Estimated read time: 5-6 minutes
Oregon is an eight-point favorite this week at Stanford and assuredly will face more daunting challenges in its quest for a playoff berth.
The UCLA duel looms large at the end of October, as does the stretch-run collision with Washington and the finale against resurgent Oregon State.
But historically, no opponent has caused the Ducks more angst or dashed more dreams than Stanford, particularly since Oregon's ascent to national prominence at the turn of the century.
Four times in the past 20 years, the Ducks have lost to Stanford when they were ranked in the top 10.
In 2001, Stanford rallied from a 14-point deficit early in the fourth quarter to stun Joey Harrington and the fifth-ranked Ducks. The 49-42 loss was Oregon's only blemish but would prove insurmountable in what became a controversial race to the Bowl Championship Series title game.
In 2009, the Ducks rolled into Stanford Stadium with one loss and a No. 7 ranking, but they couldn't stop the Cardinal running game (Toby Gerhart: 223 yards) in a 51-42 loss.
In 2012, Stanford was a 20-point underdog in Eugene but shocked the top-ranked Ducks in an epic defensive duel. The 17-14 overtime loss kept what might have been Oregon's greatest team from playing for the BCS championship.
History repeated in 2013, when the second-ranked Ducks once again failed to stop Stanford's ground game — Tyler Gaffney churned for 157 yards on 45 carries — and once again dropped out of the BCS race.
(The Ducks managed a takedown of their own two years later, ending Stanford's pursuit of a playoff berth with a 38-36 victory that featured two long touchdown pass by Vernon Adams and two Cardinal fumbles in the second half.)
Our deep dive into Oregon's record book — all the way back to the 1894 season — revealed additional instances of Stanford in the spoiler's role, many with obvious parallels to this week's matchup:
— The Ducks are undefeated.
On 21 occasions, Stanford has handed Oregon its first loss of the season: 1905, 1924, 1928, 1929, 1938, 1940, 1941, 1951, 1953, 1954, 1964, 1965, 1969, 1980, 1989, 1995, 1997, 2001, 2012, 2013, 2018.
— The Ducks are 4-0.
On seven occasions, Stanford has ended Oregon winning streaks of four games or more: 1955 (four games), 1964 (10 games), 1997 (six games), 2001 (seven games), 2009 (seven games), 2012 (13 games) and 2013 (10 games).
— The Ducks are No. 3 in the AP poll.
On nine occasions, Stanford has beaten the Ducks when they were ranked in the top 25: 1954 (No. 16), 1964 (No. 7), 1989 (No. 22), 1995 (No. 12), 2001 (No. 5), 2009 (No. 7), 2012 (No. 1), 2013 (No. 2) and 2018 (No. 20).
So don't be surprised by any outcome Saturday afternoon, even if it involves — and we're just making stuff up, of course — an overturned Oregon touchdown at the pylon followed seconds later by an 80-yard Stanford fumble return and then a tipped touchdown pass in overtime.
To the picks …
Last week: 3-3
Five-star special: 4-0
All picks against the spread
Lines taken from vegasinsider.com
All times Pacific
USC -7 at Colorado
Kickoff: 11 a.m. on Pac-12 Networks
Comment: For all the attention on a USC defense that has been overrun twice lately, the hybrid Air Raid as performed worse relative to its potential. We expect the Buffaloes to provide plenty of resistance. But it's the same story every week: Unless CU has short fields — courtesy of turnovers or big plays on special teams — the end zone will again be elusive. This should be in doubt at the start of the fourth quarter but not at the end. Pick: USC.
Oregon -8 at Stanford
Kickoff: 12:30 p.m. on ABC
Comment: Two facts and theories guide our prediction. Facts: Oregon is No. 22 nationally in yards per carry (5.22), while Stanford is No. 117 in yards allowed per carry (5.23). Theories: Stanford's offensive line won't hold up against the speed and power of Oregon's front seven, and Ducks coach Mario Cristobal will have his team's full attention after the lackluster showing last week. Toss facts and theories into the pot, and the resulting stew smells like a blowout. Pick: Oregon.
Washington State +7.5 at Cal
Kickoff: 2:30 p.m. on Pac-12 Networks
Comment: A matchup of 1-3 teams that have struggled to hold leads and, as a result, are on the brink of postseason elimination. The desperation should make for a taut affair but not necessarily one that's easy on the eyes. The Cougars will move the ball against Cal's rickety defense, at least in the first half, and cover the 7.5 points. As for the result: Feels like a last-turnover-loses situation. Pick: Washington State.
Washington +2.5 at Oregon State
Kickoff: 6 p.m. on Pac-12 Networks
Comment: A meaningful game for both teams in this Northwest non-rivalry. We aren't convinced UW will contend in the North but are skeptical of OSU's state of mind after the rollicking win at USC. The outcome hinges entirely on Washington's offense sustaining drives, controlling field position and giving its defense a chance to rest. If the Huskies devolve into their Montana mode — as they did in the second half against Cal — then the advantage tilts decisively to OSU. Pick: Oregon State.
Arizona State +3.5 at UCLA
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. on FS1
Comment: The Sun Devils are one of the few teams with the speed and talent to match UCLA, although the wobbly state of their defensive line is potentially problematic against the Bruins' ground game. Another significant uncertainty: Dorian Thompson-Robinson's injured arm. (He has practiced this week.) Beyond those issues, we're curious about Arizona State's discipline level against an opponent that will stress every position on every series. It's one thing to play reasonably clean against Colorado, quite another to do it against the Bruins. Pick: UCLA.
Five-star special: Oregon. Many times over the decades, Stanford matched up far better against the Ducks than the point spread suggested. This year, it's the opposite: The Cardinal is getting too much credit.
Straight-up winners: USC, Oregon, Cal, Oregon State and UCLA
Jon Wilner's Pac-12 Hotline is brought to KSL.com through a partnership with the Bay Area News Group.
Jon Wilner has been covering college sports for decades and is an AP Top 25 football and basketball voter as well as a Heisman Trophy voter. He was named Beat Writer of the Year in 2013 by the Football Writers Association of America for his coverage of the Pac-12, won first place for feature writing in 2016 in the Associated Press Sports Editors writing contest and is a five-time APSE honoree. You can follow him on Twitter @WilnerHotline or send an email at email@example.com.
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