Bye weeks should provide teams the opportunity to rest tired legs, get healthy and have a mental refresher. But for this team, the pressure is always on. The Ducks won’t play their next game until Thursday, November 7th. And you would be right in saying that it’s a big one. Easily the hardest test on their schedule, there will be plenty of time to prepare for the match-up. The outcome of this game will surely determine the legacy of both rookie head coach Mark Helfrich and the 2013-14 Ducks’ team. With many veterans on the team and a Heisman trophy candidate at quarterback, the time is now to overcome the Cardinal.
The Cardinal-Duck contest is arguably the toughest conference game for both teams in what is becoming an excellent rivalry. They now go so far as to begin game-planning for each other before the season even starts. Oregon has had the better end of the deal lately, beating them seven straight times in the 2000’s [Ed. note – Since 1994, Oregon holds an 11-6 advantage over the Cardinal (with misses in 1999 and 2000). In the prior 17 decisions, Stanford held the advantage at 12-5].
But then Stanford established an identity as a power run team. They bulked up, recruited elite defenders who were both big and fast, and started playing smash mouth football. This type of team has has been Kryptonite to the Ducks in recent years. Good – even above average — defenses haven’t had a chance against Oregon’s Blur but great defenses have managed to shut them down. In this year’s arms race, the Ducks have responded by beefing up their defensive front four to better stop the inside run.
A legacy, one way or another, will be determined in Palo Alto. If the Ducks win, they will be in the driver’s seat cruising to a relatively easy finish and possible undefeated season. Helfrich will get credited as one of the best coaches in all college football. Marcus Mariota would likely win the Heisman, and this team might even be recognized as the greatest Ducks team of all time.
If the Ducks lose, however, they will likely not play in the national championship game – probably not even the Rose Bowl. There will be no Heisman, and their legacy will be of yet another Ducks’ team that got close but just couldn’t seal the deal.
While Stanford may have won last year, they have not established dominance over the Ducks. Stanford’s defense blocked Oregon’s rushing attack but their offense scored barely enough to win. This year’s Ducks have a better passing attack and play better defense all around. Stanford has bragging rights and home field advantage. However, given what they’ve seen the Ducks accomplish this year, I suspect that is very little comfort. Better watch out Stanford, Oregon and their legacy are comin’ to town.