The No. 2 Oregon Ducks take on the No. 13 Stanford Cardinal in Eugene, Oregon this coming Saturday. The Ducks can clinch their spot in the Pac-12 Conference Championship game with a win. Will Stanford be able to take down Chip Kelly's explosive offensive and keep its conference championship hopes alive?
In the last two years the Ducks have taken down the Cardinal with big wins.
Here are the keys Oregon needs to utilize to take down Stanford for a third consecutive year.
After a huge week against USC, Oregon running back Kenjon Barner laid an egg against a not-so-great Cal defense. Barner had 65 total yards against the Golden Bears, which is far from his season average of 136 rushing yards per game. His struggles may have been due to a hand injury that occurred in the first half and seemed to be bothering him throughout the game.
Coming into Saturday, Stanford has the top rushing defense in the country. On average the Cardinal allow under 60 rushing yards per game.
If Oregon wants to control this game, it has to get its running game going. It's key for the Oregon line to consistently create space for the backs to run through. If they do, Kenjon Barner could have another USC-like night.
With many injuries on the Oregon defensive line in the last few weeks, it will be interesting to see how the Ducks fare against the powerful rushing attack of Stanford.
If Oregon can corral Cardinal running back Stepfan Taylor, they should gain back some respect from their last two defensive games.
If Oregon has trouble with the rushing attack and has to resort to loading the box with eight men, this could be a long game for the defensive backs.
With players such as Dion Jordan, Taylor Hart, Isaac Remington and Ricky Heimuli coming back this week, Oregon should look better than it did against Cal.
These players coming back and making an impact will be huge for Nick Aliotti and the Oregon defense this week.
With Stanford coming in with the top rushing defense in the nation, along with being No. 1 in sacks, it will not only be important for the Oregon offensive line to open holes for Kenjon and company, but to also keep numerous Cardinal defenders off the back of Marcus Mariota.
If the Cardinal get good penetration early in this game it could get ugly for Oregon. The offensive line has lost key players this season to injury. Luckily, Oregon has great depth and filled those positions with great athletes.
Oregon's line has been consistent this season, and that's exactly what they need to continue to be on Saturday to help clinch their spot in the Pac-12 Championship game.
There will be times in this game when Stanford will be able to stop Oregon's rushing attack. When that happens it will be time for receivers like De'Anthony Thomas, Josh Huff, Bralon Addison and Colt Lyerla to step up and make catches.
With Marcus Mariota dropping back against the nation's leader in sacks, he will need look for short routes to convert on. This means that the ball will be coming in fast and in traffic. It will be key for Oregon's receivers to secure those passes not only for the yardage, but to keep Mariota's throwing confidence up.
De'Anthony Thomas has been quiet lately. That type of talent can't be quiet for too long—can it? Quiet enough for teams to start keying on Barner and Mariota instead of Thomas? To avoid this, Chip Kelly will look to create space for DAT and exploit the Cardinal defense.
It will be key for De'Anthony to show up in every aspect of the game. Offense, special teams—and there was talk of him playing defense in practice this week.
Who knows, maybe he'll intercept a pass for six!
It doesn't matter how he does it, Thomas needs to show up.