Marcus Mariota

Losing to Stanford last year denied Oregon the chance to play for the national championship. This year, Marcus Mariota and those around him are hoping they’ve worked out whatever kept them from beating the Cardinal last year in what has become the best game the Pac-12 has to offer.

Offense or defense? Last year, Stanford did a great job at cancelling the effectiveness of the Oregon zone blocking and ruining their running game, leading to a 17-14 win, which helped win the conference and head to the Rose Bowl. Oregon have improved when it comes to a vertical passing game, while Marcus Mariota is playing like the best player in the country.

He has thrown for 2,281 yards and 20 touchdowns; he has run for 587 yards and nine touchdowns this season. He’s completing 64% of his passes, and has yet to throw a single interception. The last time he was intercepted was in the loss to Stanford last year.

Stanford, who already picked up one loss this season in Utah are the highest ranked one-loss team at #5. Their defense is keeping teams at only 19.4 points per game, and they’re hoping that their physical approach to the game and creating advantage by numbers around the blocks will be enough to keep Oregon from their usual offensive rhythm, bringing them to score 55.6 points per game, which includes 45 against Washington and 42 against UCLA.

Stanford, coming off that loss to Utah, have done very well against both the Bruins and Oregon State, limiting the two teams to a combined 22 points. The question is: Can they slow down Oregon by that much, because Stanford themselves haven’t scored more than 27 points in three consecutive games.

It seems that it’ll come down to how much Stanford manage to get in Mariota’s head. The Sophomore isn’t making any mistakes, but he was close to that good in the 10 games prior to that loss against Stanford last year. Being able to remain mistake free and not looking phased against the 3-4 front Stanford will use to counter the Ducks will be the determining factor in who wins the game of the season in the Pac-12.

Prediction – Stanford are slightly worse than they were last season. Their defense is great, but Oregon have learned from their mistakes, and while they won’t score at their usual pace, they’ll be good enough on both sides of the ball to come up with the win and remain undefeated.