The winner of the last five meetings between Stanford and Oregon has gone on to win the Pac-12, and that could be the case again.
The seventh-ranked Cardinal will try to clinch their third conference title in four seasons Saturday when they host the Ducks.
Stanford (8-1, 7-0) has won eight consecutive games by an average of 20.3 points since losing 16-6 at Northwestern. The surge has given the Cardinal their best start in conference play since 2011, and they can win the North Division by winning one of their final two conference games.
Stanford hosts a California team that has lost four in a row next week before closing its season Nov. 28 against No. 6 Notre Dame in a game that could have huge implications for the College Football Playoffs.
Running back Christian McCaffrey starred again in the Cardinal’s latest blowout, a 42-10 victory at Colorado last Saturday. He finished his performance with a 28-yard touchdown pass on a trick play after also running 23 times for 147 yards, catching three passes for 15 yards and combining for 58 kickoff and punt return yards.
McCaffrey leads the FBS with 241.6 all-purpose yards per game and is likely to become the league’s fifth player since 1978 to average at least 200 and first for Stanford since Glyn Milburn in 1990. Milburn played with McCaffrey’s father, Ed.
"There are not many positions the young man can’t play," coach David Shaw said. "I’d say offensive and defensive lines are it. He’s one of those phenomenal football players."
Oregon had won seven straight meetings before splitting the last six. Stanford claimed the Pac-12 after winning this game in 2012 and 2013, while the last four winners of this matchup have also played in the Rose Bowl.
Stanford was steamrolled 45-16 by the then-No. 5 Ducks in Eugene last November and was held to 3.4 yards per rush.
While the Ducks (6-3, 4-2) no longer have Marcus Mariota, who racked up 343 yards of total offense and four TDs in that contest, they accounted for a school-record 777 yards in last Saturday’s 44-28 win against California. It was the team’s third straight victory.
Coach Mark Helfrich, however, was still concerned by Vernon Adams Jr.’s two interceptions and the Ducks’ two punts that were blocked. In order to win the Pac-12, Oregon needs to win out and hope California can upset Stanford.
"We’re definitely playing better, in phases," Helfrich told the school’s official website. "And then still just need to put the complete thing together."
The vaunted Oregon rushing attack was a four-headed monster of sorts last week, led by Royce Freeman’s 180 yards on 29 carries. Freeman, the conference’s leading rusher (143.2) was spelled by Tony Brooks-James, Kani Benoit and Taj Griffin, who combined for 254 yards on 23 rushes, but even the 29 carries were a "little bit more" than running backs coach Gary Campbell said he wanted for Freeman.
"It was good for (Freeman) to get a break," Campbell said. "Because when he does he’s at his best when he gets back out there – he’s a little more rested. I think it’s good for us in the running game, because now we get him at full speed in there."
That many carries for the entire running back ensemble likely isn’t to happen against a Stanford team that dominates the ball. The Cardinal lead the nation with an average 35:17 time of possession.
"Efficiency is really important against Stanford," offensive coordinator Scott Frost said. "Their offense is going to try and keep our offense off the field, so we have to take advantage of drives."
Stanford has won 45 of its last 50 home games.