Oregon sophomore defensive back Erick Dargan will need to be counted upon to come up big in place of the injured Avery Patterson.
Throughout the college football season, DuckTerritory will examine the "3 keys" to Oregon victory leading up to each of their games this year. In this season’s eleventh installment, we'll take a look at what it will take for the Ducks to knock off the No. 13 Stanford Cardinal this Saturday at Autzen Stadium.
1. Make Hogan Be Heroic
As has been well documented this week leading up to Saturday's matchup between the Cardinal and the Ducks, Stanford sophomore quarterback Kevin Hogan will be making his first road start of the season in front of a raucous, sellout crowd at Autzen Stadium. Since assuming the reigns from Josh Nunes as Stanford's starting quarterback, Hogan has completed 76.9 percent of his passes for 438 yards and five touchdowns against two interceptions; impressive numbers that were compiled against a hopelessly bad Colorado team and an upstart Oregon State squad with a tough defense. Saturday's test figures to present a much different challenge, however. Not only will Hogan be forced to perform well in a hostile environment, but he will be facing an Oregon defense that has been surprisingly good against the pass (allowing 230.6 ypg) despite suffering a rash of injuries of late to the secondary. The Ducks will be as thin as they've ever been at defensive back this week against the Cardinal, but the goal nonetheless should remain the same: Force Hogan to air it out. This means shutting down a potent Stanford rushing attack led by star running back Stepfan Taylor and a physical offensive line that will be leaning against a battered Oregon defensive line that is coming off several injuries. Controlling the line of scrimmage could be the difference between a blowout win or a close game that isn't decided till late in the fourth quarter.
2. Continue Executing Flawlessly On Offense
The Oregon offense has delivered game in and game out for Oregon head coach Chip Kelly this season, but will need to continue it's impressive play against quite possibly the best defense the Ducks will face this season. Coming in to Saturday's game, the Cardinal lead the nation in rush defense, allowing 58.6 yards per game and limiting teams to a little over two yards per rush (2.02). With Oregon boasting the nation's third best rushing offense at 325.1 yards per game, this matchup is indeed a classic case of the unstoppable force versus the immovable object. The Stanford secondary has proven to be a below average unit against the pass this season, thus perhaps providing Oregon redshirt freshman sensation quarterback Marcus Mariota with yet another opportunity to show why he's worthy of Heisman consideration. Maintaining some sense of balance offensively and sticking to the successful script of forcing Stanford to defend you in space could be the key to the Ducks moving to 11-0.
3. Send Your Seniors Out Right
For 15 scholarship seniors, Saturday's game versus Stanford could potentially be the final time any of them play a down of football inside Autzen Stadium ever again. With so much riding on the line for the Ducks as the season winds to a close, earning a win over Stanford would not only be a tremendous accomplishment for this team, but a tremendous accomplishment for a senior class that will go down as one of the winningest all-time in the history of the Oregon football program. The challenge the Cardinal pose is a significant one and one that the Ducks likely won't face again unless they are fortunate enough make it to a second straight Pac-12 Championship Game. Playing for and relying upon their outstanding senior class could be the extra momentum it takes for Oregon to continue their pursuit of a second national title appearance in three seasons.