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No. 7 Stanford storms back to beat No. 20 Oregon in OT and make huge Pac-12 statement at Autzen

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The faces may change through the years but whenever Oregon and Stanford get together in the Pac-12 era, a classic tends to break out. Such was certainly the case once again on Saturday night in Eugene.

The No. 7 Cardinal had an incredible turnaround starting in the third quarter and stormed back to beat No. 20 Oregon 38-31 in overtime and send a statement to the Pac-12 and the rest of the country that they’re still among the elite in the sport.

Despite Oregon controlling the game convincingly early, Stanford found late life in the third quarter thanks to their defense. After a replay took a touchdown off the board, the Ducks were at their one yard line when they were set to punch the ball in… but fumbled the snap. Linebacker Joey Alfieri scooped-and-scored from 80 yards out to quiet the rambunctious crowd in Eugene and a three-and-out followed. The Cardinal continued to make things interesting after that incredible swing of momentum as Bryce Love then punched it in from 22 yards out to complete the 21-point swing.

While it looked like the Ducks had regained control of things with a 70-yard touchdown drive, the visitors from the Farm would not give up. They answered with a score in less than 90 seconds and then incredibly forced a fumble on the ensuing possession. After some big time passes down the field, Jet Toner knocked home a 32-yard field goal as time expired to send the game into overtime and the team secured an interception to seal the deal in the extra frame.

Love (89 yards) was generally held in check outside of that one scoring run as the Stanford offense mostly had to move the ball through the air. Signal-caller K.J. Costello made several big throws down the field and finished with 327 yards passing. He also threw for three touchdowns, two of which went not surprisingly to jump ball machine JJ Arcega-Whiteside. Tight end Kaden Smith chipped in with six catches for 95 yards and Coby Parkinson found the end zone from 23 yards out in OT for the game-winner.

The stunning comeback ruined what should have been a momentous day for Mario Cristobal at Oregon. Quarterback Justin Herbert managed to insert himself into the Heisman conversation by playing nearly perfect, throwing for 346 yards with just seven incompletions, a touchdown and a pick. He also ran for 35 yards for good measure and his scrambles to keep plays alive were key to sustaining drives throughout the game.

CJ Verdell led the way for the Ducks on the ground with 115 yards rushing and a touchdown but his fumble trying to ice the game was the critical mistake that seemed to doom the team. It also spoiled big play machine Dillon Mitchell‘s huge performance as the junior wideout finished the night with a whopping 14 catches for 239 yards — the most at the school since 2003.

The loss not only sets Oregon back in the Pac-12 North race (with rivals Washington coming to town in three weeks), but also hampers their good start to the year against weaker competition. While there’s plenty of season left to go, defeats like that are never easy to get over and Cristobal in particular still has plenty to prove to the fan base that he was the right choice to replace Willie Taggart last December.

As for Stanford, they will likely tick up some in the polls and can now legitimately enter the College Football Playoff conversation. That clash against Notre Dame in South Bend next week on NBC is one of the biggest games of the young season so far and both teams are no stranger from hard-fought battles over the years themselves. While that will have more national implications going forward, the Cardinal already made an impressive statement in Pac-12 play on Saturday night as they look more and more like the class of the league after quieting the crowd and stunning Oregon at Autzen.

QB Justin Herbert, No. 20 Oregon sharp in jumping out to halftime lead against No. 7 Stanford

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After playing three lackluster opponents to open the season, just about everybody in the country was wondering just how good undefeated and No. 20 Oregon was this season. Turns out, pretty good.

The Ducks struck early and never looked back in their huge Pac-12 showdown against No. 7 Stanford, taking a 24-7 lead into the halftime break and looking every bit like the better team on both sides of the ball so far at Autzen Stadium.

In his first big impression for Heisman voters this year, Oregon QB Justin Herbert was nearly perfect through the air with 170 yards, a touchdown and just a single incompletion. He hit several big plays between the hashes and also chipped in by showing off his mobility with 42 yards on the ground as well. Dillon Mitchell hauled in a 53-yard pass on his way to triple figures (126) receiving while tight end Jacob Breeland found the end zone on one of his two catches. CJ Verdell chipped in with 75 yards and a score running the ball too.

