Commentary

The Cardinal advantage

Stanford's efficiency on value drives will be the difference against Oregon

Updated: November 7, 2011, 2:14 PM ET
By Brian Fremeau | Football Outsiders
Andrew LuckStephen Dunn/Getty Images Andrew Luck has 19 touchdowns and zero interceptions in the red zone this season.

This past summer, we introduced a new stat in ESPN The Magazine: points per value drive (PPVD). The stat measures a team's ability to finish what it starts and is defined as drives started on its own side of the field that reach at least the opponent's 30-yard line. Only two teams this season rank among the top 10 in offensive and defensive PPVD. They rank first and second in net PPVD as a result. Those teams, the Stanford Cardinal and Oregon Ducks, face off in Palo Alto, Calif., this weekend.

There will be plenty of factors that help determine the outcome of this weekend's battle, and there is plenty on the line, of course, as well. Stanford needs to seize every opportunity down the stretch to build its BCS Championship Game résumé and impress voters. Oregon can make a case to the BCS as the nation's top one-loss team and position itself to host the inaugural Pac-12 championship in December.

The last time Stanford and Oregon clashed, the Ducks turned a halftime deficit into a route because of value-drive success. Oregon was a perfect 6-for-6 on value drives last season against Stanford, drives that accounted for 38 of its 52 points (five TDs, one FG). The Cardinal's offense couldn't keep pace, turning the ball over on downs, throwing an interception on second-half value-drive opportunities and netting only 24 points on six value drives for the game.

Once again, both offenses expect to move the ball consistently down the field. But can they finish? We examined every drive of the season thus far to find out exactly how each defense has been able to disrupt opponent value drives, and how each offense might find success.


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Brian Fremeau

ESPN Insider
• Has been a contributor to ESPN Insider and ESPN The Magazine since 2009
• Creator of the Fremeau Efficiency Index (FEI), a measure of college football team efficiency
• Contributor to Football Outsiders and his own site, bcftoys.com