JASON SAYS: Gotta Love at least one thing about Stanford
Stanford's sensational running back, Bryce Love, appears destined for a 2,000-yard rushing season, what with 1,240 already and six regular-season games to play — and possibly eight games overall.
For now, however, let him enjoy being only the fifth Stanford running back ever to top 1,200 yards in one season, joining Toby Gerhart, Stepfan Taylor, Tyler Gaffney and Christian McCaffrey.
On Saturday, we'll see whether Love can join the other four in another category: running backs who led their Cardinal to wins against Oregon.
I'm one to think it won't be a blowout, despite Oregon (4-2, 1-2 Pac-12) playing without its starting quarterback (Justin Herbert) and not bringing much momentum into the 8 p.m. Saturday game.
The Cardinal (4-2, 3-1) have won three consecutive games, led by the seemingly unstoppable Love, who leads the nation in rushing (206.7 yards per game) while averaging 10.5 yards per carry.
Stanford has switched up its quarterbacks, playing Keller Chryst, K.J. Costello and Ryan Burns. It appears Chryst will start, but Costello also could play on Saturday; they alternated play in last weekend's win at Utah.
Chryst threw for 258 yards and three scores in last year's 52-27 Stanford dress-down at Autzen Stadium.
The offensive line is good again, which means it'll likely be another game of running (Love) with some play-action passing and clock domination on the part of the Cardinal.
Stanford's defense is just middle-of-the-pack in the Pac-12. With Braxton Burmeister and/or Taylor Alie playing quarterback, the Ducks will be pass-challenged, although the return of receivers Charles Nelson and/or Dillon Mitchell should help the passing game.
I'm expecting Royce Freeman, Kani Benoit and Tony Brooks-James and the UO offensive line to rise to the challenge, even with the Stanford defense bent on stopping the run and forcing Burmeister/Alie to make plays through the air.
Veterans Nelson and Freeman were around when Oregon upset Stanford 38-36 on the same field two seasons ago. It was such a clutch performance against the eventual Pac-12 champs, one of the better clutch wins by Oregon that I have witnessed in 17 seasons, that it almost feels like the Ducks can somewhat repeat the success while playing in one of the league's best rivalry games.
It'll be fun to watch Love, who could end up in rarified air by season's end. His 206.7 yards per game would rank fourth all-time behind Oklahoma State's Barry Sanders (238.9), USC's Marcus Allen (212.9) and Cornell's Ed Marinaro (209.0) and ahead of Iowa State's Troy Davis (198.6).
Jim Leavitt's defense will get some hands on Love, but how well do Troy Dye & Co. wrap him up? (Then again, an injury to Love woud surely change the dynamics of the game).
I'll stop short of calling victory here for the Ducks. Like everybody who follows the Pac-12, I'm sold on Stanford coach David Shaw, who rivals Washington's Chris Petersen as the best in the Pac-12, and it remains to be seen whether the Ducks under new coach Willie Taggart can beat good teams.
THE PICK: Stanford 34, Oregon 20