2012 was a very good year for Stanford football. The Cardinal posted a 12-2 record with victories over USC, UCLA (twice), Oregon and Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl game.
The numbers suggest Stanford is the king of the Pac-12 North.
Stanford led the conference in total defense. Oregon's defense was ranked sixth, slightly above USC's. While Stanford received accolades for its defense, Oregon's defense was criticized—sometimes unfairly—by fans. Many of the points given up by its defense were in the second half of a game with its reserves on the field.
Oregon's offense averaged more than 537 yards per game. That mind-numbing statistic made Oregon the No. 1 offense in the Pac-12.
Is Oregon's offense or Stanford's defense the more important statistic in determining the king of the Pac-12 North? The final score in head-to-head competition trumps all statistics.
Stanford beat Oregon 17-14 in overtime on November 17 at Autzen Stadium in Eugene, Ore. The Ducks averaged 49.6 points per game, yet the Cardinal held them to just 14 points.
Stanford was primarily known for its defense. Its 411 total offensive yards exceeded its own average of 374.4 per game in 2012—it also bested the Ducks' 405 total yards, which was well below their average.
Stanford's defense gave up an average of 17.2 points per game. The Cardinal held the Ducks below its scoring average. Oregon's defense allowed an average of 21.6 points per game and it too held Stanford below its average.
Prior to its game with Stanford, Oregon had been riding a 13-game winning streak with a 42-points-per-game average, according to ESPN. Oregon had never been held scoreless in the first quarter of any of its games in 2012. It had scored 190 points in its previous 10 games' first quarters, according to a graphic shown on ABC's game broadcast (26:46 mark in video below).
Stanford snapped all of those streaks in one of the most inhospitable stadiums in the country.
Oregon's offense is exciting, fast-paced and prolific. Its offense is often described as uptempo, but the Ducks' speed is not attributed to getting the play off quickly. The offense will hustle to the line of scrimmage, sometimes without a huddle. But it often waits at the line for the play to be called in and for quarterback Marcus Mariota to make his reads before snapping the ball.
Stanford runs a pro-set offense that features power running and extensive use of the tight end. Like Alabama, Stanford has a balanced offense. It also runs the ball to sustain long drives, wear down the defense and keep its opponent's offense off the field.
Alabama has won three of the past four BCS Championships with a style of play similar to that of Stanford. The last time Stanford was crowned a national champion was in 1926. Oregon has never fielded a championship team, although it did play for the title in 2010. Oregon lost to Auburn 22-19.
David Shaw is in his third year as head coach at Stanford. He was named Pac-12 Coach of the Year in 2011 and 2012. With a 23-4 overall record and a 1-1 bowl record, Shaw will be courted by the NFL, just as his predecessor, Jim Harbaugh, was.
For now, Shaw is entrenched in the Pac-12. Barring any shocking upsets in the North, Stanford and Oregon will continue to be the division's heavyweights. Both are legitimate BCS Championship contenders.
Oregon and Stanford will face each other on Thursday night, November 7.
If Stanford walks away with another victory over Oregon, not only will it be king of the North, it may be vying for king of the BCS on January 6.
So will Oregon.
It's good to be king. Right now, Stanford is king. On November 7, a new coronation may take place. Or its reign may continue.