The big game against Stanford is in Eugene, Oregon, and the Ducks are currently a three-touchdown favorite over the Cardinal.
Three touchdowns? There goes much of the intrigue factor for this game.
Why the Cardinal are three-touchdown underdogs when USC, a team Stanford beat, was only a seven-point underdog against the Ducks boggles the mind. It's even more mind-boggling when you consider that the Ducks defense looks like a MASH unit right now.
DE Jared Ebert (knee), out
LB Keloni Kamalani (shoulder), out
DT Ricky Heimuli (knee), questionable
S Isaac Dixon (undisclosed), questionable
DT Isaac Remington (undisclosed), questionable
DE Dion Jordan (shoulder), questionable
S Avery Patterson (knee), out
DT Wade Keliikipi (leg), out
DT Taylor Hart (lower leg), questionable
CB Troy Hill (undisclosed), questionable
CB Dior Mathis (undisclosed), questionable
S John Boyett (knee), out
So Chip Kelly should be out of his neon-colored feathered freaking mind right now, right?
Nah. Even though the depth of the defensive line has gone from full to slim, even though the secondary looks emancipated, Kelly will find players to fill in and pick up where the previous player(s) left off.
Kelly's revolving door of substitutions during games is no big secret. Perhaps his team's ability to maintain status quo after losing a starter to a devastating injury is a great example of why having liberal substitutions during a game is so important.
Sure, it's a damn circus on his sidelines—and a headache for statisticians—but the benefit is now paying-off; the third-stringers actually have enough game experience to not cost the Ducks a game.
Stanford has a stout O-line and D-line and a superior running game led by stud Stepfan Taylor.
Cardinal head coach David Shaw should be sending Taylor up the gut and try to make some foie gras out of those young Duck linemen.
The advantage to the Cardinal is that long, sustained drives on the ground chew up the clock and keep the Ducks offense off the field. It also tires defensive linemen who may not get as much relief during the game due to...well...a lack of relief via able-bodies from the sidelines.
If the Cardinal can keep the Ducks offense off the field, then Chip Kelly will have to rethink his game plan. He can't send his offense on a three-and-score series every time the Ducks get the ball or his defense won't get any rest. Then again, is it really his fault no one can stop his spread rushing attack in less than four plays?
Should quarterback Marcus Mariota take a knee every now and then just to give his defense more time to catch its breath?
This little nugget from ESPN pretty much captures the entire problem—or lack of problem—for the Ducks:
"Per the folks at ESPN Stats & Information, Stanford is the only FBS team that hasn't allowed a touchdown drive of three plays or fewer; it is also one of only five teams that has not allowed a touchdown in less than a minute. Oregon, of course, leads the FBS in touchdown drives that last one minute or less. Stopwatches at the ready."
Chip Kelly's playbook, while extensive, is not a big secret: veer right, veer left, veer, veer, veer. The Ducks, however, racked up "only" 180 rushing yards against Cal last week, well short of their 325 yards-per-game average.
The Ducks still won 59-17 because Mariota put on an aerial show that included six touchdowns. And that's why Chip Kelly and Co. won't be sweating this game.
They'll pretend they are worried about Stanford. They'll be diplomatic when responding to questions from the media about what concerns them most about Stanford.
They'll glowingly praise quarterback Kevin Hogan (however will they stop him?) and running back Stepfan Taylor (however will they stop him?).
They'll wear beautiful uniforms with liquid-something helmets and they'll dazzle us with their speed.
They'll go into this game knowing that even if their running game gets somewhat slowed down, their passing game is lethal.
They're 21-point favorites over a highly-ranked team. They haven't been beat all year. All this points to another no-sweat game. Another 50-plus point effort from the offense.
2012 is the Year of the Duck.
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