Sam Finley, EDN Sports Editor

Why don’t we just hand Andrew Luck the Heisman already? The Stanford quarterback has been compared to every one from Joe Montana to Superman, and even the Baby Jesus.  Okay, so I’m exaggerating a bit, but Luck certainly has the Ducks’ attention when they take on fourth-ranked Cardinal in Palo Alto on Saturday.

Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck felt the pressure from Oregon defensive end Kenny Rowe during last year's game at Autzen. (Photo Credit: Steve Dykes/Getty Images)

“Andrew Luck is an outstanding player,” explained Oregon defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti. “One of the best quarterbacks I’ve seen in college football in a long time. He’s a John Elway or Peyton Manning type-of-guy.  He’s special.”

Of course, Luck didn’t look so special against the Ducks last season at Autzen.  After Oregon spotted the Cardinal a 21-3 lead, they roared back and pasted them 52-31.  Once that happened, Luck frequently found himself overthrowing receivers or getting sacked by guys like Kenny Rowe.

To be fair, however, that game was played in front of a friendly crowd in Eugene.  This time, the eighth-ranked Ducks have to play at Stanford Stadium, where they lost 51-42 two years ago.  That’s probably why Oregon finds themselves three-point underdogs in this go around.

That being said, ask any of the Ducks if they care.  Oregon running back LaMichael James, who ran for 257 yards in the last contest, certainly doesn’t.

“No one around here really cares if we’re the underdog,” said James. “That’s why the game is played on the field.”

LaMichael James ran for 257 yards against Stanford last season. (Photo Credit: Steve Dykes/Getty Images)

James is also quick to dismiss the common myth that this is the classic power versus speed matchup.  Certainly, the Cardinal are known for pounding the ball and running the clock.  However, James resents the idea that Oregon isn’t a physical team in its own right.

“I take that personally,” James said.  “I really do.  We’re going to be aggressive on Saturday, too.  Stanford is an aggressive team, but what team in college football, isn’t? We’re not a finesse team.  We just have very fast players, and we’re going to go out and compete.”

Both teams should give it their all in what could be a game for the ages.  In fact, for this column, I realized I might not be able to make a clear-headed prediction of my own.  Thus, I decided to bring in a good friend to help me out on this one: Lindsay McCormick from Comcast SportsNet.

You might’ve seen McCormick on the sports show, “The Fan” or doing sideline reports during Portland TrailBlazer games (when they’re not locked out).  But Lindsay McCormick is also a college football fanatic, and this dates back to her days at Auburn University.  That’s right, she was quietly rooting against the Ducks in the BCS title game.

“That’s our little secret,” said McCormick with a pleasant laugh.

By the same token, she’s actually got a bit of a soft spot for Oregon since covering them during the national championship.

“I got to cover the Ducks a bit for Comcast during the title game,” McCormick explained. “So I got to know some of the players, as well as wide receivers coach Scott Frost. That made it kind of bittersweet. I mean, anyone would be leaning towards their alma mater, but I wouldn’t have been disappointed if the Ducks had won, either.  I just wanted to see a really good game and that’s what we got.”

Lindsay McCormick from Comcast SportsNet comes off the red carpet to help Sam Finley break down the Oregon/Stanford game. (Photo Courtesy: Lindsay McCormick)

McCormick is expecting that this Saturday’s game will also be very good, and does believe that Luck is worth all the hype.

“Luck is definitely a top-tier quarterback,” said McCormick.  “He’s also in a pro-style offense, which might make him the most NFL-ready player in the 2012 draft. ”

She also likes some of the offensive schemes Stanford employs.

“I love how they use three tight ends,” McCormick claims. “All three of them could play in the pros.”

So McCormick is picking the Cardinal? Not quite.

“One of the biggest keys to this game will be injuries,” she stated. “One of their tight ends (Zach Ertz) has a right knee injury, so he’s going to be doubtful.”

That’s not the only injury Stanford has to deal with.

“One of their other tight ends (Levine Toilolo) will play,” McCormick explains. “But he’s coming back from a head injury last week.  Having had a concussion myself a few years ago, I know that it takes more than a week to fully recover from it.  In my case, it was a slight concussion, but I can’t imagine a guy in a helmet and pads getting knocked around on the football field being 100 percent after a head injury.”

If that wasn’t bad enough for the Cardinal, they lost their best receiver during last weekend’s game against Oregon State.

“They’re also going to be without Chris Owusu,” said McCormick. “He’s also out with a concussion, so more head injuries.  I think all these injuries are going to play into Oregon’s favor.”

Still, the question beckons:  Hasn’t Oregon suffered a few physical setbacks, too?

“The Ducks have had injuries of their own this year,” she explains. “But James is finally back, and looked really healthy against Washington.  And quarterback Darron Thomas has returned after suffering his knee injury.  So, this team looks healthy and ready to go this weekend.”

She also likes Oregon’s chances because they’ve proven that they’ve got the depth to overcome an injury here or there.

“I don’t think many people would’ve thought that Bryan Bennett would’ve played as he did in Thomas’ absence,” said McCormick. “It has to be reassuring for the Ducks that you’ve got a guy that can come in and play great football.”

There is another factor that McCormick sees as critical for Saturday.

Lindsay McCormick likes the Ducks this Saturday. (Photo Courtesy: Lindsay McCormick)

“There is one other key to this game for me,” she claims. “Stanford has been very good against the run defensively, but this is the Oregon Ducks.  They haven’t really faced another team like this.  The Ducks are going to spread the field out with multiple receiver sets, and stretch the defense. I feel like if Oregon can put up 27 points against LSU, then I don’t think going up against the Cardinal is going to as difficult of a challenge for them.”

With all that in mind, how does she see this one playing out?

“It’s definitely going to be a high-scoring game,” McCormick said.  “It’s been that way the past two contests.  This season, Thomas has another year under his belt and James is back.  You’ve also got De’Anthony Thomas, who adds more speed on the perimeter.  I really don’t know what the final score is going to be, but I am picking Oregon to win this one.”

In all honesty, I can’t say my final score predictions have been right on the money this year. (Though I’ve correctly picked Oregon eight of nine times, and a few of my scores have come close).  But here’s how I see it going down:  The Ducks will, as McCormick said, be in a shootout with Stanford.

A month ago, I would’ve said Stanford was far and away a better team.  But now, I’m not so sure.  They’ve been bitten by the injury bug, and Luck has shown that he’s NOT immortal in contests against USC and Oregon State.

Meanwhile, Oregon’s defense has steadily improved, and their overall offensive depth is something Stanford hasn’t seen all year.  If the Cardinal prevail, I will personally attest to their greatness in my next column.  But I don’t see it happening.

Here’s my prediction:  The Ducks will light up the scoreboard and force Stanford to chase them.  That’s why, in the end, Oregon winds up winning a 55-45 track meet at The Farm.

Until next time, I’ll see you in the bleachers.  After you, Lindsay.