Stanford Goes Duck Hunting - NBC Bay Area

Stanford Goes Duck Hunting



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    The Cardinal are looking for their first 5-0 start since 1951 as they take aim at the Ducks.

    Leave it to a Stanford coach to quote Ralph Waldo Emerson when asked about his team's dominance.

    Coach Jim Harbaugh isn't quite ready to get caught up in recent successes as the No. 9 Cardinal (4-0, 1-0 Pac-10) get ready for a visit to Autzen Stadium on Saturday to face fourth-ranked Oregon (4-0, 1-0).

    "As long as all that is said is said against me, I feel a certain assurance of success," Harbaugh said, quoting the 19th century philosopher. "But as soon as honeyed words of praise are spoken for me, I feel as one that lies unprotected before his enemies."

    Uh-huh, sure. But who could blame Harbaugh for basking a little?

    Stanford hasn't started a season 4-0 since 1986. The team hasn't been ranked in the top 10 since 2001.

    Now that they've returned to the top tier of the rankings -- after more down seasons than anyone cares to remember -- their first opponent is the formidable Ducks.

    Harbaugh called the clash between the two teams "monumental." There really couldn't be any more hype than there already is: There's the rankings, Autzen Stadium, a national TV audience, a visit from ESPN's GameDay. The network even moved the game from 8:15 p.m. PST to 5 p.m. PST to get more eyeballs on the East Coast.

    The Cardinal have not played in a game where both teams were ranked inside the Top 10 since 1970, when No. 10 Stanford defeated No. 4 Arkansas 34-28. That was the last time they won a game while ranked in the Top 10 -- they've lost six straight since then.

    Saturday's game will be the first time Oregon and Stanford have faced each other as ranked teams. And the Cardinal are looking for their first 5-0 start since 1951, when they won the Pacific Coast Conference and a Rose Bowl berth.

    Oregon, the defending Pac-10 champion, has won 12 straight games at Autzen overall, and nine straight Pac-10 matchups. The team has hosted 70 straight sellout crowds.

    This season, the Ducks' unique spread option offense is giving opponents fits, but after New Mexico, Tennessee, Portland State and Arizona State, the Cardinal are going to be considerably more challenging -- and partly because of their similar reliance on their ground game. Oregon has the third-ranked offense in the nation, averaging 560 yards a game. They also have the third-best rushing offense, with an average of 321.7 yards a game.

    Over on the other side, Stanford is ranked No. 24 for total offense with 457.5 yards per game, and they rank No. 19 in rushing offense with an average of 223.2 yards over four games.

    With everything pointing to another high-scoring affair, ultimately it may come down to defense.