception. The Stanford Cardinal pride themselves on forcing turnovers on defense to keep momentum on their side and set up their offense for easy scoring drives. When the two meet up this Thursday, who gives in first?
Stanford has recorded at least one turnover in 33 straight games which is the second longest streak in the country. So far this season, they’ve forced 11 turnovers, including nine interceptions, which is pretty low for this defensive group. They would love to be the first group to solve this Oregon attack and pick off Mariota, as they did last season in their 17-14 overtime win, to disrupt the Ducks’ offense while giving their offense more opportunities to bleed the clock and shorten the game. As cornerback Alex Carter said this week: “It’s time for him to throw one.”
But don’t expect Mariota to just hand it over to the Stanford defense. The sophomore has shown excellent decision making in 2013 as Mark Helfrich has handed more offensive control over to his quarterback this season in the passing game. Having playmakers at every level who can catch passes also helps make things easier and Mariota’s ability to tuck the ball and run with it give him all the outlets in the world to avoid throwing a bad pass. He hasn’t forced a bad ball into coverage yet this season and it would be foolish to think he’d start now.
If the Oregon offense can sustain drives and avoid turning the ball over, they’ll use their up-tempo attack to build up momentum throughout the game before eventually blowing it open. Stanford will need to force a couple of turnovers to end that momentum before it gets rolling but will have to work hard to find them against a turnover-conscious quarterback like Mariota. Who comes out on top in the turnover battle could very well decide the winner this Thursday. So who you got?