October 13, 2017
Bryce Love / Running Back / Stanford
The junior who replaced 2015 Heisman runner-up Christian McCaffrey hasn’t skipped a beat in his new role. He leads not only the Pac-12, but also the NCAA with 206.7 yards per game and already has nine touchdowns and a whopping 1,240 yards. Only Royce Freeman has more touchdowns, but Freeman only has a little over half the total rushing yards that Love has accumulated. At five feet ten inches tall and 196 pounds, Love is not similar in stature to 238-pound Freeman, but he makes up for it in his elusiveness. Love might not have the receiving presence that McCaffrey had, but he is a definite threat in the Cardinal backfield. He has rushed for at least 150 yards and a touchdown during each of his games this year.
Troy Dye / Inside Linebacker / Oregon
Inside linebacker Troy Dye has been one of the best players on the Oregon defense since he burst onto the scene as a freshman in 2016. Last year against Stanford, he recorded seven solo tackles and two tackles for loss in the 52-27 Cardinal win. He was also a bright spot in the Ducks’ struggling middle defense against Washington State last weekend, with a team-high 11 tackles and a forced fumble. It has been assumed that Dye will be the high-point among the off-and-on Oregon defense, but he will have to step up even more to help stop Love.
Someone else to keep an eye on is whoever plays in the other inside linebacker position. With A.J. Hotchkins and Kaulana Apelu both hurt, Blake Rugraff started against Washington State. Jimmie Swain — who had a good game against Stanford last year with nine total tackles — and Sampson Niu also rotated in. Dye can’t do everything, and it will be up to whoever fills that position to aid him in stopping the Stanford run game.
Jacob Breeland / Tight End / Oregon
Breeland didn’t play against California because of an injury, but he came back against Washington State to score the Ducks’ only touchdown. Stanford is ranked 101st in the NCAA for total defense, allowing an average of 433.8 yards per game and 6.01 yards per play. The Cardinal is also tied for 106th in the NCAA in red zone defense, allowing the opposing team to score 90 percent of the time. So as long as the Ducks can get to the red zone, they are likely to score. Freshman quarterback Braxton Burmeister struggled with passing against Washington State, but the Ducks didn’t have success running the ball either. For the Ducks to have a shot on Sunday, Breeland and Burmeister need to connect.
Justin Reid / Strong Safety / Stanford
Reid has made an impact in the Stanford secondary, and Oregon head coach Willie Taggart knows it. “I know their Reid kid in the secondary is a good football player,” Taggart said. Reid was named the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week for his performance against Utah last week. He had a team-high seven tackles and made the game-winning interception, and he currently leads the Pac-12 in interceptions with five. With Burmeister struggling to get the passing game going against Washington State and throwing two interceptions, Reid is likely to make some game-changing plays.
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