Washington was pretty much a preseason consensus pick to win the Pac-12 Conference North Division championship. It doesn't look quite so clear cut now.
The winner of Saturday's 5 p.m. Stanford-Oregon game will establish itself as a bonafide North Division frontrunner. And the contrasting ways Stanford (3-0) and Oregon (3-0) match up provides a number of interesting subplots.
Stanford is No. 1 in the nation in scoring defense, allowing only 7.7 points per game. Oregon, under first-year head coach Mario Cristobal, is averaging a Pac-12 Conference best 51.7 points per game.
"They go fast," said Stanford fifth-year senior outside linebacker and Oregon native Joey Alfieri. "The biggest thing is communicating. If we don't, we could get gashed pretty easily."
Bryce Love has been cleared to return to action for the Cardinal after sitting out the UC Davis game. With or without Love Stanford will try to establish the run. That's who Stanford is under David Shaw.
"The coaching tree I come from loves to run the ball on first down,'' Shaw said. "In two of our three games the defense has been saying 'we will put one more in the box than you can block.' I still try to run it.''
Oregon's defense has allowed 1.7 yards per carry. Of course that's against Portland State, Bowling Green and San Jose State, teams that are a combined 2-7. But still ...
"It's no secret we're going to run the ball,'' Shaw said. "It will be a good challenge for us this week.''
Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert (6-6, 233), "a big strong-armed athletic quarterback who throws the ball extremely well,'' according to Shaw, has thrown 12 touchdown passes. As he goes, so go the Ducks.
Stanford has allowed two touchdowns total over three games.
Whoever gets the better of these matchups will have a big leg up on being 4-0 at game's end.
The history of the series is also of interest. The Stanford-Oregon rivalry has intensified in recent years as both programs have gone through the most successful runs of their history. In the seven years since the Pac-12 North Division began Stanford and Oregon have combined for six of seven championships.
Stanford has caused Oregon some heartbreak. In 2012, the No. 1 ranked Ducks were upset by Stanford 17-14 in overtime, a loss that cost them a shot at the national championship.
So Oregon will be plenty motivated for payback and will have the advantage of the Autzen Stadium crowd.
"I've been to games at Autzen where it's high intensity," said senior running back Cameron Scarlett, who grew up in Portland. "I know what it's going to be like and I'm excited to play in a big game like this."
Stanford blasted the sound of jet engines taking off at high volume in practice this week trying to simulate the sound level the team will face in Autzen.
"There's only so much you can say to prepare," Alfieri said. "You just have to be in there to feel the noise and intensity of the crowd.''
NOTES: Former St. Francis standout Cyrus Habibi-Likio has been utilized in Oregon's short-yardage offense. He has five carries in Oregon's first three games and four of those carries have gone for touchdowns . . . Sacred Heart Prep grad Brad Yaffe has been a valuable member of Oregon's scout team as a preferred walk-on . . .The forecast in Eugene calls for a chance of morning rain, giving way to afternoon sunshine. The game-time temperature is expected to be 70 degrees ... Senior JJ Arcega-Whiteside ranks third nationally with five receiving touchdowns and 14th in yards per game with 108 ... Senior wide receiver Trenton Irwin has at least one reception in 31 consecutive games ... Fifth-year senior inside linebacker Bobby Okereke has recorded five or more tackles in 14 of the last 16 games.