As impressive as Stanford's performance was in its 17-14 overtime upset of No. 2 Oregon on the road on Nov. 17, the Cardinal may not get where it wants to go unless it beats UCLA twice on consecutive weekends.
To win the Pac-12 North Division and earn a berth in the conference title game, Stanford probably has to beat UCLA on the Bruins' home field in the stadium known as the Rose Bowl on Nov. 24. Then, to get to the game known as the Rose Bowl, Stanford would have to beat the Pac-12 South champion Bruins again in the Pac-12 championship game at Stanford six days later on Nov. 30.
The Cardinal will have more incentive than the Bruins in the Nov. 24 meeting because UCLA has already clinched a berth in the conference title game with its 38-28 victory over USC.
But if the Cardinal loses to UCLA on Nov. 24 and Oregon beats Oregon State the same day, the Ducks will represent the Pac-12 North in the conference championship game against the Bruins.
So, somehow, the Cardinal must refocus after pulling off one of the greatest victories in Stanford history, a game in which the Cardinal's defense held the nation's highest scoring team 40 points under its average.
Stanford (9-2, 7-1 in the Pac-12) had stayed with the speedy Ducks for a half in previous meetings, leading by seven two years ago and trailing by just six last season. But Stanford had been outscored 59-14 in the second halves of those games as Oregon simply wore down the Cardinal defense with its offensive speed and up-tempo attack.
This time the Cardinal defense had the depth and speed to stay with Oregon (10-1, 7-1), scoring a tying touchdown with 1:35 left in regulation on a spectacular catch by tight end Zach Ertz and winning it on Jordan Williamson's 37-yard field goal in the first overtime period.
But it was the defense that won this game for the Cardinal, which came out on top even though it turned the ball over three times at rainy Autzen Stadium, probably the toughest venue for visiting teams on the West Coast.
The Ducks had scored 42 points or more 13 straight times and 30 points or more in 23 consecutive games, both FBS records. But the Ducks did not even get halfway to that 30-point total against Stanford's defense in a game that included an overtime period.
The Cardinal outgained Oregon on the ground and through the air.
Oregon's two Heisman hopefuls -- quarterback Marcus Mariota and running back Kenjon Barner -- were outplayed by their Stanford counterparts -- quarterback Kevin Hogan (who completed 25 of 36 passes for 211 yards, a touchdown and an interception) and running back Stepfan Taylor, who rushed for 161 yards.
Mariota was 21-for-37 for 207 yards, one touchdown and one interception, but he did not produce many big plays. He had 89 yards rushing, but 77 of those came on one run early in the game, and the Ducks failed to score on that drive.
Barner was limited to 66 yards on 21 carries, a 3.1 yards-per-carry average. That was a significant factor for the Cardinal, which was a three-touchdown underdog in the game despite being No. 13 in the BCS standings.
WHAT'S AHEAD: Stanford plays at UCLA on Nov. 24. The Bruins (9-2) clinched a berth in the Pac-12 title game by beating USC 38-28 on Nov. 17, and Stanford would assure itself a spot in that conference title game by beating UCLA. However, Stanford would get to the Pac-12 championship game if it loses to UCLA and Oregon loses to Oregon State. The Bruins have won five games in a row and have scored 38 points or more in each of the past four.
--Stanford could get to the Pac-12 title game in one of two ways. If it beats UCLA on Nov. 24, the Cardinal assures itself a berth in the championship game. If the Cardinal loses to UCLA, it would still get to the Pac-12 title game if Oregon loses to rival Oregon State on Nov. 24. In the latter occurs, Oregon, Oregon State and Stanford would finish in a three-way tie for the Pac-12 North title with 7-2 records, but Stanford would earn the berth in the conference title game by virtue of its victories over Oregon and Oregon State in their head-to-head meetings. If Stanford beats UCLA on Nov. 24, the Pac-12 title game would be at Stanford. If the Cardinal loses to UCLA on Nov. 24 but still gets into the conference title game, the championship game would be played on UCLA's home field.
--The 14 points scored by Oregon was the Ducks' lowest point total in a game since it lost to USC 44-10 on Oct. 4, 2008. It was the Ducks' lowest output at home since 2006.
