Inside Slant

The Sports Xchange

September 18, 2018 at 10:01 pm.

Stars ready to shine in Oregon-Stanford showdown

When No. 20 Oregon and No. 7 Stanford face off this weekend in Eugene, the star power on the field will be at a supernova level.

Bryce Love, the Heisman trophy runner-up last year, will lead the Cardinal (3-0, 1-0 Pac-12) into raucous Autzen Stadium against Oregon’s Justin Herbert, a potential high pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. Kickoff is set for 8 p.m. ET and will air on ABC.

Both players can each make a strong argument for being the best player at their position in the country, as well as the best offensive player in the Pac-12.

Herbert has 12 touchdowns passes on the season, good for second in the nation. He has completed touchdown passes to seven receivers.

“We all know he’s a difference-maker,” Oregon head coach Mario Cristobal said.

Oregon averages 51.7 points per game and racks up 503 total yards of offense per game. Herbert’s ability to consistently move the ball through the air has helped open up the running game, giving the Ducks (3-0) a balanced offense that’s difficult to defend.

Love counters with a rushing repertoire that includes speed and strength. He led the country last season in total runs of 20-plus yards and finished second with 162.92 rushing yards per game.

He off to a slower statistical start this season — and sat out last week’s win over UC Davis — but his 22-carry, 136-yard performance against USC was a reminder of what he can do.

Each player has ample help from offense and defense.

For the Ducks, defensive end Jalen Jelks and outside linebacker Justin Hollins are NFL prospects who make up the best pass-rushing duo in the Pac-12. They have a combined 9.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks on the season, as well as four passes broken up and two forced fumbles.

Stanford’s other standouts include receiver JJ Arcega-Whiteside and cornerback Alijah Holder.

Arcega-Whiteside is a 6-foot-3, 225-pound matchup nightmare who is finally combining his physical gifts with the rest of his game. He leads the Cardinal with 13 catches for 324 yards and five touchdowns — his improved route-running and separation is what’s been allowing to him get open more.

“They have great skill — if you try to bottle up the run-game solely, you’re going to have some issues outside,” Cristobal said. “I think that’s the part that makes them such a good offense … they’re not just one-dimensional. They can do it on both ends.”

Holder (6-2, 189) is another physical specimen. When tested this year, he’s responded with four passes broken up in two games.