For years, USC and Oregon were the dominating teams of the Pac-12. While the Ducks are a consistent Top 5 national team, the rest of the conference has caught up, making it one of the most competitive conferences in the country. Stanford and Oregon State are two of those talented teams, and that will do battle this week in a matchup of Top 25 teams.
Stanford is in the midst of a brutal stretch of schedule. In the month of October, the Cardinal have three games in four weeks against ranked opponents. Ironically, Stanford lost to the lone unranked opponent Utah 27-21, after beating #15 Washington 31-28 and defeating #9 UCLA 24-10 last week. Now, they travel to #25 OSU before hosting the biggest game in the Pac-12 next week when #3 Oregon comes to town.
The point of all this is to say: Stanford is battle tested. Now, if you want to talk about a team that isn’t battle tested, let’s look at Oregon State. OSU snuck into the BCS rankings last week, due in large part to their computer ranking (one computer had them at #6 lol). My first thought when I saw this was: why?
Oregon State has had a weak schedule.
Oregon State started out the season by losing to Eastern Washington 49-46. Since then, their most impressive win was a 51-48 overtime win over a Utah team that is clearly much improved given their win over Stanford. Other than that, OSU has simply dominated the bottom teams of the Pac-12, along with a beatdown of Hawaii, and a less than impressive 34-30 over San Diego State.
Oregon State hasn’t played anybody of note. They haven’t played a high powered offense, or a dominating defense. While Stanford may not have either of these, they do have a very good offense, and a very good defense. Stanford’s lowest scoring output on the year was the 21 points they scored in their shocking loss to Utah. Before that game, they had scored at least 30 in every game.
On the defensive side, Stanford is 25th in the nation, allowing just over 20 points a game. This includes one of the defensive games of the year, shutting Brett Hundley and the high powered Bruins to just 10 points. Sean Mannion and Oregon State actually possesses the #1 passing attack in America, averaging a video-game like 442 yards a game. But again I ask: who have they faced that could stop them? No one near the caliber of Stanford.
Who’s the key for Stanford?
If you’ve watch Stanford this season, then you know that it’s no secret what they want to do. They want to run the ball all over you, with Tyler Gaffney leading the way. With all due respect to DeAnthony Thomas, Gaffney has been the best and most consistent running back in the Pac-12. Gaffney has logged 741 yards and nine touchdowns so far this year, and he will be the key on Saturday. Kevin Hogan has put up solid numbers, but he is more of a game manager than anything.
Oregon State is due for a reality check, and I think Stanford is the team to do it. Stanford won’t make the mistake of looking past the Beavers with Oregon coming up next week. They already did that once with Utah, and it came back to bite them. I have to lean towards the mover on 55 points. Even though I expect Oregon State to struggle, they should still put up at least 21 points. Stanford is fully capable of making up for the rest, and these two teams could cover this with ease. Look for Stanford to pull out to a lead, and hold on 38-24, easily covering the -4 spread.