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5 Things To Watch: Stanford

Oct 1, 2022

Oregon will play its first conference home game of the 2022 season Saturday when the Ducks host Stanford in Autzen Stadium at 8:10 p.m.

The No. 13 Ducks (3-1, 1-0) have won three straight since dropping their opener, and they're coming off a dramatic comeback to win their Pac-12 opener at Washington State. The Cardinal is 1-2 overall and 0-2 in conference play, with losses to USC and Washington.

Stanford leads the all-time series with Oregon, 50-34-1. The Cardinal has a 17-14 edge when facing the Ducks in Eugene, and has won six of the last 10 matchups in the series — three of those wins coming in overtime.

Saturday's game will be televised by FS1, with Alex Faust on play by play and Petros Papdakis providing analysis.

Some storylines to watch on Saturday night …

1. Momentum seems to be on the side of the Ducks. Oregon has won three straight; Stanford has dropped its last two. The Ducks have won 21 straight home games, including 15 in Pac-12 play; the Cardinal hasn't beaten a Power 5 opponent in nearly a year.

But history says the UO football team needs to be on alert Saturday night. Stanford's last Power 5 win? That was over Oregon, last Oct. 2, in overtime at Stanford. Recent history is littered with wins by the Cardinal over quality Oregon teams, often under unlikely circumstances.

UO head coach Dan Lanning said to open this week that he reviewed some of that history with his team. The UO fan base has more scars from matchups with Stanford over the years than does the current roster. The Ducks would like to keep it that way.

2. Stanford's win last year over the Ducks featured a late comeback to force overtime, before the Cardinal won in the extra period. That comeback was led by QB Tanner McKee, who leads Stanford into Autzen Stadium on Saturday.

Lanning called McKee "a true pocket passer," and the Ducks don't want to give him time to pick them apart. An effective pass rush will be essential — and Oregon will need to mount it for the first half Saturday without starting edge rusher D.J. Johnson, who will sit out a suspension for last week's targeting penalty. Guys like Brandon Dorlus, Mase Funa and Bradyn Swinson will look to fill the void.

So far this season McKee is 59-of-88 passing for 814 yards, with six touchdowns and four interceptions. Given the injury that will sideline running back E.J. Smith, the spotlight shines even brighter on McKee going forward.

3. Oregon's offensive line, meanwhile, will look to avoid allowing a sack for the fifth straight game. The Ducks entered this week as the only FBS team still yet to allow a sack.

At some point a defender is going to get to Oregon's quarterback, but so far the UO line has done an exceptional job avoiding that. And that's despite playing significant stretches without starters Ryan Walk and Steven Jones due to injuries.

So far this season Stanford is averaging 2.33 sacks per game, which ranks in the top half of the Pac-12 Conference.

4. Oregon's week-over-week improvement in areas that Lanning has sought to address has been very impressive. The Ducks will look to continue that Saturday night.

One obvious area to watch will be offensive execution in the red area, after the Ducks struggled to convert inside WSU's 20-yard line in the first half last week. Against Stanford they'll look to take care of the ball better, and score touchdowns rather than field goals.

Another area where Oregon can show improvement is staying composed in what's sure to be a raucous home environment Saturday night. Against BYU two weeks ago, the revelry when "Shout" was played after the third quarter might have affected the Ducks' composure to start the fourth quarter, and BYU quickly closed from 38-7 to 38-20.

Lanning made note of that letdown in his postgame comments, and said this week that, "We talked to our team about it, (and) I think they have an understanding of our expectations."

5. A #Pac12AfterDark game means a long day of waiting before kickoff finally comes Saturday night.

Lanning was asked this week about managing the day for the Ducks when the game starts so late.

"We do a few different things," he said. "We kind of have all the schedules mapped out in advance for based on when our kick is, back to when we go to bed the night before, what that timing looks like. We have an activation lift that we do the day of the game. So there's a few things that we do a little bit different."