Not only will No. 2 Oregon be forced to handle with the physical and gritty demeanor of No. 5 Stanford when the two meet next Thursday in Palo Alto, the Ducks will also have to conquer the emotional homecoming of Stanford’s favorite son ( John Elway ) when the Cardinal retire the famous #7 jersey at halftime.
As if this game won’t be hard enough.
Now, the undefeated Ducks will have to overcome the added fervor and excitement of having Super Bowl Champion John Elway in the house for the Pac-12′s biggest game to date and likely a berth to the BCS National Championship game.
While Elway is certainly deserving of the celebration to retire his jersey, couldn’t the Stanford brain trust have selected another game to hang it in the Stanford Stadium rafters?
Not a chance.
This was a calculated decision to entice a heightened attraction to this specific game,…and to guarantee a sell out on a Thursday evening when Cardinal fans might be choosing a cheese and wine platter over an evening of college football.
“Through the years the No. 7 has meant so much to the Stanford community, most recently with the record-breaking career of Toby Gerhart,” Stanford coach David Shaw said recently.
“Current student-athletes Ty Montgomery and Aziz Shittu both will wear the No. 7 jersey and be the last two to put it on for Stanford University.”
Besides having to negate the pro-Elway crowd, the Ducks will also have to contain Stanford’s three leading offensive weapons including receiver Ty Montgomery – the other No. 7.
Montgomery is currently the favorite target of Cardinal quarterback Kevin Hogan - Montgomery has caught 39 passes for 619 yards and 5 touchdowns.
As for the duo of Hogan and running back Tyler Gaffney, both are significant pieces to this Stanford offense.
Hogan didn’t have his best game last Saturday against Oregon State, but he’s still completing 61% of his passes and has accumulated 1,493 passing yards with 13 touchdowns.
The biggest threat to find the end zone however is Gaffney.
Gaffney has carried the ball 166 times for 886 yards with 12 scores.
When asked about the size and scope of the game and facing the trio of weapons Stanford has, Oregon coach Mark Helfrich maintained his ‘business as usual’ approach.
“Our guys in general don’t need a lot of motivation,…in general” said Helfrich on Wednesday.
“However we can focus to prepare,..if it gets you mad we didn’t play very well last year to practice great today,…I’m all for it.”
“We have to go out there and just study film and make sure we get on these guys early” said Oregon safety Brian Jackson when asked about the teams focus.
“That’s what this bye week is for,…we’re able to focus on them. For the most part we’re getting our minds sharp more so than just practicing hard. We got a little off time, but that’s where this film study comes into play because with not as much practice I can sit at home and watch these guys.”
So, while Stanford alone is certainly a significant test for the Ducks, so will the pomp and circumstance surrounding the peripheral celebration for Hall of Famer and Stanford great John Elway.
Will the Ducks stay focused on the task at hand?
Another good question,…and test for these No. 2 Ducks.