The first ever Pac-12 Championship Game will be played on Dec. 2 in the stadium of the highest ranked team. That is technically when the BCS representative for the conference will be chosen.
In reality, though, it is very likely that the champion of this conference will essentially be chosen on Saturday night in Palo Alto. With USC not eligible for the postseason, Oregon and Stanford are clearly the two best teams in the conference, and it’s not even close.
Every other team in the Pac-12 has lost at least two conference games, but these two are both undefeated. They are also both loaded with talent and very well coached. It should be one heck of a battle.
While the stakes are obviously high for the Ducks, they are far higher for Stanford. Oregon would need a whole lot of help to make the BCS Championship Game since they are carrying a bad loss to LSU around with them. Stanford, though, still has a very good chance to make the title game.
If LSU or Oklahoma State loses, Stanford would likely move up assuming they remain undefeated. Outside of this game it’s very much in the Cardinal's control to go undefeated, too. That means that not only is this game a de facto Pac-12 Championship Game, but for Stanford it’s also a de facto national championship playoff game.
That would be a whole lot of pressure for any program, never mind one that doesn’t have a long history of top-level success. Both teams have a lot on the line here, but make no mistake—the main storyline here is all about Stanford.
Oregon at Stanford Betting Storylines
Andrew Luck is going to win the Heisman Trophy. Or at least he will if he wins this game, or looks very good in a loss. He’s also almost certain to be the first overall pick in the upcoming NFL Draft.
He has it all, but it won’t mean nearly as much if he doesn’t come through here. As competitive as he is, Lucks surely wants to wash away the sour taste of the meeting between these squads last year when Oregon crushed Stanford by three touchdowns.
Luck threw for 341 yards and two touchdowns in that matchup, but he also threw two costly and uncharacteristic interceptions that had a huge impact on the outcome of the game. Stanford just plain wasn’t good enough last year.
This year Luck and company clearly believe that they are and he’s the biggest factor in proving it.
If the Cardinal do want to prove that they are legitimate championship contenders then they need to find a way to get their whole team clicking at once. They have had many moments of brilliance on offense this year and several times when the defense has looked other-worldly as well.
The problem, though, is that offense and defense have only rarely been at full throttle at the same time. They haven’t needed to be against the light schedule that they have played this year. Oregon, however, is in a whole new class, and we know they can score pretty much at will—especially now that they are healthy again.
The Stanford defense needs to find a way to slow down the Ducks and the Cardinal offense needs to maintain their momentum throughout.
The Cardinal offense will have to work without a couple of key pieces. Receiver Chris Owusu is out with concussion issues, and tight end Zach Ertz is likely to miss another game with a knee injury. Those two have combined for more than a quarter of the receiving yards for the team this year, so Luck will have to get creative and find new pieces to work with.
The Cardinal also need to find a way to play 60 minutes this time around. Last week Stanford played very tight football in the first half, but they couldn’t keep up after the break.
Last weekend we had the latest "Game of the Century" with LSU defeating Alabama 9-6 in overtime. You can’t help but respect both defenses immensely. There is an inescapable truth, though—that game was boring. Really boring.
The stakes aren’t quite the same in this matchup, but here’s hoping the Pac-12 can show the SEC how to play a massive game. At the very least, chances are extremely good that this one won’t be won just by field goals.
Oregon at Stanford Betting Odds and Trends
Stanford opened as three point favorites according to college football odds—which is essentially the home field advantage given by oddsmakers. The spread has climbed to 3.5 since then, though betting action has been split almost evenly between the two teams.
The total opened at a high level (65.5) and is climbing even higher. It can now be found as high as 68.5.
Stanford is an impressive 21-6-1 ATS in their last 28 games, and are the only team in the country that has covered every spread they have faced this season. Oregon has covered seven of the last nine meetings between these two teams, though Stanford is 2-1 ATS in the last three editions of the budding rivalry.
Oregon at Stanford Predictions and College Football Picks
I’m all about Stanford in this one. I am concerned that they are taking a step up in class of competition, but outside of LSU, Oregon hasn’t played anyone, either.
The defenses are reasonably well matched and not the defining strength of either squad.
It all comes down to offense in this one. Oregon might have a few more weapons on the field, but there is no question who the best player on the field is, and it’s not even close. Luck has covered every spread this year and he finds a way to get it done. He’s the difference maker here.
I might not be as confident if Oregon had a track record of big game superiority, but they really haven’t played well when the stakes are at their highest lately.
Doc Moseman is the owner of Doc’s Sports football picks Web site.