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Why Stanford will beat Oregon

**Editor’s Note: Each week during football season we will feature an essay from the opponent’s student newspaper on how Oregon will lose. This week’s edition is from Miles Bennett-Smith, the sports reporter at Stanford’s Stanford Daily.**

History is rarely kind to the underdog.

In colonization, in investment banking, in politics and in sports, the favorites usually come out on top. This is the driving principle behind the joy and excitement that comes from seeing the U.S. Olympic hockey team’s “Miracle” at Lake Placid and watching the ’69 Mets win the World Series or stories like Rudy. (I will always love you “Remember the Titans,” but T.C. Williams was a football team loaded with talent.)

For sports fans, rooting for the underdog is so much nobler than rooting on the teams that win a lot, or seem to win a lot. That’s why everyone hates the Yankees, Manchester United and the SEC — you have to give me that one, Ducks fans.

On Saturday night, Stanford slips into that role, hoping to be Cinderella at the ball, stealing a win at Autzen Stadium before the clock strikes midnight.

Oregon opened as a 24-point favorite on the basis of perhaps the most efficient offense in the last 20 years (this is where Baylor fans and RGIII cry fowl). Without question, the Ducks should win this game on paper.

The lesser-known weapons like Josh Huff, Bralon Addison and Colt Lyerla — I have to stop and acknowledge that Lyerla is like Optimus Klein with better hands — on the outside are scary, Kenjon Barner is terrifying and Marcus Mariota should at least be sitting in the audience in New York City when they hand out the Heisman next month.

It’s crazy to think that Stanford will get close to covering, let alone winning.

But it was crazy to think No. 1 Alabama would lose last week, then Johnny Football and Texas A&M came along. It was crazy to take Stanford beating USC when the Trojans were legitimate 41-point favorites.

Those happened, so maybe Saturday is when the Ducks finally get their wings clipped.

If Kevin Hogan is on his game and handles the pressure, the kid is really good. Ty Montgomery isn’t an elite receiver, but he has elite speed. So does Kelsey Young, and Stepfan Taylor should get a chance to play on Sundays because he is one of the most well-rounded running backs to ever come out of the program. And Zach Ertz is the best tight end in college football.

By the way, the Cardinal defense is nasty. Chase Thomas leads a linebacking core that has three, maybe four, legit NFL prospects. The secondary is much improved, and while they have had problems with Oregon’s speed the last couple of years, and that’s unlikely to change, if they hold their assignments they might slow down the Ducks just enough for the defensive line to make its mark.

The Ducks generally wear teams down so that by the second half, it’s off to the races with Barner, Mariota and De’Anthony. For the Cardinal to win, it has to temper the excitement sure to be gained from slowing Oregon at all in the first half and maintain control throughout the game because with that kind of speed on turf, three touchdowns on three touches in three minutes doesn’t even make Kelly blink.

No matter. Because the biggest chink in the flashy Nike armor Oregon will be wearing stems from the rash of injuries to the defense, and they can’t be covered with band-aids.

I know plenty of the players out against Cal will probably play this weekend, but the depth is still thin in many places. Stanford’s offense can put up points, and then it might just be about whether the Cardinal can score slowly enough to keep the Ducks off the field.

Stanford said many of the same things last year, before the Ducks went out and made Mr. Luck more like Mr. Irrelevant. But that doesn’t change the fact that if Oregon doesn’t play well, and Stanford does, the Cardinal is primed to be the one smelling roses come January.

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