Clardy's Corner: The Irish and the schedule

Every once in a while, when I need a good laugh, I head over to the Weenies message board and see what the natives are thinking in Berkeley. Just to be clear, I don't care what those people think, especially when it comes to their thoughts on what's happening on The Farm. But their bitterly warped outlook on things is good for some entertainment. ...

So after watching the Bears get boatraced by Nevada on Friday, I went online for a moment and grabbed a front-row seat for the latest BearFan meltdown.

I wasn't disappointed. As usual, the Weenies were blaming QB Kevin Riley. As usual, Jeff Tedford was in the crosshairs. But some BearFans had another enemy in mind: the person who dared put a road game at Nevada on the schedule. Seriously.

The most thankless job in college football might belong to the scheduler. Think about it. Is any team's schedule unanimously praised? Do you ever hear anyone say, "wow, that's a perfect schedule"?

More often than not, no. A team's non-conference schedule is often either too soft or too difficult. It's never just right. Play it safe with a couple of glorified scrimmages, and no one is impressed. Risk it all by going on the road to face a tough opponent, and members of your fan base freak out, especially if the team loses. Put together a schedule where you don't even leave your own stadium until conference play begins in October, and you're not even trying (ahem, Ohio State, ahem).

I'm curious to know what Beaver fans thought about their team's non-conference schedule this year. I'd like to know what came across their minds when they saw plane rides to face top BCS-busters TCU and Boise State. I wonder if they were happy with that schedule.

As tough as that slate is, it still might not compare to what they faced out-of-conference in 2004. The Beavers started by facing defending national champion LSU in Baton Rouge, then played at Boise State six days later. Unsurprisingly, they lost both games, although somewhat surprisingly, they would have beaten LSU if not for Alexis Serna's three missed extra points.

The Beavers still went to a bowl game that year, but those two early losses basically killed any plans they may have had for a big season. That's the risk that comes with tough non-conference scheduling.

Stanford fans are also keenly aware of the perils of schedule difficulty, with many complaints being voiced about some of the opponents that have popped up on the schedules over the years. Here's the thing, though: most of the schools that looked like cream puffs when Stanford placed them on the schedule eight years out suddenly became legitimately dangerous teams by the time Stanford had to play them. Of course.

But for years, the biggest single gripe Stanford fans have had about the schedule involves the appearance of a certain football team from South Bend, Indiana. You may have heard of them. They're called Notre Dame.

They're on TV more than Flo from Progressive. They have their own deal with the BCS. Their reality is completely different from any other program, because they have the resources to achieve so much more. And they have more fans than your team.

This year, Stanford heads to South Bend, where they have not won in seven tries since 1992. The Card have already exorcised plenty of demons this season, from earning their first win at the Rose Bowl since Chad Hutchinson and Brian Manning saved the day in 1996 to exacting brutal revenge for their last-second loss at Wake Forest last year. You could also argue that the season-opening win over Sacramento State exorcised some of the demons from Stanford's still-unbelievable loss to UC Davis in 2005.

So after all of that exorcising, perhaps it's fitting that the Cardinal now visit the holiest place in college football. (Or is it the holier-than-thouest place?)

Some Cardinal fans have complained for years about having the Irish on the schedule. After next year, it appears those fans will have their wishes granted. The 2011 meeting on The Farm is the last one scheduled between Stanford and Notre Dame, and depending on which reports you believe, it seems somewhat unlikely that the series will continue beyond then.

I'd be a little disappointed if that happens to be the case. I would rather not have Stanford be forced to host Notre Dame during Thanksgiving weekend (when the campus is generally empty), and I certainly would not want to have Stanford meet Notre Dame at a neutral site. Outside of those two bones of contention, I have zero problem with Stanford putting Notre Dame on the schedule.

I'll admit it. I love going to South Bend. I always have a great time while I am on that campus on game day. I'm 0-4 in that stadium now, but there are few better places to be on a Saturday in the fall than South Bend. And I'm fired up to do it again this week. I've been whistling "Rakes of Mallow" all day today.

Plus it's always fun to beat Notre Dame, no matter where the game is. How much fun did you have last year?

It's not a ideal arrangement, but seeing Notre Dame on Stanford's schedule is good for Cardinal football. It's a great trip for the fans and the players, and it's a great feeling when the Notre Dame fans are all melting down on their message boards, wondering who the genius was who put Stanford on the schedule.

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RANDOM PAC-9 THOUGHTS

At 2:36 a.m. Eastern time on Saturday night, I turned off my TV and said out loud, "68 points? 68 POINTS?!!? Holy crap…" Then I turned out the lights and slept better than I've slept in weeks…

Nice Joe Borchard impression there, Andrew Luck

After seeing guys I'd never heard of scoring points for the Cardinal by game's end, I half-expected to see Juan-Carlos Lacey taking handoffs. Where's Ozzie Grenardo when you need him?

