Three days till kickoff between No. 13 Stanford and No. 2 Oregon and one thing remains crystal clear: The Cardinal defense will be best the defense that the Ducks have faced this season.
Communication along the offensive line will be of the utmost importance Saturday as Oregon prepares to take on a talented Stanford defense.
At least that's what Oregon head coach Chip Kelly would have you believe.
Truthfully, the proof is in the pudding when it comes to evaluating Stanford on defense. They possess the best run defense in the country -- allowing 58.6 yards per game, which is nearly 16 yards better than the next closest team -- and have tremendous experience at each level, giving them more than a puncher's chance to walk in to Autzen Stadium and score the biggest upset in the country this side of Texas A&M-Alabama. According to Kelly, it all starts with Stanford's outstanding depth and production at linebacker.
"It's everything," said Kelly of the Cardinal linebacking unit. "They're talented. They've got two great outside [linebackers] in (Chase) Thomas and (Trent) Murphy and Shayne Skov and (A.J.) Tarpley inside.
"They've got depth too, so they're not just playing four, they're rotating, too. They're really, really good. The strength of that football team is that front seven and it starts with those four linebackers. They're big, they can run, they're smart, they understand their scheme really well; they're as good a group of linebackers as we'll face all year long."
For Oregon senior offensive lineman Nick Cody, it all boils down to communication pre-snap between the offensive lineman. Cody says this is critical in trying stem the pressure Stanford intends to create with their aforementioned talented front seven.
"They do a great job of disguising what they're doing, but sometimes that can be a liability in coverage," remarked Cody. "We've got to do a great job of recognizing when things are just a little bit different...but a lot of our tempo should help with that. If we just keep running the ball and lining up as fast as we can, hopefully we can get the ball off before we even see the blitz.
"Chase Thomas and Trent Murphy are very, very tough off the edge," Cody continued. "We've got to do a great job communicating when blocking those guys or working to the interior guys like No. 11 (Shayne Skov). They're tough inside and I think the biggest thing is, we're going to be challenged a lot this week to just come off play physical and show people we aren't just a speed team, we're a physical team, too."
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