Marcus MariotaThursday night the biggest college football game of the season, to this point, will finally be upon us.

The No. 3 Oregon Ducks travel to Stanford to take on the No. 5 Stanford Cardinal.

This game has been highlighted and anticipated dating back to the summer months leading up to this college football season.

The Ducks and Cardinal both were pointed out as serious national title contenders and that prediction made by many has turned out to be true.

All of the national title and Pac-12 title dreams for both of these teams all rides on this game Thursday night in Stanford.

The Ducks were passed by the Florida State Seminoles in this week’s edition of the BCS standings for the No. 2 spot.

The two teams have been jumping one another since the first BCS standings were released three weeks ago. The Ducks are expected to once again jump back over the Seminoles with a win over the No. 5 Cardinal on Thursday.

The Cardinal come into this matchup with one loss which was an upset loss to the Utah Utes four weeks ago. The Cardinal would still have legitimate Pac-12 and national title hopes if they able to knock off the Ducks this week. A loss to the Ducks would certainly eliminate them for national title talks and make winning the Pac-12 a stretch.

As you start to dive into this game on Thursday night the obvious question asked is, will the Stanford defense be able to slow down the high-powered Oregon offense?

The Cardinal last year handed the Ducks their only loss of the season in a 17-14 overtime win in Eugene, Oregon. The Cardinal have proven to be the one team that has the components to slow down the Ducks’ offense and come out victorious. This year’s matchup will consist of most of the same players that took part in last year’s game between these two teams.

The offense of Oregon is led by one of the best quarterbacks in the nation that people are beginning to realize just how good he really is. Marcus Mariota has been the ring leader of this high-powered offense and has made his way to the top of the Heisman Trophy conversation.

Mariota has amazing numbers this year with 2,281 passing yards and zero interceptions. Yes, you read that right Mariota has yet to throw an interception this season and has 20 passing touchdowns to go along with his zero interceptions. Mariota’s play will be the key factor as to how the Ducks attack the tough defense that Stanford possesses.

The Ducks also have one of the best defenses that they have had during their past five-year run of dominance. The Ducks have always had the explosive offense, but this year they have added a tough and ball hawking defense to the mix.

The Ducks returned seven starters from last year’s team that went 12-1 and the experience has shown. The improved defense of Oregon could be the difference long term for Oregon and how successful they are.

The Stanford Cardinal have a defense that is nationally known to be one of the toughest and most physical defenses to face. The Cardinal have used that bruising style of defense to slow down the Ducks and other opponents the past several of seasons.

The Stanford defense held this Ducks’ offense to 14 points in Eugene last year and prevented Oregon from playing for a national title. This year Stanford will need much of that same style of defense if they want to knock off the Ducks for the second straight year.

This game in my mind simply comes down to whether or not Stanford’s defense will have the ability to once again slow down the Ducks’ offense. Last year the Ducks’ defense did their job holding Stanford to 17 points, but their offense just couldn’t get any rhythm at all.

In most cases when a team is upset it is because of their defense, but with the Ducks last year their offense was the one who let them down. This year Oregon’s offense has to show up and put points on the board to quite the crowd and prevent the feeling of what happened last year.

This game has been anticipated, dissected and broken down in every way possible since fall practice started for the 2013 season. This game will surely be one of the best of the season and will go a long ways in determining who plays in the Pac-12 and national championship game.

The Ducks and Cardinal both have dreams of winning both and with a win Thursday those dreams will be right in sight.

My final assessment of this game is that I see the Ducks going into Stanford and knocking off the No. 5 Cardinal. I believe revenge and what happened last year in Eugene will be on the minds of these players and they will not allow it to happen again.

The Ducks’ offense is more experienced this year under Mariota and will show how much they have grown the past year in this game against Stanford.

The Cardinal’s only chance to win is to make this game a phone booth game where they keep the Ducks’ offense contained and not allow them to run free on the perimeters.

I don’t believe the Cardinal will have the same success doing this as they did last year and Oregon will break several long runs. The Cardinal offense does not have the athletes or speed to keep up with the Ducks in a shootout and that will prevent them from winning on Thursday night.

This game has a lot at stake and the atmosphere will be electric in Stanford. The Ducks, with a win over Stanford, should jump back over No. 2 Florida State when next week’s BCS standings are released. This would put the Ducks in prime position to make a serious run at playing for a national championship in Pasadena, California.

The Oregon Ducks will win this one 31-20 in a great game to watch and take part in. The Cardinal will be able to slow down the Oregon offense a bit, but not nearly enough to come out on top.

This Cardinal team is not as good as last year’s team was and that will show in this contest against Oregon. The Ducks will pull away in the second half with their speed and up tempo offensive system.

The game of the century in the Pac-12 is at last here and for college football fans everywhere please sit back and enjoy a great Thursday night battle between two of the best teams in the country.