Oregon vs. Stanford: The Possibilities

Henry Anderson terrorized Mariota last year

This is the type of game that makes the imagination run wild. We run through some of the countless possibilities that the electric Stanford-Oregon match-up brings up the table, and we finish with some vital injury news that gives the Cardinal a boost heading in.

The Stanford-Oregon rivalry has offered up a full range of possibilities over the course of the past four years. It's shown close games, comeback victories, wire-to-wire leads, high-scoring games, and even a low-scoring affair. Considering the potential outcomes makes for some sweet brain candy. Some are obviously more likely than others, but it's a good time to let the imagination wander and take a look at some of the possibilities that have certainly been buzzing through fans' heads.

Worst Nightmare Realized
Projected Final Score: Oregon 45, Stanford 13

Ben Gardner's season-ending injury, coupled with Marcus Mariota's improvement, is enough to make Stanford's defense look ordinary against Oregon again. The Ducks sputter for a possession or two, but then resemble the Utah juggernaut that tormented Stanford in the second quarter the rest of the way. With a dizzying mix of run, pass, and trickery leading the way, De'Anthony Thomas' 40-point prediction easily comes true. Meanwhile, the Stanford offense again forgets its power running identity. Kevin Hogan never finds rhythm out of the confused shotgun approach, and the Ducks' excellent secondary preys on this uncertainty to feed its offensive monster with three-and-out after three-and-out.

Return of 2011
Projected Final Score: Oregon 48, Stanford 24

Oregon's most recent visit to Stanford Stadium certainly doesn't elicit many pleasant memories from Cardinal fans, so this second possible scenario may also cause them to wake up in a cold sweat tonight. In the Ducks' 53-30 win over Andrew Luck and Co. in 2011, Stanford actually played airtight defense in the first quarter. They were shaky offensively, though, and a costly interception gave Oregon an early lead that they would never relinquish. The Cardinal defensive wall, not nearly as strong as it would become in 2012, eventually ruptured under the pressure created by its unsteady offense. Though a repeat of this is unlikely, the possibility of a similar version of events has to at least instill some fear in Stanford fans: The Farm Boys' offense was shaky throughout most of October, and the defense is wounded up front.

Ghosts of 2009: A Two-Sided Shootout
Projected Final Score 1: Oregon 48, Stanford 45

Thursday's game comes exactly four years to the day after Stanford's last home victory over Oregon, a thrilling 51-42 triumph that earned bowl eligibility in 2009. The Cardinal's defense was still in shambles that year: Owen Marecic was making his first career start at linebacker a week after Clinton Snyder's career-ending knee injury. By the end of the day, though, the Ducks were shredding the winded Farm Boys to the tune of 570 yards of total offense. Stanford's chances in this game would ride entirely on the shoulders of Toby Gerhart and Andrew Luck. No. 12 was excellent (12.6 yards per attempt); No. 7 was transcendent (38 carries, 223 yards). The Cardinal just kept on scoring, and they ultimately prevailed.

The quality of both defenses makes it unlikely that such a contest manifests itself again, but keep the possibility of a shootout on the backburner: Stanford's offense may be inconsistent, but it has shown explosive ability so far this year. Still, a shootout undeniably favors Oregon.

A Repeat of 2012
Projected Final Score: Stanford 20, Oregon 17

Stanford and Oregon were locked in a true stalemate at Autzen Stadium last year, one that felt like it would last forever if kickers weren't involved to break it. Maybe that defensive struggle carries over into this year's contest. The Cardinal are certainly formidable on that side of the ball yet again, while Oregon is leading the Pac-12 in key defensive categories. Mariota has improved, but if this is the style of game that unfolded last year, the possibility of a repeat must at least be entertained.

Floating on Clouds: Stanford's Dream Scenario
Projected Final Score: Stanford 34, Oregon 17

Ben Gardner becomes the defense's Conor McFadden on the sideline, and the two beautiful football minds help orchestrate an epic Stanford performance on both sides of the ball. Josh Mauro and Henry Anderson decimate Oregon's offensive line, while Shayne Skov and A.J. Tarpley destroy any Ducks who escape beyond that initial wall. Trent Murphy establishes himself as the most dominant player on the field after violently sacking Mariota early and forcing a fumble. David Parry scoops it up and rumbles 18 yards to the house. Stanford's fast, hard-hitting secondary again sets nearly impenetrable edges and neutralizes Oregon's downfield passing game.

On the other side of the ball, Tyler Gaffney carries exactly 38 times, an homage to Gerhart's monster day exactly four years earlier. Hogan is fantastic out of the playaction as a result, throwing for scores to Ryan Hewitt and Devon Cajuste before running for one of his own.

Most Likely
In all likelihood, the 2013 edition of this rivalry will forge a new path of its own. Since their defensive line isn't quite as deep as it was last year, it's hard to see the Farm Boys repeating 2012's otherwordly effort. It certainly is reasonable to expect another very strong Cardinal defensive performance, though. Combine that with a strong, run-oriented approach from the Stanford offense against Oregon's weakened linebacker corps, and it's apparent that a close game in the twenties is very possible.

News From Practice: Assorted Nuggets
- It appears certain that defensive end Henry Anderson and wide receiver Devon Cajuste will both play. Derek Mason expects Anderson to see 40-50 snaps of action, while David Shaw said that Cajuste looked "quick" and "explosive" at practice on Tuesday. He's expected to wear a knee brace while working against the Ducks' secondary, which is statistically performing at the top of the Pac-12.

- Shaw expects kicker Jordan Williamson (leg muscle strain) to handle field goals but not kick-off duties.

- It's clear that Stanford's team is aware of De'Anthony Thomas' comment coming from the Oregon camp, which stated the Ducks should "score at least 40" points against the Cardinal's defense. Anderson smiled and simply said the Stanford team has discussed Thomas' words, while defensive coordinator Derek Mason also brushed them off. "I'm not a prognosticator," he said. "I'm not into points. I'm into wins."

- Mason also discussed the Stanford defensive formula against the Ducks. "Sharks take their prey to deep water," he said. "That's exactly what we plan on doing."

David Lombardi is the Stanford Insider for The Bootleg. Check him out at www.davidlombardisports.com and follow him on Twitter @DavidMLombardi.

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