Mario Cristobal is enjoying the film study of this week’s opponent.
And perhaps his counterpart feels the same way.
Cristobal wants Oregon to get back on top of the Pac-12 with dominant offensive and defensive line play, a philosophy that has worked well for Stanford under David Shaw.
The 20th-ranked Ducks (3-0, 0-0 Pac-12) host the No. 7 Cardinal (3-0, 1-0) on Saturday at Autzen Stadium (5 p.m., ABC).
“They take a lot of pride in that, and I think that’s the way football should be approached,” Cristobal, who recruited some of Shaw’s offensive linemen when he was at Alabama, said during his Monday news conference. “It’s been no secret that since day one, all the way back in January from the offseason program to our approach to practice, heck, everything we do from a mentality standpoint is preaching and working physicality, toughness, effort and smart football.
“And making sure you control the line of scrimmage.”
Cristobal is in his first season as Oregon’s head coach but noted that he is also an offensive line coach "until the day I die, baby.”
Oregon averaged only 2.7 yards per rush during last week’s 35-22 victory over San Jose State. The Spartans brought a safety down near the line of scrimmage to be an extra run defender.
Stanford defensive coordinator Lance Anderson, whose unit ranks 25th against the run (104.7 ypg), is well aware of the success the Spartans had with that aspect of their game plan.
“That’s OK, that’s part of football. I don’t think you can ever make an excuse for that,” Cristobal said. “You’ve just got to knock them back better and farther when they put an extra guy in the box.”
On the flip side of the line of scrimmage, Oregon’s defense held San Jose State to 29 net rushing yards on 28 attempts (1.0 yard per carry). The Ducks rank ninth in rushing defense (77.0 ypg) three games into Jim Leavitt’s second season as defensive coordinator.
Leavitt was the linebackers coach for Jim Harbaugh with the San Francisco 49ers. When Harbaugh left Stanford for the NFL, Shaw was promoted and continued the program’s upward momentum.
“A lot of carry over from what we see from our defense, the same school from a defensive schematic standpoint,” Cristobal said of preparing for the Cardinal. “Certainly they’ve done a great job over the years, so our guys are really fired up.”
Cristobal said Tony Brooks-James will start against Stanford but any of the five other running backs listed as co-backups could see action.
CJ Verdell led the team in carries (15), receptions (five) and all-purpose yards (127) against San Jose State. Another redshirt freshman, Cyrus Habibi-Likio, has four touchdowns on five carries this season.
“All of those guys have shown they can help us win,” Cristobal said. “We’re making this week very competitive.”
Stanford’s Bryce Love will be looking for a breakout game after a slow start this season. The 2017 Heisman Trophy runner-up averaged 82.5 yards and scored only one touchdown through two games before sitting out last week’s win over UC Davis.
“Part of the challenge of defending a guy like Bryce Love is the quality of offensive line play that they have,” Cristobal said. “They’re very big and physical.”
Oregon will enter its Pac-12 opener relatively healthy. Cristobal said left tackle Penei Sewell and right guard Dallas Warmack practiced Sunday after suffering ankle injuries against San Jose State.
Safety Mattrell McGraw (lower leg) is also expected to play against the Cardinal.
Placekicker Adam Stack, who missed the first three games to heal a sore leg, is now “100 percent” healthy.
Brenden Schooler is the only regular rotation player who is questionable. The wide receiver is going through concussion protocol after a helmet-to-helmet hit against the Spartans.
Late kickoff at Cal
Oregon’s first road game of the season Sept. 29 at California will begin at 7:35 p.m. on Fox Sports 1.
Justin Wilcox and the Bears (3-0) have a bye week to prepare for the Ducks. Cal opened the season with a home win over North Carolina (24-17) and an impressive road win at BYU (21-18) before last week’s 45-23 tuneup win over Idaho State.
Justin Herbert has had a tough time against the Bears.
In 2016, Oregon lost 52-49 in double overtime in Berkeley, even though Herbert threw six touchdowns in his first road start. Last year he suffered a fractured collarbone against Cal in a 45-24 win for the Ducks.