2012 College Football Picks: Stanford @ Oregon Vegas Odds and Predictions – Free College Football Picks 11/17/2012: The top spot in the Pac-12 North is up for grabs Saturday night when the second-ranked Oregon Ducks (10-0, 7-0 Pac-12) host the 13th-ranked Stanford Cardinal (8-2, 6-1 Pac-12). For the Ducks, a victory would clinch a division title and keep them on track to play in the BCS title game. Meanwhile, a Stanford win would give the Cardinal control of their own destiny as far as the division title and automatic BCS bowl bid is concerned. Despite both teams being ranked in the top 15 entering the matchup, Oregon is a sizeable 20 ½-point at home.
Both teams have a run-first philosophy on offense, but their systems couldn’t be more different. Oregon’s spread-option attack relies on speed and spacing and is probably the most up-tempo attack in the country. Running back Kenjon Barner, fellow back De’Anthony Thomas and quarterback Marcus Mariota are the three most important cogs for a unit that is leading the country in scoring at 54.8 points per game and ranks third in rushing. Stanford on the other hand, relies on a traditional power running game compete with blocking tight ends and a fullback. Running back Stepfan Taylor is the workhorse of the offense, but the QB position remains unsettled. For now, freshman Kevin Hogan has the starting job.
On the defensive side of the ball, Stanford has been flat out stingy, allowing just 17.1 points per game. A physical defensive front and a strong group of linebackers led by Chase Thomas and Shayne Skov are the strengths of a unit that makes moving the ball up and down the field very difficult for opponents. Meanwhile, Oregon’s defense tends to take a bend-but-don’t-break approach. The Ducks will allow some yards, but they also force a ton of turnovers, pressure opposing QBs and tighten up when opponents get into the red zone.
The Cardinal Win If:
Plain and simple, no team is going to beat Oregon in an offensive shootout, especially a team like Stanford that has a freshman quarterback making just his third start. The Cardinal have to control the tempo with their power running game, wear down the injury-plagued Oregon defensive line and keep the Ducks’ offense off the field as much as possible. If Taylor and the Stanford offensive line can methodically move the ball up and down the field, the Cardinals have a shot. Defensively, Stanford’s group of excellent linebackers has to make tackles in space. Stopping Oregon’s spread-option attack is impossible, but as long as the Cardinal don’t miss tackles, they can at least make the Ducks work for their points. An established ground game and flawless tackling is Stanford’s recipe for an upset in this one.
The Ducks Win If:
As if Oregon’s offense needed any motivation to score points, the Ducks can really put Stanford in a tough spot by grabbing an early lead. If Oregon can put the Cardinal in an early hole, Stanford will be forced to abandon its power running game and play at the Ducks’ pace. From there, the Ducks’ opportunistic defense should have plenty of chances to make some big plays against Stanford’s inexperienced freshman QB while the Ducks’ speed on offense should be able to wear down the Cardinal linebackers. Stanford won’t be able to keep pace in a shootout, and a few early scores against Stanford will go a long way to turning a potentially dangerous game into a blowout.
Stanford may not be the team it was with Andrew Luck under center, but the Cardinal can still run the football and grind things out as well as any team in the country. USC already knows that all too well. The high-powered Trojans’ offense managed just 14 points in a loss thanks in large part to Stanford’s ability to control the pace. Against a battered Oregon defensive front, Taylor and company should be able to consistently move the chains and dominate the time of possession once again. Meanwhile, Thomas, Skov and the rest of the Stanford linebackers are reliable enough tacklers to keep Barner and company from running wild. Don’t get me wrong, the Ducks overwhelming offensive firepower will win out in the long run, but Stanford has the right personnel and plays the style of football that will allow the Cardinal to hang within the nearly three-touchdown spread.
Prediction: Stanford Cardinal (+20 ½) Cover the Spread
Stanford @ Oregon Vegas Odds and Total
Line: Oregon -21
Total: Over/Under 65.5
Television: 8 PM EST on ABC
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