Despite rumors to the contrary, Oregon coach Chip Kelly isn't ready to reinstate suspended running back LeGarrette Blount this week.
Thanks to the play of freshman LaMichael James, the seventh-ranked Ducks haven't missed Blount this season and they are leading the Pac-10 race going into Saturday's game at Stanford.
After rushing for 1,038 yards and 17 touchdowns last season, Blount was expected to be one of the top playmakers for Oregon (7-1, 5-0) before being suspended for punching Boise State defensive end Byron Hout following a season-opening loss.
Kelly allowed Blount to practice with the team and said he could return if he met certain conditions. The Oregon coach targeted the Stanford game as a possible end to his suspension, and that speculation was further fueled by a visit from Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott following last Saturday's 47-20 win over then-No. 4 Southern California.
Kelly, however, didn't say Monday if Blount would return.
"When we have an announcement, we'll make it," he said.
James has capably replaced Blount as the top tailback, rushing for 918 yards this season to rank third in the Pac-10. The Ducks rank eighth nationally with 233.3 rushing yards per game.
"Each week, he keeps getting better and better. That's an exciting thing for us," Kelly said. "It's really helped spur our offense to have him back there. "
Last week, James ran for a career-high 183 and his seventh touchdown as Oregon piled up 613 yards on the Trojans, who entered with the nation's 16th-best defense. Jeremiah Masoli threw for 222 yards and a touchdown, and he ran for a season-best 164 yards and another score.
"I don't know if we made a statement," said Masoli, who leads the conference's top-scoring offense (35.6 points per game). "This is just what we planned on doing. If it makes a statement it makes a statement. That's just Oregon football and how we roll."
The win moved the Ducks up to No. 8 in the BCS standings, highest among the nation's one-loss teams, and pushed them 1 1/2 games ahead of second-place Arizona in the Pac-10. They haven't won a conference title since 2001.
That cause would be helped with an eighth straight victory over the Cardinal (5-3, 4-2) and fourth in a row in Palo Alto. Blount's 3-yard run with six seconds left sealed last season's 35-28 home victory.
For this year's matchup, though, Stanford is coming off a bye and appears to be much improved behind the duo of Toby Gerhart and Andrew Luck.
Gerhart, the conference's leading rusher, had 125 yards and a touchdown Oct. 24 as the Cardinal snapped a two-game slide with a 33-14 win over visiting Arizona State.
That performance not only left him six yards shy of becoming the second Stanford rusher with consecutive 1,000-yard seasons, but also 143 short of matching last season's school-record 1,136. The senior's 13 TDs are two shy of his 2008 total.
However, he has been held to 76 yards on 24 carries in two meetings with Oregon.
The difference in this game could be Luck, the Pac-10's top-rated passer (148.5). The freshman has thrown for 1,825 yards and is second in the conference in total offense behind Washington's Jake Locker.
Luck has thrown nine touchdowns and been intercepted three times for the conference's second-best offense (435.25 yards per game). He will face a defense that ranks in the top two in the Pac-10 in both points (17.1) and yards (300.9) allowed.
"Andrew Luck has been leading our team," coach Jim Harbaugh said. "He's doing the things a veteran quarterback would do."
Harbaugh's team is looking to become bowl eligible for the first time since 2001 by staying unbeaten at home. Stanford is 4-0 in Palo Alto this season and has won nine of 10 there.
Oregon has won back-to-back road games and now tries to win three straight for just the second time in four years.
AccuScore has powered more than 10,000 simulations for every College Football game on ESPN.com, calculating how each team's performance changes in response to game conditions and opponent's abilities. Each game is simulated and the game is replayed a minimum of 10,000 times to generate forecasted winning percentages.
After losing its opener to Boise State, Oregon has not lost and has risen to the top of the one-loss pack. The Ducks hit the road this week for a tricky game against upstart Stanford. The Cardinal are looking to become bowl-eligible for the first time since 2001 by staying unbeaten at home.