EUGENE - At 5-4 overall, Stanford needs just one more win to become bowl eligible for the first time since 2001 - giving the Cardinal considerable incentive when they visit Oregon this weekend.

"I haven't been in this position since I've been here. I just think about playing the next game because that's what I'm used to thinking," linebacker Clinton Snyder said. "We play three of the top teams in the conference in our next three games. It's a great place to be, when you can control your own destiny."

It won't be easy. Stanford, which is 4-2 in the Pacific-10 Conference, hosts USC and visits California to finish out the season after the trip to Autzen Stadium on Saturday.

Oregon, already bowl eligible at 6-3 overall, is also 4-2 in the league, joining the Cardinal behind three teams with one conference loss: USC, Oregon State and Cal.

Stanford's transformation this season from the bottom dweller of the Pac-10 to bowl hopeful has impressed coach Jim Harbaugh.

"Even in August I knew this team would be better, though I did not know whether that would translate into more wins. What has transpired is this football team has progressed to point where we've gone beyond some Pac-10 teams and we're poised to finish among the top teams," he said. "We are about to face three of the Pac-10's elite team and this is where this football team needs to make the next stride."

Stanford is coming off a 58-0 victory at home over woeful Washington State, the team's first shutout against a conference opponent since 1974 - when they blanked Oregon 17-0.

Both the Cardinal and the Ducks appear to be strongest when they are running the ball.

Cardinal running back Toby Gerhart, who was injured for all but one game last season, has 911 yards rushing this season and is closing in on becoming Stanford's first 1,000-yard rusher since Tommy Vardell in 1991.

Stanford's rushing offense averages 209.2 yards a games, second only to Oregon's 270.7 yard average.

Oregon's running game is supplemented by quarterback Jeremiah Masoli, who is third on the team with 424 rushing yards with three touchdowns this season. Jeremiah Johnson has rushed for 690 yards and LeGarrette Blount has 651 this season in the Ducks' spread-option.


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