Oregon Football: Keys to Beating Stanford in Pivotal Pac-12 Showdown

Rick Weiner@RickWeinerNYFeatured ColumnistNovember 17, 2012

BERKELEY, CA - NOVEMBER 10:  Josh Huff #1 and Keanon Lowe #7 of the Oregon Ducks celebrates after Huff scored on a thirty-four yard touchdown pass against the California Golden Bears in the third quarter of an NCAA College football game at California Memorial Stadium on November 10, 2012 in Berkeley, California. the Ducks won the game 59-17 (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

It's a must-win game for No. 2 Oregon (10-0) on Saturday night when they welcome No. 13 Stanford (8-2) into Autzen Stadium for a Pac-12 game that has far reaching implications, both in the conference and in the BCS Standings.

A win by Oregon assures them of a spot in the Pac-12 Championship Game and puts them one step closer to playing in the BCS National Championship Game, while a loss to Stanford would crush both of those dreams, and would putt the Cardinal in the driver's seat of the Pac-12 North division.

Here's what the Ducks need to do to ensure that they emerge victorious against their conference foes.

Oregon's Offensive Line Must Win Battle in the Trenches

Stanford's defense, ranked 17th overall, is one of the best in the nation, and they have the horses up front to cause havoc for Oregon in both the running and passing games.

Defensive Ends Ben Gardner and Henry Anderson have the speed and strength to get past blockers, while 305-pound (if you believe his listed weight) nose guard Terrence Stephens demands a double team.

Between their front four and an incredibly talented group of linebackers in Trent Murphy, Shane Skov and Chase Thomas, Oregon cannot afford to miss an assignment or get fooled by stunts and allow the holes they open for Kenjon Barner and De'Anthony Thomas to close before the ball is even handed off.

Confuse and Harass Stanford QB Kevin Hogan

Hogan is making only his second career start, and while the redshirt freshman led Stanford to a 27-23 victory over No. 13 Oregon State last week, his inexperience showed.

Also, that was in the comfort of Stanford Stadium, with the crowd behind him.

How is he going to handle the atmosphere at Autzen Stadium in a prime-time game? 

Oregon—who is expected to get a number of key defenders back onto the field this week, including defensive tackles Issac Remington, Taylor Hart and Ricky Heimuli—isn't quite as vulnerable as some would have you believe.

The Ducks will have the horses back to get after Hogan, and disguising what they are trying to do on defense will lead to turnovers. For Marcus Mariota and the Ducks' offense, a short field is virtually a lock to result in a touchdown.

Contain Stanford RB Stepfan Taylor

Stanford's senior tailback is one of the best running backs in the country, averaging nearly five yards per carry and with more than 1,000 yards rushing on the season.

He's found success in each of his past two games against the Ducks, carrying the ball 40 times for 212 yards and a touchdown while contributing 11 receptions for 74 yards as well.

But Stanford lost each of those games, and with the reinforcements that Oregon is getting in their defensive front seven, Taylor will find it tougher to run the ball against the Ducks than other teams have recently.

With an inexperienced Hogan under center and no real playmakers on the outside, Taylor is unquestionably Stanford's biggest weapon on offense.

Stopping him will be the biggest thing that Oregon's defense can do to ensure victory for the Ducks,