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Game Scout: Oregon at Stanford

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KICKOFF: Thursday, 9 p.m. ET

GAMEDATE: 11/7/13

SITE: Stanford Stadium, Stanford, Calif.

TV: ESPN

SERIES: Stanford leads Oregon 45-30-1, including a 17-14 win last year that was Oregon's only loss. The Cardinal is the only team to have beaten Oregon twice in the past four seasons.

BCS RANKINGS: Oregon 3rd, Stanford 6th

KEYS TO THE GAME

Oregon puts a 19-game road winning streak up against Stanford's 13-game home winning streak on Thursday in a Pac-12 showdown that has serious BCS ramifications.

The third-ranked Ducks (8-0) will travel to Palo Alto, Calif., to face the fifth-ranked Cardinal (7-1) in a game that will likely decide the Pac-12 North Division champion for the fourth year in a row. The winner stays alive in the national championship hunt, while a loss all but eliminates 2013 title dreams.

Oregon has won 19 straight road games dating back to its last loss at Stanford on Nov. 7, 2009, exactly four years before this week's showdown with the Cardinal. Oregon has outscored its opponents 894-442 during that streak and has won 17 of the 19 games by at least 10 points.

"I feel like it is better when you are on the road because the other team's crowd gets you going," Oregon senior guard Mana Greig said. "It is great to play at Autzen Stadium, but other people's crowds get you more motivated. It is fun trying to beat somebody in their own house. It is more rewarding."

Oregon beat Arizona in double-overtime in 2009 to begin its current streak and then went 6-0 on the road in 2010, 4-0 in 2011, and 5-0 in 2012 before winning its first three road games this season. Oregon's 19-game road winning streak is the longest active streak in college football and the fourth-longest since 1900.

"Home-field advantage only happens if you let the crowd get into your head," Oregon senior safety Brian Jackson said. "You have to treat it like it doesn't matter."

First-year Oregon coach Mark Helfrich said the Ducks have the exact same gameday schedule for road games as they do at home.

"You just try to keep it is consistent as possible," Helfrich said. "Your approach, the timing, the rhythm of the day and preparation, we try to do everything the same."

Oregon and Stanford have become rivals in recent seasons as they have ruled the top of the Pac-12.

Oregon gave Stanford its lone loss in the regular season in 2010 and 2011 and the Cardinal delivered Oregon its only defeat last season. The Ducks last loss at home and on the road was against Stanford.

Stanford's last home loss was against Oregon in 2011. Since then, the Cardinal have won 13 straight road games, including eight by a touchdown or less.

Oregon running back De'Anthony Thomas hopes to be at full strength after missing four games with an ankle injury suffered on the opening kickoff against Cal. He returned against UCLA to run for 31 yards in the first half before sitting out the second half due to injury. He averaged more than 112 yards in Oregon's first three games, but has not played a full game since then. He hopes the bye week will give him enough time to be ready for the Cardinal.

"I'm feeling pretty good, ready to go," he said.

Thomas rocked the boat earlier in the week when he said Stanford shouldn't be able to hold the Ducks to 14 points again.

"I don't think so. I feel like this team, we should put up 40 (points)," Thomas said.

Even with their all-purpose star not fully healthy the past five weeks, Oregon ranks second in the nation with 331.5 rushing yards per game. Byron Marshall is averaging 109.9 yards per game and has 12 touchdowns. True freshman Thomas Tyner is averaging 6.4 yards on 68 carries, including eight touchdown runs.

Despite the talent Stanford has at the other defensive positions and despite the dominance Stanford's defense has shown in its past two games against Oregon State and UCLA, Stanford coach David Shaw knows how difficult it will be to slow Oregon's attack.

"If we're not fully manned, it ridiculously difficult," he said. "You've got to be healthy and you have to be in position, or these guys will make you look bad."

The Ducks are averaging 55.6 points this season, more than it averaged in 2012. Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota is more efficient than he was last year, with 20 touchdown passes and no interceptions while averaging 9.1 yards per rushing attempt. And big-play threat De'Anthony Thomas, who missed several games with an ankle injury, returned last week against UCLA.

