STANFORD, Calif. – The matchup between Oregon and Stanford the past three seasons has been billed as the biggest game of the year on the West Coast, a de facto Pac-12 title game and national semifinal.
What it also has been is a spoiler.
In each of the past three years, the loser was handed its only regular-season defeat and would’ve surely played in the BCS championship game otherwise. The winner went on to claim the Pac-12 title.
The stakes are just as high this season. The stage is even bigger. When No. 2 Oregon (8-0, 5-0) visits sixth-ranked Stanford (7-1, 5-1) in prime time tonight, one team will announce itself as the best in the west and the other will watch its championship dreams wither away again.
The showdown at sold-out Stanford Stadium sets up similarly to the one in Eugene a year ago.
Last season, the Cardinal outlasted the top-ranked Ducks 17-14 in overtime en route to a conference title and the school’s first Rose Bowl victory in 41 years. In the first 10 games before that contest, Oregon looked unstoppable, leading the nation with 54.8 points per game and never scoring fewer than 42.
That remains Oregon quarterback and Heisman Trophy hopeful Marcus Mariota’s only loss in 21 starts.
Mariota has not thrown an interception since that game, keeping the Quack Attack moving at a breakneck pace under first-year coach Mark Helfrich.
The Ducks are averaging 632.1 yards and 55.6 points per game. Both rank second in the nation behind Baylor.