--Stanford had been among the nation's leaders in ball security, committing just 10 turnovers over the first nine games. But Stanford committed seven turnovers in its pivotal games against Oregon State on Nov. 10 and Oregon on Nov. 17, yet won both games despite being minus-5 in turnover margin.
--In both the Oregon State game and the Oregon game, redshirt freshman Kevin Hogan led a late drive for a critical score, both times passing to Zach Ertz for the key touchdown. He threw a 13-yard scoring pass to Ertz with 5:07 left in the game for the go-ahead score in a 27-23 victory over Oregon State, and he tossed a 10-yard TD pass to Ertz for the tying touchdown with 1:35 left against Oregon. Ertz made a juggling catch with an Oregon defender draped all over him. It was originally ruled incomplete, but it was changed to a touchdown when the replay official ruled Ertz's right shoulder had landed inbounds an instant before his left shoulder touched down beyond the back of the end zone.
--Stanford has wins this season over teams that were ranked No. 2 (USC) and No. 1 (Oregon) in the Associated Press poll at the time of the game.
KEEP AN EYE ON: ILBs Shayne Skov and A.J. Tarpley have not received as much acclaim as OLBs Chase Thomas and Trent Murphy this season, but Tarpley and Skov were the stars of the Cardinal's victory over Oregon, demonstrating why the Cardinal's four-man linebacking corps may be the best in the country. Skov had a team-high 10 tackles, including one for a loss, and although Tarpley had only five tackles, he seemed to be involved in nearly every critical defensive play. He had an interception that ended Oregon's threat late in the first half, broke up another pass and also had a tackle for a loss.
LOOKING GOOD: The Cardinal defense did not have its best game statistically, but its performance against Oregon's high-powered offense was its best defensive effort of the season. The Ducks had scored at least 42 points in each of its first 10 games but managed just 14 in four quarters plus an overtime against Stanford. Twice Stanford turnovers gave Oregon good field position -- once at the Oregon 46-yard line and once at the Cardinal 39 -- but Oregon failed to score any points either time. The Cardinal also stopped Oregon on both of the Ducks' fourth-down attempts -- once on a fourth-and-two at the Cardinal 7-yard line in the first quarter and once on a fourth-and-four at the Stanford 38 in the second quarter. Perhaps the most impressive defensive series came in overtime, when the Ducks managed just one yard on three plays before Alejandro Maldonado missed a 42-yard field goal that bounced off the left upright.
STILL NEEDS WORK: Turnovers would have been the culprit if Stanford had lost. Stanford turned the ball over three times against Oregon after turning the ball over four times against Oregon State the previous week -- a minus-5 turnover margin in those two games. Stanford had been among the nation's best in ball security until those two games.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "You didn't see any of those long runs go for touchdowns. That's something we addressed the last two years in our recruiting. We are faster on the back end. We've got speed." -- Stanford coach David Shaw, on the difference from the previous two seasons, when Oregon's speed enabled it to rip off a number of long scoring plays in lopsided victories over the Cardinal.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
--Redshirt freshman QB Kevin Hogan was 25-for-36 for 211 yards, one touchdown and one interceptions. For the season he has completed 74.2 percent of his passes with seven touchdowns and three picks. He is 2-0 in his career as a starter, beating two nationally ranked teams, Oregon State and Oregon, and leading fourth-quarter rallies both times.
--TB Stepfan Taylor had 161 rushing yards on 33 carries, giving him 1,222 yards for the season and leaving him eight yards shy of 4,000 yards rushing for his career.
--TE Zach Ertz had 11 catches for 106 yards and a touchdown against Oregon, and he leads the team in receptions with 58 (twice as many as the team's No. 2 receiver), receiving yardage with 747 (370 yards more than anyone else on the team) and in touchdown catches with six.
--OLB Trent Murphy had two tackles for losses, giving him 15.5 for the season.
--TB Anthony Wilkerson did not travel with the team to Oregon because of an undisclosed injury. It's uncertain whether he will play against UCLA.
--RB Stepfan Taylor had not fumbled at all in the first nine games, but he fumbled the ball away for the second straight week against Oregon on Nov. 17.
--K Jordan Williamson had missed what would have been a game-winning 35-yard field goal on the final play of regulation time in last season's overtime loss to Oklahoma State in the Fiesta Bowl, so his game-winning 37-yard field goal against Oregon provided some redemption.