On weekend of big matchups, Oregon-Stanford will command spotlight in college football
Sunday, September 26, 2010; 11:23 PM
While the Red River Rivalry between No. 8 Oklahoma and No. 21 Texas and a matchup between two teams that have claimed three of the past four Bowl Championship Series national titles might consume most of the marquee, a Pacific-10 showdown on next weekend's slate may be equally intriguing.
For the first time since 1986, Stanford is off to a 4-0 start after a commanding 37-14 victory Saturday over Notre Dame. Next up, the Cardinal travels to Eugene, Ore., where they will take on No. 4 Oregon (4-0) in a game that will decide the early front-runner for the Pac-10 crown and could push a Heisman Trophy contender further into the spotlight.
Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck - rising to prominence in the Heisman discussion - will have an opportunity to showcase his skills against a ball-hawking Oregon defense that forced seven turnovers Saturday in a 42-31 win at Arizona State. Luck threw his first two interceptions of the season Saturday against Notre Dame, the first time in 16 starts he threw multiple picks. But through four games this year he has tallied 11 touchdowns and thrown for 912 yards with a 62.7 completion percentage.
The Cardinal - which moved up seven spots in the Associated Press top 25 poll released Sunday to No. 9 - already has shut out UCLA, 35-0, on the road and won convincingly at South Bend.
Now, Stanford must face a top-five opponent that harbors national title aspirations. The Ducks are led by diminutive sophomore tailback LaMichael James, who has tallied 475 rushing yards in three games this season. While No. 18 Southern California and No. 14 Arizona also remain undefeated, the Oregon-Stanford matchup likely will determine who holds the early upper hand in the Pac-10 race.
Earlier in the day, Oklahoma and Texas will square off in Dallas. The Longhorns suffered the worst home defeat in Coach Mack Brown's 13-season tenure Saturday when they fell, 34-12, against UCLA. Texas will take on an Oklahoma squad that forced four turnovers but allowed 305 passing yards while hanging on to defeat Cincinnati, 31-29. A game that historically features two of the stingiest defenses in the nation could turn into a shootout.
No. 1 Alabama, the reigning national champion, will look to round into form against No. 7 Florida, which won the national title in 2007 and 2009. The Crimson Tide's run defense was typically stout Saturday against Arkansas, but it was Alabama's porous pass defense (357 yards allowed) that kept the Razorbacks in the game until the end.
The Gators, meantime, may have found another star-in-the-making. Freshman quarterback Trey Burton tallied six touchdowns (five rushing, one receiving) Saturday in a 48-14 win over Kentucky.