The Oregon Ducks are set to take on their toughest conference opponent of the season on Saturday, traveling down to the bay area to take on the Stanford Cardinal.
Stanford is 2-2 on the season, with losses against Kansas State in the opener and UCLA last weekend. They beat USC in Week 2 – a win that now looks less impressive after the Trojans imploded against the Beavers last Saturday.
Still, the Cardinal have always played the Ducks tough, and quarterback Tanner McKee and Stanford’s efficient offense could make things interesting on Saturday.
Below are three keys to victory for Oregon, things they’ll need to do if they want to secure their fifth straight win to begin the season.
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Stanford is currently allowing a conference worst 209 rushing yards per game. They’ve done a decent job in pass protection, with eight sacks and three interceptions, so Oregon’s best bet is to run the ball early and often with the two-headed monster of CJ Verdell and Travis Dye.
Running a lot early will force Stanford’s defense to stay on the field, and will burn some clock while allowing Anthony Brown to eventually do some damage through the air. If Oregon gets a lead early, expect to see a lot of Dye and Verdell as the game goes on.
Letting Kayvon loose
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Thibodeaux is not expected to have a pitch count on Saturday, meaning the elite edge defender is a full-go against the Cardinal.
While this could change either leading up to the game or during the game if he tweaks anything, or if the team doesn’t feel they need him, his presence should have a big impact on this contest.
Stanford’s offense has hummed along quite well this season, with a pair of solid running backs in Nathaniel Peat and Austin Jones and an even better passing attack, led by quarterback Tanner McKee.
However, feeling pressure off the edge from Thibodeaux all game long will no doubt impact McKee’s ability to do his job for the Cardinal – making Kayvon a key piece to this contest, even if he’s not playing every snap.
Turn Tanner McKee over
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In some ways this game is an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object. Stanford quarterback Tanner McKee has yet to throw an interception this year, making him one of the most efficient quarterback’s in the country.
Meanwhile, Oregon’s secondary is absolutely elite at forcing turnovers, and the Ducks as a whole have one of the best turnover margins in the entire country.
If Oregon is able to force McKee into making mistakes, or at least can force a fumble or two, it will go a long way toward securing their fifth straight victory to begin the campaign.