It was a huge offseason down on The Farm. Coach Jim Harbaugh left for the San Francisco 49ers and their star player very unexpectedly returned. Why did Stanford Cardinal superstar QB Andrew Luck pass up the guaranteed glory and millions of dollars that comes with being the #1 pick in the NFL Draft to return to school and work more on his architecture degree?
Only the most inside of insiders in Palo Alto and the Luck family truly know the answer to that. Why did Harbaugh leave for the NFL now instead of waiting a year to leave with Luck? It all adds up to a year that has a lot of transition and familiarity at the same. And this paradox could equal a conference title and perhaps something bigger?
2010 was: in the words of Lady Gaga, “the Edge of Glory.” Had they won the shoot-out with Oregon it would have been them, not the Ducks playing Auburn for “all of the Tostitos” (I felt really dirty typing that absurd, soulless phrase right now). The Cardinal scored 30+ in 12/13 games last season. The year (2006) before Harbaugh arrived, they did it just once versus San Jose State. In addition to the 9th ranked scoring offense, they had the 10th ranked scoring defense.
BMOCs: Luck of course, also Stepfan Taylor is a bulk carrier and thousand yard rusher. They have tremendous depth at TE, all around, and Coby Fleener is the best of the bunch. LT Jonathan Martin and RG David DeCastro are all-american potential. LB Shane Skov and Chase Thomas lead a very solid defense. I’m probably higher on this team many others because I have a bias towards smart kid schools. I’m a nerd and heart, and nerds always defend other nerds.
2011 will be awful if: They will have to replace some departed senior leadership, and break in a few new starters on the OL. The WR corps saw a ton of turnover- any of these could be potential roadblocks.
2011 will be fruitful if: they get to 14 wins. 14-0, winning the whole thing. The bar has been raised at The Farm. in order to do it, they need to make sure there’s no weakness up the middle on defense or at the CB position. They’ll need to be solid here to stop the quack attack. They get the Ducks at home this year.
Bottom Line: If they can beat Oregon, then they should run the table, and their opponent in the first ever Pac 12 Championship game will not be anyone tougher than anyone they’ve already faced during the regular season. All this hinges on how smoothly regime change goes with David Shaw leading the way. His biggest challenge as a coach is stopping complacency, and getting his team to deal with higher expectations.
Stanford Rankings: #6 USA Today, #8 Lindy’s, #7 AP, #14 Phil Steele, #13 Athlon
Paul M. Banks is CEO of The Sports Bank.net, an official Google News site that generates millions of unique visitors. He’s also a regular contributor to Chicago Now, Walter Football.com, Yardbarker, and Fox Sports
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