Opponent preview: Oregon at Stanford

Jarrid Denneyby:Jarrid Denney10/01/21

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Year in and year out, this is one of the standout games on the college football calendar. Oregon vs. Stanford has been a marquee matchup for the better part of two decades.

Although the Ducks enter this year’s tilt in a much more advantageous position than the Cardinal, going on the road at Palo Alto is never an easy task. David Shaw’s program is on the way back up after slogging through a 4-8 campaign in 2019, and the Cardinal seems to have found their footing after a rocky start to 2021.

The Ducks, on the other hand, have a chance Saturday to add another notable win to their already impressive resume.

Saturday’s showdown should provide another fantastic entry to a rivalry that already has too many to count. Here is everything you need to know in the lead-up to Oregon vs. Stanford.

Stanford at a glance

  • Kickoff time: 12:30 p.m. PT
  • How to watch: ABC
  • Head coach: David Shaw, 11th season (92-38 at Stanford, 92-38 all time)
  • 2021 record: 2-2
  • All-time series: Stanford leads 49-34
  • Odds: Oregon -8, 57.5 o/u

Key players

  • QB Tanner McKee: 69-for-102 (67%), 863 yards passing for eight touchdowns, 20 carries for 57 net yards and two touchdowns in four games
  • DE Thomas Booker: 23 tackles, 2.5 TFL, 1.5 sacks and two QB hits in four games. First team all-conference preseason selection
  • WE Brycen Tremayne: 17 catches for 197 yards (11.59 yards/catch) and four touchdowns
  • RB Austin Jones: 26 carries for 124 yards, seven catches for 93 yards
  • LT Walter Rouse: Anchor of Stanford offensive line, honorable mention all-conference in 2020

Three things to watch for

Each week, ScoopDuck will pick three storylines to keep tabs on throughout the game. This week’s entries focus on Stanford’s injury report, the Cardinal secondary, and Tanner McKee’s emergence

Which Stanford playes will carry the rock?

Stanford has a talented running back room, but it has been hit hard by injuries. Last week against UCLA, the Cardinal were down to their fourth-string running back, Nathan Peat, and were pretty limited in what they could do on the ground.

It sounds as though they are a bit better off this week. David Shaw said Thursday that Austin Jones and Casey Filkins will both be available to play after being listed as questionable earlier in the week. Exactly how much those two players see the field will be worth monitoring.

Peat will still be Stanford’s lead ball carrier from the sound of things. But don’t be surprised if Jones or Filkins plays a major role as the game goes on.

Is Tanner McKee the real deal?

You could argue that McKee has saved Stanford’s season. The sophomore quarterback did not get the starting nod in the Cardinal’s Week 1 loss to Kansas State, but he was handed the reins in Week 2 and has been sensational ever since.

McKee was a 4-star signee in the class of 2018 and is finally getting a shot to run the show after a delayed arrival at Stanford. He spent two years on an LDS mission — Deseret News had a really nice story on his path last month.

Oregon’s coaching staff raved about McKee all week. Finding a way to flush him out of the pocket and bring constant pressure will be paramount if Oregon hopes to win Saturday.

“You look at him and he’s very poised,” Oregon defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter said. “He’s got a cannon for an arm. Very athletic. Can make all the throws in their offense and gets them into the right plays.

“He doesn’t look much different than some of their better quarterbacks they’ve had through the years. He’s a tall, athletic guy with a big-time arm just like (Davis Mills) was.”

Can Oregon take advantage of Stanford’s defensive deficiencies?

Running back isn’t the only position where Stanford is dinged up. At cornerback, they will likely be without starter Zahran Manley. Filling in for him will be some combination of junior Nicolas Toomer and true freshman Jaden Slocum.

That could be a spot where the Ducks can find a matchup advantage. Kyu Blu Kelly is rock solid at one cornerback spot, but neither Toomer nor Slocum have played much at the Pac-12 level.

None of Oregon’s receivers have uncorked a breakout game this season. Saturday could be an excellent opportunity for one of them to finally do so against a secondary that is dealing with injury issues.

“I think they have some great young guys at corner right now,” Oregon receiver Jaylon Redd said this week. “I think they’re very fast, actually. They have some physical safeties. They’re very patient.

“So it’s gonna be a matchup for us. It’s something we’re definitely looking forward to it. It’s gonna be a dog fight and we’re ready for it.”

Prediction

Oregon 31, Stanford 17. Check out ScoopDucks’s staff predictions here.

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