The best college football game of the Week 12 schedule is when the Stanford Cardinal travel to Autzen Stadium to play the Oregon Ducks. The matchup between two Top 15 programs will be played at 8:00 p.m. ET on ABC.
This game is more than just Oregon scoring a bunch of points and further impressing the voters in the BCS rankings. The winner of this matchup is hoping to secure the Pac-12 North Division and earn a trip to the Pac-12 Championship.
However, even with both teams ranked in the BCS and both highly competitive, it seems like nobody is giving Stanford a chance. The way Oregon has just been bullying through teams, seeing the Cardinal beat the Ducks for the first time since 2009 seems unlikely at this point.
If there is one thing college football has taught us, it is that you never say never.
Here is how Stanford could pull off a big upset this weekend and take control of the Pac-12.
Feed Stepfan Taylor as Much as Possible
Though Stanford's freshman quarterback, Kevin Hogan, has played well the last two games, he is still a young signal-caller that can't be relied on to win games just yet. He can make plays with his feet and has a strong arm, but at the end of the day, Hogan is still a freshman who has only started one game in his short career.
The guy who is going to produce the most on the offensive side of the ball for Stanford is senior running back Stepfan Taylor. There is a reason he is seventh in the country with 225 carries this season and he has received over 20 carries in seven of the 10 games played.
Taylor is averaging close to five yards a carry and has cleared the 1,000-yard mark for the third consecutive season. In order for Stanford to have a chance, the coaching staff must rely on its senior running back to drag this game out and keep the squad in the game.
This will do two things: help move the chains for the Cardinal and keep that explosive Oregon offense on the sidelines. The fewer possessions the Ducks have with the football, the fewer opportunities they have to blow you out of the stadium.
Oregon is completely banged up on the defensive side of the ball, as the key members on the defensive line are all suffering from injury issues and missed playing time last week. This forced the coaching staff to resort to three true freshmen at times, according to the AP (via CBS Sports).
This just gives Stanford even more reason to keep the ball in its playmakers' hands.
Taylor is a physical back that can wear down a defense over time, especially a young defense that hasn't had much playing experience. He has rushed for over 100 yards in six games this year and is averaging a solid four yards a carry in the fourth quarter.
Stanford has to be impressed with the play of Hogan, but big games are won by big-time players, so Taylor should be the guy that is looked for on the offensive side of the ball.
Prevent Big Plays
It is a given that Oregon is going to score points. We are talking about an offense that averages 54 points and well over 550 yards a game. It doesn't matter how good your defense is, Oregon is going to move the football and get into the end zone.
It all comes down to how many times you allow Oregon to run all over you and pick up first down after first down. You aren’t going to completely shut this unit down, but you can slow it down and prevent further fireworks.
Stanford has the best defense in the Pac-12 and has only allowed 12 plays that have gone for more than 30 yards all season long. It is also one of the few teams that have a physical defensive front that could make things interesting in slowing down this Oregon offense.
Who wins the Pac-12 matchup?
The Cardinal has a very big and athletic front seven that is in large part responsible for the team leading the country with 42 sacks. If the team can continue to put pressure on the quarterback and make plays in the backfield, Stanford will likely do a better job of bottling up this Oregon offense than any other team has done all year.
Remember, this was a defense that held Oregon to only 387 total yards last season, which was the third-fewest allowed all of last year against Chip Kelly's offense.
As long as the offense doesn't put the defense in bad field position and gives it rest by staying out of three-and-outs, the defense should be able to do its job and give Stanford a chance to shock the college football world.
Note: All stats come from cfbstats.com unless otherwise noted.