Once again, it's time for one of the marquee games in Pac-12 play, Oregon vs. Stanford, and this year's edition has a familiar setup: one team trying to ruin the season of the other.
Only once since 2009 have Stanford and Oregon met with both teams unranked. Of those games, the higher-ranked team got upset five different times in the matchup. Most notably, the 2012 Ducks' lone loss was to No. 14 Stanford in overtime as the nation's top-ranked team.
The Oregon program has seen its National Championship aspirations dashed at the hands of Stanford and cannot afford history to repeat itself Saturday afternoon.
Now, with the Ducks entering Palo Alto as the nation's third-ranked team and with National Championship hopes, the program finds itself in familiar territory.
To accomplish the team's goal of the program's first College Football Playoff since 2015, Mario Cristobal's players are refusing to take any week or opponent for granted.
"You got to stay humble and stay hungry because it all can be taken away," said Verone McKinley III earlier this week. "If you get too high, you don't play well the next game so it's always about getting to the next game, being 1-0, seeing what I did wrong and what I can improve on."
Less than 24 hours after upsetting Ohio State in the Horseshoe, McKinley III was in Coach Marcel Yates' office the next morning waiting to break down film and prepare for Stony Brook. The three-year starter knows more than most how to learn from the past rather than let it hold you back.
"Everybody wants to say you're this great, you're that good, but at the same time the same people saying I shouldn't have been out there against Auburn so for me, it's like we've gotta get back in there and get back to work," he added.
"The way I've been raised is always, you can't let what happened in the past dictate everything you do going on. You gotta be able to move on, correct it and keep getting better."
On Saturday, the Ducks will have their hands full trying to slow down the Stanford rushing attack. David Shaw's teams have prided themselves on controlling the game by pounding the rock out of 11 and 12 personnel. Unfortunately, Oregon's defensive Achilles heel this season has been stopping the run with, winless Arizona even rushing for a season-high 208 yards last weekend.
That's not to say Stanford's one-dimensional. Tanner McKee has been called "as good of a quarterback as we’ve seen, not only this year but in years past," by Cristobal this week.
To defend Stanford's new-found passing attack, McKinley III told reporters it's key for the defensive backs to not allow the taller, Cardinal receivers to box them out. Additionally, the Ducks safety said Oregon trying to confuse McKee will definitely be key.
A similar sentiment was heard from another Ducks defensive back.
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"We just have to be on our 10 when we play them," said cornerback Trikweze Bridges.
For Oregon fans, the matchup against Stanford may flare up bad memories but this year's team doesn't let the past define them, led by McKinley III.
"Even though I did make great plays or whatever, we're trying to play a full 15 games so if I'm settled off of game two then I'm not going to be able to progress through games three, four, five so that's what it all takes," he said.
Notice how he said "a full 15 games:" 12 regular-season games, the Pac-12 Championship, and two College Football Playoff games.
Saturday's game will go a long way towards making a 15th game this season a reality rather than a goal.
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