Because of the injuries, Stanford may use just two defensive linemen, along with four linebackers and five defensive backs -- an alignment it has used often and successfully much of the season against the many spread offenses it has faced this year.

Even if the defense does limit the Ducks' offensive production, Stanford's offense must be more productive than it has been lately.

Quarterback Kevin Hogan was outstanding in last year's victory over Oregon, but he has been subpar in three of the Cardinal's past four games. That includes an 8-for-18, 88-yard performance in the Oct. 26 game against Oregon State.

Tight end Zach Ertz, who had 11 catches for 106 yards and one acrobatic touchdown reception against Oregon last year, is no longer around. It leaves wide receivers Ty Montgomery and Devon Cajuste as the prime threats, assuming Cajuste is available after missing the Oregon State game with a knee injury.

Also gone is Stepfan Taylor, who rushed for 161 yards against the Ducks a year ago, although Tyler Gaffney, who was not even on the roster last season, should provide a similar running threat.

The problem is that Oregon's defense is better than it was a year ago.

It adds up to a situation in which Stanford needs the breaks to fall its way to stay in the game. If it does stay close in the fourth quarter, however, the Cardinal has a knack for winning close, low-scoring games, the loss to Utah notwithstanding.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Ducks

--QB Marcus Mariota continues to be among the favorites for the Heisman Trophy after throwing for 2,281 yards and 20 touchdowns and rushing for 511 yards and nine scores. He has not thrown an interception this year and has attempted a conference-record 293 passes without an interception. He has thrown for at least one touchdown in all 21 starts and has a 20-1 record with the Ducks.

--RB Byron Marshall has run for at least 100 yards in all five conference games this season. Marshall started Oregon's first four Pac-12 games after De'Anthony Thomas was injured and ran for 130 yards against Cal, 122 against Colorado, 106 against Washington, and 192 against Washington State. Thomas returned against UCLA, but Marshall ran for 133 yards. The sophomore has multiple touchdowns in four of five conference games.

--RB De'Anthony Thomas hopes to be at full strength after missing four games with an ankle injury suffered on the opening kickoff against Cal. He returned against UCLA to run for 31 yards in the first half before sitting out the second half due to injury. He averaged more than 112 yards in Oregon's first three games, but has not played a full game since then. He hopes the bye week will give him enough time to be ready for the Cardinal. "I'm feeling pretty good, ready to go," he said.

--LB Rodney Hardrick is improving during his first season as a starter. The sophomore had eight tackles in his first three games, but 26 in his last five games. He had a season-high eight tackles against UCLA.

Cardinal

--QB Kevin Hogan is 12-1 as a starter, and he had a solid game against Oregon last year. However, he was just 8-for-18 for 88 yards against Oregon State on Oct. 26 and has had subpar performances in three of the Cardinal's last four games. He needs to be productive and efficient against Oregon. He also needs to run for gains when things break down.

--WR Ty Montgomery has emerged as a big-play threat as a receiver and kick-returner, something Stanford has lacked in recent years. He leads the team in receptions and receiving yards and is second nationally in kickoff returns, averaging 32.5 yards. The Cardinal needs at least one big play from someone, and Montgomery is the most likely candidate.

--RB Tyler Gaffney is 17th nationally in rushing, averaging 110.8 yards per game. He had 171 and 145 rushing yards in the pivotal wins over UCLA and Oregon State, respectively. He has become the Cardinal's workhorse, especially in the fourth quarter when Stanford gets ahead.

--OLB Trent Murphy is the team's big-play defender. He has 13.5 tackles for loss, 9.5 sacks, an interception, three blocked passes and one blocked kick. He is capable of turning the game around with one play. He becomes a bigger factor with DE Ben Gardner out for the rest of the season.

--DE Henry Anderson has not played since sustaining a leg injury against Army in the second game of the season. He might play against Oregon game, and if he plays effectively, he will make a major impact on the Oregon read option and Stanford's pass rush. He was a second-team all-Pac-12 selection last season and had two tackles for loss against the Ducks in 2012.
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