I had a chat with Henry Waddles of GoMightyCard.com about the upcoming showdown between the Stanford Cardinal and Oregon Ducks. Here’s what we discussed:
HW: Given what’s happened the last two years, how do Oregon fans view Stanford and the Stanford game?
TR: Honestly, Stanford strikes a bit of fear into everyone. Both years that Stanford beat Oregon, the Ducks were scoring a ridiculous 55 points per game. For whatever reason, Stanford has shut Oregon down. It’s no secret that Oregon relies pretty heavily on their offense, and when they can’t get it going it’s disheartening. I myself am a little nervous about the new look that Stanford’s offense unveiled last week, as it was much more effective than what they’d been doing all season … How the Oregon fan base views the game? We mark it on our calendar. I know that Washington is our biggest rival, and we have the Civil War with Oregon State, but Stanford has wrecked our dreams as of late and they are without a doubt Oregon’s greatest challenger.
HW: We have to start with Marcus Mariota. His numbers are insane, but having watched him every week for the past three years, what impresses you most about him? Also, is there ANY chance he sticks around for another year? (Please say no.)
TR: Mariota is humble. We’ve seen so many other top college football stars in the past couple years (Johnny “Football” Manziel and “Famous” Jameis Winston) that have made headlines for the wrong reasons. Mariota is a breath of fresh air. He plays lights out every week, and at the end of the day he seems almost reluctant to take any of the credit. He’s a great example of how student athletes should carry themselves … Will Mariota return next season? In a perfect world, it’d be an emphatic “yes!” Realistically, it’d be crazy on his part to come back to Oregon next year. Mariota’s going to be a Top-5 pick, perhaps the first pick overall.
HW: What about Mark Helfrich? How does the fan base view him? Has he made this team his own, or is he simply carrying on what Chip Kelly built?
TR: The fan base is beginning to fully embrace Helfrich. I think that there were some that were skeptical after the way last season ended. Oregon got smashed by Arizona, and they missed out on a BCS Bowl game. People overreacted. The truth is that Helfrich is 18-3, which isn’t too shabby. As far as Chip Kelly goes … Duck fans still loves Chip Kelly; Comcast has a show called “Talkin’ Ducks” and they regularly do a segment on what Chip and the Eagles are doing. He’s that beloved.
Is Helfrich carrying on what Chip Kelly built? I mean, yeah. In a way he’s certainly building on what Kelly built, but that shouldn’t take away from what Helfrich is doing. Kelly wanted Helfrich to have this job, and I think that’s why he stayed when Tampa Bay offered him the coaching job the year before he left for Philly. Helfrich had enormous shoes to fill and he’s done it with grace. Everyone was ecstatic when Helfrich got the job because we knew that there wouldn’t be a dramatic change in the program. We also know that Helfrich will never leave us; this is his dream job.
HW: Aside from Mariota, who should fans watch for on the Oregon offense? Also, what’s the current state of the offensive line?
TR: True freshman Royce Freeman, or “Rolls Royce” as he’s called around here. The Oregon fan base knew he was going to be a beast coming into the season, and he’s really put his talents on display for the rest of the country these last couple of weeks. At 6-foot-0, 230 pounds he’s a lot bigger than the stud running backs we’ve had the past couple of years (LaMichael James, Kenjon Barner). He brings an element to Oregon’s offensive attack that we haven’t had since LaGarrette Blount. He’s an animal … The offensive line is as healthy as it’s been all year. Getting Jake Fisher back has made a huge difference, we’ve looked like the same old Ducks since he returned.
HW: How about the defense? The Ducks have been giving up a lot more points than usual. Are there any concerns there? How do you expect them to attack the Stanford offense?
TR: There are concerns on the defensive side of the ball. Just using the naked eye you can see that Oregon has trouble tackling in space, but I don’t think it’s as bad as everyone tries to make it out to be. The Ducks give up 26 points per game which is really right in the middle of the pack compared to everyone else in the nation. I have buddies that were freaking out about the points we were giving up against Cal. Well, Cal is 11th in the nation in scoring at 41.5 points per game. People also forget to consider how many snaps the defense actually plays. With the way that Oregon’s offense scores, the defense ends up on the field for a good chunk of the game … How we attack Stanford? I honestly don’t know. Stanford has beaten us in the past by running the ball relentlessly, but last week they opened up a whole new offense. I think [DC Don] Pellum and the crew are going to have to see what Stanford comes out with and adjust accordingly.
HW: Finally, what’s your prediction for the game? Give me a final score and the path that gets us there.
TR: Prediction? I hope Oregon comes out and smokes ’em. But the past two meetings would suggest otherwise, so it should be a close. I think there will be times that Stanford’s defense gives the Oregon offense trouble, but the Ducks will break a couple of big plays that will inevitably lead to touchdowns. By no means do I think Oregon drops 45+ on Stanford. (If they do, that’d be great.) Stanford’s offense should be efficient enough to make it a game. The Cardinal offense is different from most schemes that other PAC 12 teams run, so it’ll be a new challenge for the Ducks. As far as the score goes – I’ve got 28-21 Oregon with Mariota having his signature “Heisman” moment.
Top Photo by Craig Strobeck