The Stanford football team will be facing its seventh Pac-12 Conference opponent on Thursday. It will be the fifth ranked opponent for the Cardinal.
Oregon (5-0, 8-0) has revenge on its mind. The Ducks felt a little ripped off by their 17-14 overtime loss that cost them a berth in the BCS Championship game.
Stanford (5-1, 7-1) feels like the rivalry is just beginning to heat up as the teams have split their four previous meetings.
The Cardinal broke through last year, winning its first conference title of the millennium. Beating the Ducks was the key to the season.
"It was a combination of a lot of things," Stanford coach David Shaw said of last year's win. "We made open field tackles, we got stand out performances and stand out plays. We had a good running game. When you have all those things come together, it gives you a chance to beat a great team like that."
Oregon is geared to take advantage of defensive lapses. If there's one guy out of position, the Ducks will work their magic.
"The hardest part is getting them on the ground," Shaw said. "If you miss a 1-on-1 tackle, most times there is no one left."
Stanford somehow found a way to be in the right place at the right time for most of last year's game.
"First and foremost it's getting lined up," Shaw said. "They are still the fastest team in the nation. If there's one guy out of position it's a touchdown. If you're out of position when the ball is snapped, you can't recover."
Stanford also realizes another way to give itself a chance is to keep possession of the football and limit Oregon's chances. It's what the Cardinal did last year against everybody. It's not happening thus far this season.
"No one talks about Nick Aliotti (Oregon's defensive coordinator)," Shaw said. "That defense is phenomenal on third downs and awesome in the red zone. They get takeaways. They play a lot of guys and they are never out of position."
Shaw was surprised to learn the Ducks were only favored by 10 (on Monday).
"I thought it would be higher," he said. "They've played as well as anyone in the country and we haven't."
Stanford free safety Ed Reynolds looks at Oregon's quarterback Marcus Mariota and sees an improved version of the guy who played last year.
"He doesn't force the ball and when he sees a running lane, he'll take it," Reynolds said. "He's got a great arm, accurate and he knows where the sweet spots are. As a runner he's explosive. We can't let him get loose."
When Cardinal defensive back Alex Carter heard Mariota has yet to throw an interception, his response was "maybe it's time for him to throw one."
Easier said than done, though, and Carter is aware of Mariota and the Ducks' offensive potency.
"He has a lot of skills," Carter said. "He reads defenses well, he's very good on his feet and he's good at making things happen. It's about us doing our jobs."
Stanford has won 30 of its past 31 games played in the state of California. The only blemish? A loss to Oregon, 53-30, two years ago.
In the 13 games between Stanford's overtime wins against the Ducks (27-24 in 1996), Oregon averaged 44 points a game against Stanford.
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