It's Oregon's speed vs. Stanford's strength on Saturday
Oregon will play at Stanford on Saturday, and all that's at stake is the Pac-12 North lead, the host role for the conference title game and both teams' BCS futures.
Seattle Times colleges reporter
To hear some people tell it, when Oregon walks onto the field at Stanford on Saturday evening, it's going to have to wade through 18-inch-long alfalfa with a few cornstalks and blackberry vines mixed in.
Ah, but even that might not slow De'Anthony Thomas.
The Ducks and Cardinal square off in the headline game of the college-football weekend (5 p.m., ABC). All that's at stake is the Pac-12 North lead, the host role for the conference title game and both teams' BCS futures.
It seems to be all about Oregon's sizzling speed and Stanford's imposing strength. So the assumption is, the Stanford field mower might have been in the shop for repairs the past couple of weeks.
Junglelike vegetation might be needed to curb Thomas, who flies somewhat under the radar in Oregon's constellation of LaMichael James-Darron Thomas-Kenjon Barner. But Thomas is the closest thing the conference has seen to Reggie Bush since Bush himself.
The past two weeks, he has hurt both Washington State and Washington with long kickoff returns. He leads all true freshmen nationally in touchdowns (12), and he's the only player in the country with 300-plus yards in rushing, receiving and kickoff returns.
That he's at Oregon, and not getting ready to put on a USC uniform and face Washington this week, is somewhat of a mystery. Thomas, who is 5 feet 9 and 173 pounds, is from Crenshaw High in Los Angeles, and in recruiting, seemed as much a part of the landscape at USC as Heritage Hall.
Listen to what USC coach Lane Kiffin said about Thomas back on Pac-12 media day in July:
"It was such a shock," Kiffin said. "Here was a kid that had been at SC for so long. Every time we saw him, he was wearing USC gear. He wasn't one of the guys we thought was wavering at all. It was probably our strangest story in recruiting.
"If we had listed a week before signing day, one to 31, who we felt strongest about, De'Anthony Thomas would have been No. 1. He was telling other guys to come to SC. It was a very unique situation."
Said Oregon coach Chip Kelly, "It really just changed in the last week. We never recruited him until the last week. He initiated a phone call and came up and took a visit just before the signing date."
If it's become that easy for the Ducks to spirit five-star recruits from the traditional flagship of the conference, then times have truly changed. Of course, Stanford might have something to say about that Saturday.
Best of the rest Saturday, chronologically:
Nebraska (Associated Press No. 19) at Penn State (12), 9 a.m. — The scene will be fascinating — if morbidly so. It seems superfluous to say that the Nittany Lions (8-1, 5-0) have a two-game lead in the Big Ten Leaders division. Nebraska (7-2, 3-2) is one of three trailing Michigan State on the Legends side.
Oklahoma State (2) at Texas Tech, 9 a.m. — The expression "all hat, no cattle" seems to fit Tech (5-4), which has followed its shocker over Oklahoma by losing to Iowa State and Texas by a combined 93-27. Tech hasn't given up fewer than 34 points since Sept. 17, which ought to be inviting for the explosive 'Pokes.
Florida at South Carolina (15), 9 a.m. — Florida and its 12 sophomore starters try to scissor the Gamecocks' seven-game victory streak. South Carolina (7-2, 5-2) needs to win and get help from either Auburn (Saturday) or Kentucky against Georgia (7-2, 5-1) to get to the SEC title game.
Texas Christian at Boise State (5), 12:30 p.m. — This was the game moved from TCU to BSU by the Mountain West Conference back when TCU had signed on with the Big East. So this week, TCU coach Gary Patterson began his weekly news conference with: "Since Boise State seems headed to the Big East, I've asked to see if we can move the game back to Fort Worth." Three teams in four years have held Boise State's Kellen Moore without a touchdown pass, and the Frogs (7-2, 4-0) are the only ones to have done it twice. Last chance for Boise (8-0) to make a real BCS statement.
Auburn (24) at Georgia (14), 12:30 p.m. — It's the 115th meeting in the Deep South's oldest rivalry. In a 63-16 victory last week against New Mexico State, nine different Bulldogs scored TDs.
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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