Oregon's Pac-12 showdown with Stanford on "Thriller Thursday" features the Ducks as a double-digit favorite on the road against a BCS power.
Oregon, the top power-rated team in the Pac-12, is favored by 10 points at Palo Alto, Calif. The oddsmakers have it right.
They were way off last year when the Ducks lost at home as a 20-point favorite to Stanford. The Cardinal triumphed 17-14 in overtime in the Pac-12's version of LSU-Alabama.
History will not repeat itself unless you're talking about Oregon winning at Stanford, as the Ducks managed to do against Andrew Luck's bunch in 2011.
This is why Oregon will win in double-digits (and, no, revenge for last year's loss has nothing to do with it):
—Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota will do to Stanford's defense what ASU's Taylor Kelly and Washington's Keith Price did against the Cardinal in Palo Alto.
Kelly and Price operate in balanced offenses, similar to Mariota's situation. Price passed for 350 yards against Stanford. Kelly had 367. Stanford's defense is vulnerable against an effective passing offense. Mariota is talented enough to exploit that.
—The Ducks' defense holds up well against Stanford's more-hyped unit. Furthermore, dominating Stanford defensive end Ben Gardner is lost for the season with a torn pectoral muscle.
Consider: Opposing offenses have run 47 more plays against the Ducks than against Stanford because of Oregon's quick-scoring offense. Despite this, opponents have nearly as many yards against the Cardinal (2,827) than the Ducks (2,874).
—Stanford starting quarterback Kevin Hogan is 7-0 against ranked opponents but that has more to do with the Cardinal's defense. Hogan has not shown the ability to be the difference, never throwing for more than 300 yards in a game.
He passed for only 88 yards at Oregon State in the Cardinal's 20-12 win on Oct. 26. Expect Oregon to come after Hogan, who relies too much on leading receiver Ty Montgomery (39 receptions). The No. 2 receiver Devon Cajuste has only 21 catches.
Here are this week's Pac-12 football ratings:
1. Oregon (8-0 overall, 5-0 Pac-12): No team in college football has more plays of 20-plus yards (71) than Oregon, while the Ducks’ defense has allowed the fewest (19) such plays. Last week: No. 1. Postseason prediction: BCS title game vs. Alabama.
2. Stanford (7-1, 5-1): In four home games—all wins—Stanford has out-rushed opposing teams, 808-298. Stanford is 28-1 under head coach David Shaw when outrushing an opponent and 16-3 when the
Cardinal produces a 100-yard rusher. Last week: No. 2. Postseason prediction: Rose Bowl vs. Ohio State.
3. Arizona State (6-2, 4-1): Although his completion percentage is down from last season (67.1 to 62.9), Kelly is on pace to throw for 4,080 yards and 37 touchdowns, which would break school records in both categories. Last week: No. 4. Postseason prediction: Alamo Bowl vs. Oklahoma.
4. UCLA (6-2, 3-2): UCLA allowed Colorado a season-high 26 first downs for the Buffaloes, seven of which came on penalties. The Bruins had 11 penalties for 122 yards, just 17 yards shy of their rushing total. It was the most yards UCLA has lost on penalties since giving away 138 in a sloppy game against New Mexico State earlier this year. Last week: No. 5. Postseason prediction: Sun Bowl vs. Virginia Tech.
5. USC (6-3, 3-2): Where was Lane Kiffin to complain that USC did not have enough players or too many injuries traveling to Oregon State? USC announced it took 69 players to Corvallis: 14 walk-ons, nine players who are redshirting and 46 recruited scholarship players who were able to play in the 31-14 victory for USC. Last week: No. 7. Postseason prediction: Holiday Bowl vs. Texas Tech.
6. Oregon State (6-3, 4-2): Sean Mannion, 6'5", is coming off an uncharacteristic three-interception game against USC. The interceptions doubled his total over the first eight games of the season. And two of them came in the red zone. Last week: No. 3. Postseason prediction: Fight Hunger Bowl vs. BYU.
7. Washington (5-3, 2-3): The Huskies are 5-0 under Steve Sarkisian in the games immediately following a regular-season bye. They have averaged 31 points a game and allowed an average of 19 in the first tests following a week off. That includes wins at No.18 USC in 2010, over eighth-ranked Stanford last season and in September of this season, 34-24 over Illinois in Chicago. Last week: No. 6. Postseason prediction: New Mexico Bowl vs. Utah State.
8. Arizona (6-2, 3-2): Arizona quarterback B.J. Denker needs only three rushing yards Saturday against UCLA to reach the Arizona record for rushing yards (566) in a season for a quarterback. Denker has only three interceptions in his 234 attempts this season. Last week: No. 8. Postseason prediction: Las Vegas Bowl vs. Fresno State.
9. Washington State (4-5, 2-4): The Cougars had 10-plus receivers record a catch for the seventh straight game against ASU. They have had more than 10 receivers catch a pass in eight games this season. Last week: No. 9. Postseason prediction: No bowl game.
10. Utah (4-4, 1-4): Since joining the Pac-12 in 2011, Utah is 8-15 overall in conference play, including a 5-7 home record and a 3-8 road mark. The Utes were 21-3 in the Mountain West in their last three years in that conference. Last week: No. 10. Postseason prediction: No bowl game.
11. Colorado (3-5, 0-5): The Buffaloes only have nine sacks on the season, tied with Arizona for lowest in the Pac-12, and have now gone back-to-back games without one. Last Week: No. 11. Postseason prediction: No bowl game.
12. California (1-7, 0-5): The Golden Bears are ranked No. 121 out of 123 FBS teams with 540 total yards allowed per game. Portland State, an FCS team, put up 553 yards on the Bears. Last Week: No. 12. Postseason prediction: No bowl game.
Please check out Javier Morales' blog at TucsonCitizen.com.