The Cardinal offense was not nearly as explosive in the first half. Tailback Bryce Love was mostly held in check with just 41 yards rushing while K.J. Costello powered offense down the field with several big throws on his way to 114 yards. He also tossed a touchdown pass which came, not surprisingly, on a jump ball in the end zone to JJ Arcega-Whiteside from 13 yards out.

We’ll see how this one will play out but the two Pac-12 North rivals have staged some incredible second half battles over the years and that could be the case once again. Defensive adjustments for Stanford will prove key to making things interesting because the Ducks are certainly proving to be better than advertised just two quarters into their season actually getting underway.

Bryce Love bottled up but No. 13 Stanford still runs past San Diego State

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Last season, Bryce Love rushed for 184 yards and two scores but his Stanford team was upset by San Diego State in a truly surprising result. This season, things went a lot differently for the Heisman front-runner, both on the ground and on the scoreboard.

Love was bottled up to the tune of just 29 yards by a feisty Aztecs defense but the No. 13 Cardinal managed to still run away with a 31-10 victory and start 2018 on the right note to go 1-0.

It was not for lack of effort from the Stanford tailback, who broke off numerous runs of 50+ yards a year ago and was fed early and often with carries on Friday night. SDSU not only loaded the box with defenders but did a great job in pursuit and never did seem to allow much daylight for Love to run through.

That did, however, open things up quite a bit for the Stanford passing game. Quarterback K.J. Costello threw for 332 yards and four touchdowns (one interception) to lead the way after a bit of a slow start, doing well to stay  in the pocket and deliver quite a few strikes downfield. His favorite target was undoubtedly JJ Arcega-Whitesidewho had no problem taking over from Love as the highlight machine. The lengthy wideout finished the evening with 226 yards and a trio of touchdowns — adding a two-point conversion off a jump ball for good measure as well.

If there was a running back in the game who turned heads, it might just have been SDSU’s Juwan Washington. Looking like the next in an incredible line of incredible backs at the school, the junior ran for a career-high 158 yards and a touchdown as the team’s lone source of consistent offense.

Quarterback Christian Chapman never could get the passing game going to take the pressure of his tailback and finished with 113 yards through the air while taking five sacks. Perhaps the signal-caller’s most memorable (or unmemorable) moment came in the first half when he was trying to escape a sack in the end zone but ended up trying to fumble the ball forward. It was called for grounding and resulted in a safety for the Cardinal defense.

Though there was a bit of a slow start to the game, in the end Stanford showed why they were labeled by some as a trendy dark horse in both the Pac-12 and College Football Playoff races. On an off night for their Heisman-favorite, it was an encouraging sign for David Shaw and company to see other parts of the offense spring to life and the defense look a little more stout than initially expected.

Things will be much tougher next week as rival USC comes to the Farm but just about everybody around the program will be happy with the way things went on Friday night. Even with the sub par numbers, that likely includes Love as well even if it did him no favors in trying to get back to New York at the end of the year.

Alabama tops preseason Super 16 poll from FWAA and National Football Foundation

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Another day, another hour, and another top spot in a preseason poll for the Alabama Crimson Tide.

Alabama was the most popular pick for the top spot in the preseason Super 16 Poll from the Football Writers Association of America and the National Football Foundation. Alabama received 36 first-place votes to stay comfortably ahead of No. 2 Clemson. The Tigers received 14 first-place votes and Georgia and Michigan State each picked up one first-place vote.

The voters certainly are leaning toward Wisconsin as the top Big Ten team. The Badgers ranked fourth overall, two spots ahead of Ohio State. If the playoff were determined by this preseason poll, Alabama would play Wisconsin and Clemson would face Georgia. Washington would be the first team out. The Huskies coming in at No. 5 likely means a good number of voters believe Washington will open the season with a win against Auburn in Atlanta in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game as well, and that would certainly create a playoff-or-bust season for Washington out of the gates.

One team that has received some good offseason buzz that failed to crack the Super 16 was West Virginia. A trendy pick in the Big 12 for some, the Mountaineers were the first team out of this particular preseason poll.

