Oregon-Stanford matchup will be won on the ground
Unlike previous conference showdowns of top-10 teams, the Oregon-Stanford game Saturday will feature teams that love to run the ball.
Seattle Times colleges reporter
Back in the day, when top-10 teams in the Pac-10 met one another, you could always count on the headliners being the guys slinging the ball.
Aaron Rodgers (California) against Matt Leinart (USC) in 2004. Jonathan Smith (Oregon State) against Joey Harrington (Oregon) in 2000. And going way back, Rodney Peete (USC) against Troy Aikman (UCLA) in 1988.
That's all so yesterday.
Saturday, Oregon, No. 6 in AP, visits third-ranked Stanford, and in a game with BCS-title implications, it will be more about running the ball than throwing it.
Apparently, this is the new Pac-12. Even as the league is harvesting an exceptional crop of quarterbacks for the NFL, running never seemed more important.
The conference's second-most important game this week is UCLA — whose quarterback, Kevin Prince, recently rushed for 163 yards against Cal — against a Utah team whose prime offensive weapon is running back John White.
Ah, but what about Andrew Luck? As rare a talent as he is — the consensus (minus Steve Sarkisian) No. 1 pick in the next NFL draft — Luck's prodigious ability is flattered by the No. 17 running game in the country.
Or, as Oregon State coach Mike Riley puts it, referring to Stanford's punishing ground attack, "You think you're doing pretty well on defense, and they've gained five yards."
And then another five, and five more. Stanford is No. 11 in the country in time of possession. Oregon is a bad last at 23 minutes, 52 seconds average — not that the Ducks care.
"You can sit in the huddle for 40 seconds, but that doesn't do anything," says UO coach Chip Kelly. "It just lets the crowd go to the bathroom or get something to drink."
Stanford has won 17 straight, dating to last year's loss at Oregon. The Ducks have won 18 straight conference games, dating to their 2009 loss at Stanford.
Listening to coaches Tuesday on the weekly Pac-12 conference call, you could almost sense some wistfulness that most of them don't get to see the Oregon-Stanford meeting.
"It's what's neat about college football," said Riley. "Stanford will have everybody within 10 yards of each other (horizontally, on offense), and Oregon will have everybody within 53 yards (the width of the field). It's just a great matchup."
Referring to the defensive challenges, USC's Lane Kiffin said, "Oregon, you're kind of tired from running all over the place. Stanford, you're kind of tired from getting beat physically."
In the end, it's probably the team that runs all over the place that wins.
And what's more ...
• The UCLA game marks the third time this year that Utah offensive coordinator Norm Chow faces an adversary where he once worked. The Bruins employed him most recently before Rick Neuheisel orchestrated his departure last winter. "He's going to know our personnel as well as anybody," Neuheisel said, adding, "I've been in the locker room when he was playing people he worked with before, and he was very professional."
• Asked what he would tell an impatient fan base, WSU coach Paul Wulff didn't merely throw Bill Doba under the bus, he backed up and drove over him. Said Wulff, "This was the worst BCS football program in America by a long, long, long ways when I got here."
• Stanford: 52 trips into the red zone, 52 scores.
• Arizona State's Dennis Erickson brings his team and DT Bo Moos, son of the WSU athletic director, to Pullman on Saturday night. Needling his old friend Bill Moos, Erickson said, "(Bo) had pretty good blood lines. I'm talking about Kendra, his mother."
Bud Withers: 206-464-8281 or email@example.com
About Bud Withers
Bud Withers gives his take on college sports, with the latest from the Huskies, Cougs, and the rest of the Pac-12.
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