Running backs and receivers responsible for 313 of Stanford’s 411 yards against Oregon in 2012 are gone — including this guy! (Photo courtesy of Kevin Cline)
Oregon vs. Stanford is the preseason pick for the Pac-12 game of the year, but will it still be by November 7? Remember that last year it was Oregon/USC until USC forgot to show up undefeated. But if Oregon/Stanford does turn out to be the Pac-12 game of 2013, who wins?
Stanford’s defense has most of the pieces back from one of last year’s national bests. In 2012 they had Oregon’s number, but how much of it was an exceptional game for the Stanford D and/or off night for the Oregon O? Washington, Wazzu, Oregon State, Arizona and UCLA all scored more points on the Trees than our Ducks did, and it’s hard to argue that it’s because their offenses were better.
Stanford’s offense took some big hits to graduation and the NFL. Their QB and most of their O-line return, but gone are two truly elite tight ends, their best receivers and star running back Stefan Taylor. Their offense will likely take a step back, and last year’s unit only rated 72nd in the country. Last year’s lack of production on offense created wins by more than a touchdown and a kick only against Duke, Cal, Colorado and UCLA (one of two games). So while some argue that they were within a score a game of going undefeated, they were also within a score a game of going 4 – 8.
Oregon is thought to have questions in the linebacker corps, but the second and third line got a ton of experience last year. Stanford lacks elite cornerbacks and has questions at running back, receiver and tight end. They will need newcomers to step up at the skill positions to duplicate last year’s ability to win close games. My preseason money is on the Ducks.