Oregon week: Notes and quotes

"They are the [Pac-10] champs. One of the great philosophers of the 20th century and one of my favorites, Ric Flair, would say, ‘If you want to be the man you've got to beat the man.' And they're the defending champions." ... Jim Harbaugh waxes poetic about Oregon and holds court with the press in his weekly session. Read on!

Infirmary Report

There's really nothing certain to report here because as discussed last week, head coach Jim Harbaugh is not divulging any injury information this season.

Only one media member braved to pose a general injury-oriented question Tuesday asking, "Which of your running backs do you expect to have available this week?" To which Harbaugh vaguely replied, "Hopefully we'll have them all."

Ryan Whalen did not appear on the depth chart and isn't expected to play. There is no word on Tyler Gaffney's ankle injury. Michael Thomas was listed as the starting free safety in the official game notes after an ankle setback against Notre Dame.

Shayne Skov might have shed some light on Thomas's injury, however. He was asked if Thomas couldn't play this week, how much would the secondary be affected.

"I don't know, I guess we'll see," Skov said. "I was out for two weeks and Max stepped up and made a lot of tackles. I think it will be another opportunity for someone else to step and show that they're capable of delivering for this program."

This injury report will self-destruct in five seconds…

National Recognition

The national attention for Stanford started brewing much earlier this season but after the Notre Dame beat down on NBC, the media is buzzing. The Cardinal jumped over four undefeated teams in leaping from No. 16 to No. 9 in this week's AP Poll. But Harbaugh said he would rather fly under the radar all season.

"I would just prefer for them not to say good things about us. I feel more vulnerable that way," he said. "Right now the polls don't mean anything to us."

Bigger Picture

Along with the national recognition comes national title talk. Harbaugh has maintained throughout the year that Stanford's season goal is to reach the Rose Bowl and win the Pac-10. But if the Cardinal win Saturday they will become a sleeper pick in the BCS Championship race.

Harbaugh said that he has attempted to keep his team focused on the conference crown.

"I talk to them about winning the Pac-10 Championship. Getting to the Rose Bowl and winning that game is the goal," he said. "The players talk about the national championship and that's something they believe in and want to accomplish. I don't bring it up. To me, if you win the Pac-10 Championship, the other will fall in your lap."

Linebacker Shayne Skov said that a national title was not on the team's agenda at this stage of the season.

"The Pac-10 is very deep this year and I think people might be overlooking the fact that we still have to play at Arizona State, at Washington, Arizona coming up," said Skov. "This conference is deep this year and we're only in Week 5 of the season."

Oregon, the new USC?

They get money from a big booster that draws swooshes on apparel. They've had character problems with players such as former Duck Jeremiah Masoli. Next up could be NCAA violations. So is Oregon the next USC? This is how Harbaugh perceives them:

"They are the [Pac-10] champs. One of the great philosophers of the 20th century and one of my favorites, Ric Flair, would say, ‘If you want to be the man you've got to beat the man.' And they're the defending champions."

Wildcat Experiment

We witnessed Toby Gerhart attempt a few Wildcat plays from scrimmage last year without much success. So Harbaugh decided to get cute with the playbook again Saturday and had Alex Loukas enter the game and run two plays in the Wildcat formation.

To say the least, neither play was executed effectively, but Harbaugh contends that both were in position to be big gains.

"Both of those plays should have scored touchdowns," he said. "The second one we jumped offside so we didn't want to go back in the same formation and run the same play again. The one when Usua [Amanam] swept around the left should have been a score and the one we had set up with Alex should have scored too but we jumped."

Crean of the Crop

Indiana basketball head coach Tom Crean (who this writer believes looks a lot like a young Tom Arnold) was on the sidelines for the Notre Dame game. Crean is married to Coach Harbaugh's sister, Joani, and it was the fourth Stanford game he's attended over the last few years.

But Crean wasn't there just as a spectator. If you've ever seen him coach on the hardwood you would know that he's a fiery competitor and apparently he shared some of his energy with the players Saturday.

"He talked to our team before the game and there's nobody that can give a speech to a team like Tom Crean…it's Knute Rockne-esque," Harbaugh said. "And he delivered on Saturday; he's one of the best you'll ever hear."

"It was very motivating," running back Stepfan Taylor said of the speech. "He just let us know that football is a sport that affects so many people around us. It really motivated us to go out there and play hard."

Harbaugh said he hoped that wouldn't be the last time Crean spoke to his team. He also mentioned that he had given a speech to Crean's basketball team before to which he followed with, "I think Stanford's getting the better end of the deal."

Glory Days

The question about Tom Crean spiraled into a discussion about Harbaugh's glory days on the hardcourt at Palo Alto High.

"I was a great basketball player, it was my best sport," he said. "Basketball was so much fun. There was more contact there than the position I played in football. I'd be a great basketball coach; somebody should take a chance on me."

Harbaugh then recalled his 1982 high school team that reached the state championship Final Four at Maples Pavilion. They ultimately lost to a Riordan High School squad led by "Jumping" Jerry Ross.

"I tried to hit a 12-foot jumpshot from the baseline and Jerry Ross went straight up and knocked it into the 16th row of Maples. I had to adjust my shot after that," said Harbaugh.

The media then asked Andrew Luck if his coach had bragged about his basketball skills to the football team.

"At Paly? He's told us about it," Luck said with a sigh, almost as if he'd heard the same story over and over again. "He makes it out like he was the best player to ever put on a Palo Alto Vikings uniform."

There is no documented evidence to support it, but Harbaugh claims he averaged close to 20 points per game and made sure to point out that he did that before the 3-point era. He said that his strengths were as a shooter and an offensive rebounder. Harbaugh said that he received a recruitment letter from St. Mary's but had already committed to playing football. Imagine what could have been…

About the Author: Bootleg Senior Writer Scott Cooley has worked in the sports media industry throughout his professional career, including serving as a writer for an ESPN production house and a professional football franchise. His work has been published in multiple print and online platforms including ESPN.com. He currently writes for yours truly, as well as Covers.com and Bookmaker.com. Cooley specializes in football, baseball and basketball with an emphasis on sports betting. Cooley and his wife reside in California, contact him at scottwcooley@gmail.com

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