As impressive as Stanford’s performance was in its 17-14 overtime upset of No. 2 Oregon on the road Saturday, the Cardinal may not get where it wants to go unless it beats UCLA twice on consecutive weekends.
To win the Pac-12 North Division and earn a berth in the conference title game, Stanford probably has to beat UCLA on the Bruins’ home field in the stadium known as the Rose Bowl on Saturday. Then, to get to the game known as the Rose Bowl, Stanford would have to beat the Pac-12 South champion Bruins again in the Pac-12 championship game at Stanford six days later on Nov. 30.
The Cardinal will have more incentive than the Bruins in the this weekend’s meeting because UCLA has already clinched a berth in the conference title game with its 38-28 victory over USC.
But if the Cardinal loses to UCLA on Saturday and Oregon beats Oregon State the same day, the Ducks will represent the Pac-12 North in the conference championship game against the Bruins.
So, somehow, the Cardinal must refocus after pulling off one of the greatest victories in Stanford history, a game in which the Cardinal’s defense held the nation’s highest scoring team 40 points under its average.
Stanford (9-2, 7-1 in the Pac-12) had stayed with the speedy Ducks for a half in previous meetings, leading by seven two years ago and trailing by just six last season. But Stanford had been outscored 59-14 in the second halves of those games as Oregon simply wore down the Cardinal defense with its offensive speed and up-tempo
This time the Cardinal defense had the depth and speed to stay with Oregon (10-1, 7-1), scoring a tying touchdown with 1:35 left in regulation on a spectacular catch by tight end Zach Ertz and winning it on Jordan Williamson’s 37-yard field goal in the first overtime period.