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CHRIS DUFRESNE / ON COLLEGE FOOTBALL

Stanford shoots down the Ducks again

Oregon's stunning loss opens a spot in the national title game. And unbeaten Baylor is impressive against Oklahoma.

November 07, 2013|Chris Dufresne
  • Stanford linebacker James Vaughters forces Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota to fumble on a pass play in the fourth quarter Thursday night.
Stanford linebacker James Vaughters forces Oregon quarterback Marcus… (Ezra Shaw / Getty Images )

Those who have waited years to see how Oregon's lightning-quick offense might match up against old-school Alabama in a national title game are going to have to wait at least another year.

Stanford, though, might have already provided the answer.

For a second consecutive year, with the same man-powered game plan, Stanford knocked Oregon out of the national title race.

Last November it was a three-point, Saturday night squeaker in Eugene.

This November it was the No. 6 Cardinal toppling the No. 2 Ducks with a 26-20 win on Thursday night at Stanford Stadium.

Well, of course, Stanford had to make it interesting.

The Cardinal was cruising with a 26-0 lead in the fourth quarter and then had to hold off a furious Oregon rally. The game wasn't decided until Stanford recovered an onside kick.

History, though, will record the win as resounding.

For a second straight year, Stanford (8-1) dealt Oregon (8-1) its first loss of the season. Oregon finished 12-1 last year and time will tell whether Stanford will be Oregon's only defeat this year.

Stanford retired Oregon on the night it retired John Elway's No. 7 jersey.

Thursday's result was greeted with great shock in Eugene and great joy in Tallahassee, Columbus and Waco.

Florida State, which worried about finishing undefeated and not making the title game, can rest easy. The Seminoles, if they win out, will play for it all at the Rose Bowl.

Oregon trailed No. 2 Florida State in the Bowl Championship Series standings but figured to retake the lead with a win over Stanford.

Ohio State, undefeated but stuck at No. 4, will also move one position closer to the top.

And don't forget No. 6 Baylor, which stayed undefeated with an emphatic 41-12 win over No. 10 Oklahoma. It was the Bears' first quality win of the season.

The game in Waco was a prelude to Oregon-Stanford on dramatic Thursday featuring four top-10 schools.

In the style war, Baylor's pinball offense prevailed but Oregon's point-a-minute offense crashed.

The weekend isn't over yet, either, as No.1 Alabama hosts Louisiana State.

Stanford has tormented Oregon (and others) by bringing Alabama's physical pro style to the Pac-12.

The schools play the same conservative way, using power running and defense to bully their way through schedules.

How similar are the programs?

Since 2009, Alabama is 43-5 and Stanford is 43-6.

It marked yet another excruciating defeat for Oregon. In 2007, on a Thursday night, its title hopes were shattered after star quarterback Dennis Dixon was injured early in a loss at Arizona.

Thursday had a similar feel as Marcus Mariota limped off the field after he fumbled in the third quarter (he would return).

Stanford played a near-perfect game until a late-game collapse triggered by a blocked field-goal attempt for a touchdown. It should not diminish how thoroughly Stanford dominated most of the game.

Even with Oregon's late burst, Stanford finished with more first downs and total yards. Stanford also converted on 14 of 21 third-down tries while holding Oregon to three for 10.

If not for an exasperating loss at Utah, Stanford probably would be second in the BCS standings on its way to a possible title-game berth.

Stanford had four chances to win in the end at Utah but was stopped short of the goal line in a 27-21 loss.

Boy, those things can come back to haunt you.

The Cardinal is still in the national title race, but will need a few undefeated teams to lose. Other one-loss schools, Auburn and Missouri, were also thrilled with Thursday's news.

Stanford dusted off last year's game plan that worked so well at Oregon.

Why wouldn't it?

Just like last year, Oregon failed to take advantage of early opportunities and let Stanford dictate, well, just about everything.

Oregon failed on one fourth down inside the five and fumbled near the goal line when linebacker Shane Skov ripped the ball loose from De'Anthony Thomas.

Stanford, bigger and stronger, methodically pounded Oregon.

The Cardinal scored 17 first-half points on three drives that consumed 40 plays, 250 yards and 19:23 on the clock.

Oregon really doesn't care about time of possession when it's scoring quickly, but it's a killer when you have a zero on the scoreboard.

Stanford kept the ball for 20:33 in the first half and held Oregon to zero rushing yards in the first quarter.

Oklahoma-Baylor had a strange beginning before tipping toward the Bears.

Baylor, averaging 718 yards a game, had more penalty yards in the first quarter than total yards (58-56).

It was a 3-0 game and then 3-2 and then 5-3. What was this, soccer?

Oklahoma's defense did a great job holding down Baylor's top-ranked offense for more than a quarter before buckling under the Bears' relentless offensive pressure.

Bryce Petty scored on two-second quarter rushes and then turned an Oklahoma interception into another late touchdown to put Baylor up, 24-5, at the half.

What Thursday night proved, once again, is worrying about rankings in late October is silly. It causes unnecessary stress.

When will we ever learn?

chris.dufresne@latimes.com

Twitter: @DufresneLATimes

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