It's been a while since I've seen Stanford linebackers getting after it like that. Owen Marecic, Shayne Skov, and Chase Thomas, take a bow…

ESPN's Brock Huard openly wondered why Jim Harbaugh challenged a non-fumble call with five minutes to go and Stanford ahead by 44 points. To me, it's simple. It's all about competing, and it's all about finishing. The game runs 60 minutes, and you need to do whatever you need to do within those 60 minutes to win the game. Last year against those same Demon Deacons, Stanford failed to remember that. Did Harbaugh know his challenge was clearly wrong? Probably. But I don't think that mattered to him. I think what mattered to Harbaugh was sending the message that this team will compete -— and finish -— for the full 60 minutes. And I have no problem with that…

That said, if I weren't a Stanford fan, I would have been pretty ticked off by that challenge…

Keep something in mind here: Stanford scored 68 points on Wake Forest, who dropped 54 points on Duke. Stanford plays at Duke next year. Just something to keep in mind…

cal's Kevin Riley is a "wow" quarterback. He's just as apt to make you say "wow, what a great throw" as he is to make you say "wow…what the hell was that?"

Big win for Arizona. Big win. A breakthrough win for the Wildcat program? To me, no. I think breakthrough wins come on the road. Anyone can win at home. Anyone. But you don't truly grow as a program until you start winning big on the road. Let's see what the Wildcats do on November 6 (at Stanford) and November 26 (at Oregon)…

OK, OK, Oregon, we get it. Y'all can score a lot of points. Geez…

I'll admit I didn't carve time out to check out the Sun Devils in Wisconsin, mostly because I wasn't expecting much from A-State. What I eventually saw (after stumbling onto the game with five minutes left) impressed me. I may have to start paying more attention to the Sun Devils…

Mixed results for special teams units around the conference. It was good for U$C. It was horrible for Washington. It wasn't quite good enough for Arizona State

Not news: Washington State was a 23-point underdog last week. News: against SMU

Not a Pac-9 thought, but…

...on Friday night, I caught myself flipping channels between Kansas's latest stinker (at Southern Mississippi) and the crack house scene in "Jungle Fever." Honestly, I wasn't sure which was more frightening to watch…

…I don't know if they have any FBS opponents coming up in future years, but after watching them against Michigan over the weekend, I can tell you this: UMass is going to go into someone's stadium and give them the Appalachian State treatment. Soon…

…the NFL RedZone channel may be the greatest channel known to mankind. Yes, even better than Telemundo…

…that Steelers-Titans game was the most physical NFL game I've seen in a while. Pittsburgh's defense played like it was 1976 all over again. And you must check out this play by Troy Polamalu. My God. If the Steelers can play like that when Ben comes back, look out…

Thumbs up: the Pac-9. Yes, Washington and cal stumbled. But the serious contenders for the Rose Bowl race all got big wins (Arizona) or administered merciless beatdowns (Oregon, Stanford). Even Arizona State showed well in Madison. Folks, there may be life after U$C after all.

Thumbs down: 4-of-20 for 71 yards and two picks. Washington QB Jake Locker lost a lot of money on Saturday.

The finger: the Big East. Outside of West Virginia, only Rutgers and Syracuse have more wins than losses. And the Scarlet Knights and Orange had to schedule FCS teams to get there.

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CLARDY'S CORNER INBOX

If you sent me a note last week, I haven't been able to get it because Scout.com's email has been down for the past few days. My apologies. But you can always feel free to drop me a line at my Scout.com inbox (username: troyc)…and you can still e-mail me at troyc@thebootleg.com... I'll get it sometime! The best e-mails will be answered in next week's Clardy's Corner Inbox.

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PAC-9 PICKS

U$C @ Washington State. Yes, they're on probation (which is why I'm calling it the Pac-9 this year). But I'm still picking their games. And I see no reason to pick them to lose in the Palouse. I like U$C by 23.

cal @ Arizona. If you have problems protecting your quarterback and playing well on the road at Nevada, how can I pick you to protect your quarterback and play well at Tucson? Right now, I can't. I like Arizona by 16.

Oregon @ Arizona State. Don't be surprised if this is a dogfight early. Don't be surprised if the Ducks run away with it late. I like Oregon by 13.

Last year: 25-11 (straight-up), 19-16-1 (ATS).


Troy Clardy hosts the Stanford Daily Update, airing every weekday at 7:00pm on Cardinal Sports Network flagship radio station XTRA Sports 860 in San Francisco, and available in podcast form at gostanford.com. If you're in Pittsburgh, you can also hear him weekends on 93.7 The Fan.

Clardy's Corner appears Wednesdays during the college football regular season on TheBootleg.com. You can also check him out online at TroyClardy.com, or e-mail him at troyc@thebootleg.com.


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