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Stanford players tackle Ducks quarterback Justin Herbert. Oregon Ducks football takes on Stanford at Autzen Stadium in Eugene, Ore. on Sept. 22, 2018. (Benjamin Green/Emerald)

The matchup between Stanford and Oregon has arguably been one of the biggest rivalries in the recent decade of the Pac-12. Both teams have produced some of the best quarterbacks in recent memory in the likes of Stanford’s Andrew Luck and Oregon’s Marcus Mariota. Also, Oregon and Stanford have battled for the Pac-12 North and, by extension, the entire conference. Last year’s bout was especially memorable as the Ducks blew a 24-7 halftime lead and were defeated 38-31 in overtime at home.

In 2019, Stanford began the season ranked 25th and as one of the teams favored to win the Pac-12 North. In the season opener, the Cardinal won a gritty game against Northwestern at home, 17-7, using their trademark running game and a stingy defense to earn the victory. 

The next two weeks weren’t nearly as kind. They opened up conference play with a loss against USC, 45-20. USC’s freshman quarterback Kedon Slovis burned Stanford’s defense for 377 yards and three touchdowns. The following week was equally disastrous as Stanford fell to No. 15 UCF, 45-27. Once again, Stanford’s defense was bashed by an inexperienced quarterback — this time Dillon Gabriel — who had four passing touchdowns. 

Stanford’s offense has struggled to open the season. Quarterback KJ Costello has dealt with a head injury which forced him to sit the USC game. The team only averages 115 yards rushing yards per game, ranking them ninth in the Pac-12. The Cardinal average 21 points a game, good for 10th in the Pac-12 . Although Stanford is not a program traditionally known for elite offenses, its typically sturdy defense has been torched in back-to-back weeks. Stanford concedes 32 points a game, which is ranked 103rd in the FBS and 11th in the Pac-12. 

Despite the team’s early season struggles, Stanford’s record is not indicative of its talent. The program is led by one of the best coaches in the Pac-12, David Shaw, who has been with the team for nine seasons. Shaw has an all-time record of 83-28 and has won three Pac-12 titles. If anyone can right the ship, it’s Shaw. 

Costello will start as quarterback in Saturday’s game against Oregon. He has yet to break 200 passing yards in a game this season and only completed 47 percent of his passes against UCF. The 2018 Second Team All-Pac-12 quarterback will look to improve his play against the Ducks after an impressive performance in last year’s comeback win in which he completed 19 of 26 passes for 327 yards and three touchdowns.

Stanford’s most consistent playmaker on offense is running back Cameron Scarlett, who leads the team with 224 rushing yards and a touchdown on 51 carries. Scarlett needs to have a big game for Stanford to be able to compete with Oregon’s offense.

Stanford is known for its tough defense and the unit will look to rebound against the Ducks. The Cardinal’s leading tackler is outside linebacker Casey Toohill with 20 tackles through three games. Toohill forced a fumble in the fourth quarter against Northwestern that helped Stanford secure the victory. 

The defensive player that could cause the most problems for the Ducks is cornerback Paulson Adebo, who has 17 tackles and an interception this season. In 2018, Adebo was All-Pac-12 First Team. He led the nation with 24 passes defended and was 16th in the country in interceptions with four. He has the ability to slow down Oregon receivers like Johnny Johnson III.

Although Stanford has struggled thus far, Oregon should not take the Cardinal for granted. Stanford has a solid defense that, when keyed in, could wreak havoc on Oregon’s offense. Stanford is a proud team that will not want to start 0-2 in conference play.