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No. 3 Oregon visits Stanford for key Pac-12 North game

Oregon's CJ Verdell, center, rushes against Stony Brook during the first quarter.Eug 091821 Oregonfb 07
Oregon’s CJ Verdell, center, rushes against Stony Brook during the first quarter.Eug 091821 Oregonfb 07

A college football rivalry that heated up a decade ago when Stanford and Oregon battled for division and conference supremacy renews on Saturday afternoon when the third-ranked Ducks go to Palo Alto, Calif., to take on the host Cardinal.

No. 3 Oregon (4-0, 1-0 Pac-12) is off to a 4-0 start for the first time since the 2014 season, when the Ducks made it to the national championship game. Beating Stanford would put Oregon in even better position in early October than that team, which was upset by Arizona on Oct. 2 seven years ago.

Since 2009 in the Oregon-Stanford series, each team has won six games and lost six, although the Ducks have handled the Cardinal in each of the past two seasons. And since the league expanded and moved to divisions in 2011, Stanford or Oregon has represented the Pac-12 North eighth times in 10 conference title games.

Oregon is coming off a 41-19 win over Arizona last Saturday at home in which they led by just 24-19 early in the fourth quarter before taking over. In that game, the Ducks intercepted five passes, which made them a plus-12 in turnover margin — the top mark in the country this season.

The five interceptions were the most for the program since the Ducks picked off six passes against California on Nov. 13, 1999. Oregon’s 13 takeaways are the best in college football, and their nine interceptions are tied for the most in the nation.

On the Oregon offense, running back CJ Verdell is averaging 5.6 yards a carry and 85.8 yards a game this season and needs just 26 rushing yards to move into the school’s career top five in that category.

Oregon leads the Pac-12 in scoring, averaging 38.8 points.

Head coach Mario Cristobal said he feels good about the health of star defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux, who was on a snap count against Arizona of six to 10 plays. Thibodeaux missed the previous two games with an ankle injury.

“He’s in good shape to play. We’ll see if he’s in good enough shape to play an entire game. I think he will,” Cristobal said. “There were no issues and no physical limitations. It was important that he got in that game and got himself some snaps.”

The Cardinal (2-2, 1-1) played in its own stadium for the first time this season last Saturday and fell to No. 24 UCLA 35-24. Stanford lost to unranked Kansas State in Arlington, Texas, upset then-No. 14 USC in Los Angeles, overpowered Vanderbilt in Nashville and lost at home to the Bruins.

Quarterback Tanner McKee was 19 for 32 for 293 yards with three touchdowns and led Stanford with 42 yards rushing after running back Nathaniel Peat was held to just 27 yards on 13 carries.

Stanford head coach David Shaw said a slow start led to his team’s loss.

“You can’t spot a good team 13, 14 points,” Shaw said after the Cardinal faced 14-0 and 21-7 deficits. “We’re getting towards that midseason point and starting to have a really good idea of what we do well and what we don’t. Hopefully we’ll do more positive things the rest of the year.”

–Field Level Media