Pride on the line this season between Stanford and Oregon
EUGENE, Ore. (AP) It's safe to say neither Stanford nor Oregon thought either team would be where it is now when the season started.
Stanford, with Heisman-hopeful Christian McCaffrey, was ranked No. 8 in the preseason and expected to claim the Pac-12 title. But now the Cardinal are 6-3 overall and 4-3 in the league.
The Ducks, who played for the national title two seasons ago, are 3-6 overall (1-5 Pac-12) and facing the prospect they might not become bowl eligible.
Either Stanford or Oregon had won every Pac-12 championship since the league expanded and a title game was established in 2011. Each time the teams had met since 2008, one or both were ranked.
Certainly many had Saturday's game at Autzen Stadium circled on the calendar at the start of the season as a game that could have postseason implications. But now it looks like the north's biggest game will be the Apple Cup between Washington and Washington State.
Stanford coach Davis Shaw said the records don't diminish the importance of this game to both programs.
''Records don't matter. These are two proud football programs who've had very good football games the last four years,'' Shaw said. ''It's a tough play to play and a tough place to win.''
Stanford looks to have recovered with two straight victories after losses to the Huskies, Cougars and upstart Colorado. The Cardinal defeated Oregon State 26-15 last weekend.
Oregon defeated Arizona State at Autzen two weeks ago, but fell to USC 45-20 in Los Angeles last Saturday.
RUNNING BACKS: McCaffrey struggled at times this season and missed Stanford's victory over Notre Dame because of injury. But he looked to regain his form last weekend against Oregon State, when he ran for 199 yards and a touchdown.
McCaffrey still ranks atop the league with an average of 122.5 yards a game, and he's 20 yards away from 1,000 for the season.
''Last year he set such a high bar that 1,000 yards is a shrug of the shoulders. But it is a big deal. It's a landmark for a reason,'' Shaw said. ''He's a phenomenal football player that stats don't readily tell you.''
Oregon running back Royce Freeman was touted as a possible Heisman candidate at the start of the season, but he too has fought injuries. He's only topped 100 yards twice this season.
Two weeks ago after Oregon's victory over the Sun Devils, Freeman insisted nothing was wrong. ''I feel like I'm trying my hardest out there. I'm going out there and putting it all on the line,'' he said.
QUARTERBACKS: Both teams have freshman quarterbacks who replaced starters. Oregon's Justin Herbert took over for graduate transfer Dakota Prukop and has shown promise, throwing for 1,158 yards with 13 touchdowns and two interceptions in four starts.
Stanford freshman Keller Chryst took over for Ryan Burns two games ago and helped guide Stanford to wins. But the Cardinal still ranks at the bottom of the Pac-12 for passing yards.
INJUIRIES: Oregon doesn't discuss them, but Shaw provided a rundown for Stanford: Wide receiver Francis Owusu is questionable with an undisclosed injury. Offensive linemen Casey Tucker and Brandon Fanaika are doubtful. But sophomore fullback Daniel Marx will likely see playing time.
One sad note for the Ducks: Sophomore defensive Canton Kaumatule's career at Oregon ended this week because of injuries. The 6-foot-7 Honolulu native accepted a medical hardship, which will allow him to keep his scholarship.
RUMORS EVERYWHERE: Oregon coach Mark Helfrich tried to make light of a post to Twitter that suggested Nike co-founder Phil Knight was willing to spend $10 million a year on a new coach to lead the team to a national championship.
''I take it that it wasn't me that was getting the 10 million?'' Helfrich asked.
However, he also said: ''That's the nature of the profession. And it would be cool if it's that easy.''
SERIES: Stanford leads the all-time series, 46-32-1, but the Ducks have won 11 of the last 14 meetings. Last season Oregon linebacker Joe Walker tipped a game-tying two-point conversion attempt and the Ducks held on to beat then-No. 7 Stanford 38-36.