No Group of Five programs made the Super 16 cut, although UCF, Boise State, and San Diego State all received at least one point in the voting.

Here is how the preseason Super 16 poll breaks down:

  1. Alabama (36 first-place votes)
  2. Clemson (14)
  3. Georgia
  4. Wisconsin
  5. Washington
  6. Ohio State
  7. Oklahoma
  8. Miami
  9. Auburn
  10. Penn State
  11. Michigan State (1)
  12. Notre Dame
  13. Michigan
  14. Stanford
  15. USC
  16. TCU

In the interest of full disclosure, three College Football Talk contributors are voting members in the Super 16 Poll; myself, Bryan Fischer and Zach Barnett). The poll is made up of members of the FWAA and College Football Hall of Famers with an emphasis on geographic balance. New polls will be updated every Monday this season, with the exception of the post-Week 1 poll, which will be released on Tuesday, September 4.

Biletnikoff Award watch list highlighted by 2017 finalist David Sills

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You know how I know we’re getting closer to the start of a new season?  Yet another watch list.

The latest to release theirs is the Biletnikoff Award, with the honor going to the nation’s top receiver issuing a list consisting of 50 players from all nine FBS conferences as well as one independent (UMass).  Headlining this year’s preseason list is West Virginia’s David Sills, who was a finalist for the 2017 award claimed by Oklahoma State’s James Washington.  One other 2017 semifinalist is included as well, Ole Miss’ A.J. Brown.

A total of seven teams placed two receivers each on the watch list: Cal (Kanawai Noa, Vic Wharton III), Louisville (Dez Fitzpatrick, Jaylen Smith), Nebraska (Stanley Morgan Jr., JD Spielman), North Texas (Jalen Guyton, Michael Lawrence), Oklahoma (Marquise Brown, CeeDee Lamb), Toledo (Diontae Johnson, Cody Thompson) and West Virginia (Gary Jennings Jr., Sills).

Three conferences totaled seven players apiece, the ACC, Big 12 and MAC.  That trio is followed by five each from Conference USA and four apiece for the AAC, Pac-12 and Sun Belt.  The Big Ten and Mountain West each placed three.

Below is the complete list of 2018 Biletnikoff Award preseason watch listers:

JJ Arcega-Whiteside, Stanford
Tyre Brady, Marshall
A.J. Brown, Ole Miss
Marquise Brown, Oklahoma
Trevon Brown, East Carolina
Ryan Davis, Auburn
Greg Dortch, Wake Forest
Terren Encalade, Tulane
Dez Fitzpatrick, Louisville
James Gardner, Miami-Ohio
Jonathan Giles, LSU
Marcus Green, ULM
Jalen Guyton, North Texas
Emanuel Hall, Missouri
Justin Hall, Ball State
Kelvin Harmon, North Carolina State
N’Keal Harry, Arizona State
Penny Hart, Georgia State
Justin Hobbs, Tulsa
Andy Isabella, Massachusetts
Gary Jennings Jr., West Virginia
Anthony Johnson, Buffalo
Collin Johnson, Texas
Diontae Johnson, Toledo
KeeSean Johnson, Fresno State
CeeDee Lamb, Oklahoma
Michael Lawrence, North Texas
Ty Lee Middle, Tennessee
McLane Mannix, Nevada
Scott Miller, Bowling Green
Denzel Mims, Baylor
Stanley Morgan Jr., Nebraska
Kanawai Noa, California
James Proche, SMU
T.J. Rahming, Duke
Ahmmon Richards, Miami
Deebo Samuel, South Carolina
David Sills V, West Virginia
Steven Sims Jr., Kansas
Jaylen Smith, Louisville
Kwadarrius Smith, Akron
JD Spielman, Nebraska
Cody Thompson, Toledo
John Ursua, Hawaii
Teddy Veal, Louisiana Tech
Jamarius Way, South Alabama
Nick Westbrook, Indiana
Vic Wharton III, California
Malcolm Williams, Coastal Carolina
Olamide Zaccheaus, Virginia