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Oregon Ducks Colt Lyeria (15) runs in for a touchdown as California Golden Bears Alex Logan (6) tumbles to the ground after failing to stop him in the fourth quarter of their game at Memorial Stadium in Berkeley, Calif. on Saturday, Nov. 10, 2012. Oregon defeated Cal 59-17. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Staff)

STANFORD -- When Autzen Stadium was loudest during Stanford's visit two years ago, the field shook. The Cardinal watched in amazement as the rubber pellets mixed into the artificial turf vibrated beneath their feet.

"No talking," said center Sam Schwartzstein, who communicates blocking schemes to his linemates. "All screaming."

Executing amid the bedlam is just one challenge facing Stanford on Saturday when it visits top-ranked Oregon. The No. 14 Cardinal also must slow the most potent offense in the country, repel a havoc-causing defense and deal with inclement weather (the forecast: 50 degrees and rain).

But Stanford's great challenge is psychological.

The players must have the poise to handle rapid changes in momentum (everything happens quickly when the Ducks are involved).

The coaches must have the discipline to stick with their game plan if the deficit mounts.

And from freshman quarterback Kevin Hogan on down, everyone on the Stanford sideline must believe they can beat the three-time defending conference champions on their turf with the Pac-12 North title on the line.

"They've got the ingredients for handling the elements of what they'll be playing in," Oregon State coach Mike Riley said of the Cardinal. "But it's a big, big chore."

Belief is not normally an issue for Stanford, a smart, savvy, experienced team that has compiled a 31-5 record the past three years.


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But Oregon is not a normal opponent. The core of this Stanford team has lost decisively to the Ducks the past two seasons.

Both times, the stakes were enormous. Both times, Stanford held its own -- for a half. The combined second-half score: Oregon 59, Stanford 14.

The Cardinal's wobbly performance last year prompted quarterback Andrew Luck to admit to espn.com that Stanford had "an Oregon problem."

When told of Luck's comment, Stanford senior linebacker Chase Thomas expressed full confidence in his team.

"There's no question we believe we can win," Thomas said. "We don't fear any team. We know what they do."

Knowing what the Ducks do is one thing, stopping it another. Their relentless pressure in all facets means a single breakdown can turn a close game into a blowout faster than you can say Quack Attack. The latest example came Saturday in Berkeley, when Oregon scored three touchdowns in six minutes to overwhelm Cal.

Only once this season has Stanford come close to executing at a high level on every unit for four quarters. That was against Colorado, one of the worst teams in Pac-12 history.

Against the best teams on its schedule -- USC, Notre Dame and Oregon State -- Stanford played well for a quarter here, a quarter there.

"That's a negative to a certain degree, but it's also a positive," coach David Shaw said. "It's great for the coaches, because we can point to countless things that are correctable, countless things that will help us play better.

"Our rallying cry the whole year is that if we play our best for 60 minutes, we'll always give ourselves a chance to win. We need to do it this week."

For more on college sports, see Jon Wilner's College Hotline at blogs.mercurynews.com/collegesports. Contact him at jwilner@mercurynews.com or 408-920-5716.