Down went Oregon. Stanford, a double-digit underdog, upset the Ducks 26-20, in a game that was not that close. The Cardinal still must play USC and Cal. But, barring help, Oregon cost itself both a BCS title game place it had locked down and the Pac 12 North. Stanford stopped Oregon from being Oregon. Oregon could not stop Stanford from being Stanford. The Cardinal painted a MANBALL Masterpiece, dominating possession and rushing Tyler Gaffney 45 times at 3.5 yards per carry.
Stanford played very well, but is not a juggernaut. Responsibility rests with Oregon, who did not execute. The Ducks lost two fumbles, both ending sustained drives. Their first two trips to the red zone yielded zero points. They were whistled for 10 penalties. They didn’t convert third downs. Most importantly, they could not get Stanford off the field. The Cardinal were successful on 14 of 21 third down attempts and sat on the ball. Oregon’s offense never found a rhythm. It’s not a fortuitous sign when the Ducks run just 58 plays.
Some of that may be a product of their system. It’s tough to criticize a team for being too dominant. Oregon overwhelms just about everyone it plays. A side-effect, however, appears to be the Ducks not being seasoned in contentious situations. They may play one “fight for four quarters” football game per year. That game comes down to fundamental things: making field goals, getting a defensive stop, managing time correctly, calling the right play in a specific moment and executing it. That’s the type of game Oregon has not won the past few years. That has been the difference between being fun to watch and winning a BCS title.
To be fair, Oregon was hamstrung on offense. Marcus Mariota’s knee injury was a factor. He threw the ball reasonably well. But he could not run. When your offense is predicated on the QB being an option in the run game and being able to to take off at any moment in the passing game, that’s a disaster, especially against a Stanford-caliber defense.
How voters react to Stanford will be interesting. Computer rankings love the Cardinal’s schedule strength. Using Jeff Sagarin’s ratings (before the Oregon game), Stanford is (No. 12) compared to Alabama (No. 47), Florida State (No. 54), Ohio State (No. 81) and Baylor (No. 93). Stanford’s SOS, with USC, Notre Dame and the Pac 12 South Champ still to play, won’t dip. They will have a significant advantage there when compared with Baylor or Ohio State. Do voters downgrade them for the Utah loss or reward them for having more impressive wins than both teams combined?
Stanford won’t get in ahead of Florida State or Alabama. But, should either team lose, it becomes a very interesting discussion for who deserves that second place in the game. If the Cardinal win out, they would be a part of it.
[Photo via USA Today Sports]