This is it, Cardinal fans. An historic opportunity for Stanford's first-ever 11-win season. Think about that. That is pretty remarkable for a team that suffered its first 11-loss season in 2006. The strong-finishing Cardinal has won six games in a row for the first time since 1991 when our feature running back was "Touchdown Tommy" Vardell. That alone should be enough to get more people out to support the incredibly deserving Stanford team on "The Walk" past Chuck Taylor Grove prior to the game.
The Cardinal may be listed as a solid favorite heading into this game, but there is no shortage of motivation – While none of us want to think about it, this could be the amazing Andrew Luck's final home game and we would expect it to be pretty special. As much as we want to avoid the thought (unlike the local media), this could be Jim Harbaugh's final home game as Stanford's Head Coach. Not saying it will be, just that it could be.
This we do know - it could well be a considerable challenge to take out a bipolar Beaver squad led by one of the nation's finest late-season coaches in Mike Riley and get over on one of the most dangerous players in the entire country in Jacquizz Rodgers. We should know, he rushed for nearly 200 yards and scored four touchdowns against us last year in Corvallis!
With Nevada's improbable overtime upset of Boise in overtime last night, there is now at least a shot at a BCS at-large slot if the Cardinal can defeat decisively the Diabolical Dam-Crafters™ and Steve Spurrier's South Carolina Gamecocks can take out #2 Auburn in the upcoming SEC championship game.
Hard to believe that this Cardinal team started out the 2010 season unranked. Just add that to the pile of "things that are hard to believe", which includes this gem - after starting out 1-11 in the new Stanford Stadium begging with the loss to Navy in 2006, the Cardinal has become nearly invincible at home, going 16-2 in the last 18 contests! (LSJU is undefeated at home this season at 5-0).
Under stunningly successful fourth-year head coach Jim Harbaugh, Stanford has become "the elephant who never forgets" and we are willing to wager he'll have his team focused on the inhospitable treatment we suffered during the disappointing 31-7 first-half implosion last year in Corvallis, a mistake-filled start the good guys were unable to overcome in a frustrating 38-28 loss.
Last year's OSU game was without question one of Stanford's biggest "what if?" games of ‘09. "What if" a wide-open Chris Owusu hadn't dropped a deep ball that hit him squarely in the chest? If the Cardinal had been able to get a quick lead and then run "Power" with Toby Gerhart all night long, we may have been able to escape with a big road win….For many of us, that unfortunate, ugly outing is still stuck solidly in our Cardinal's craw.
The seventh-ranked 10-1 (7-1) Cardinal usually bolts from the gate, outscoring opponents 131-34 in the first quarter and 264-78 in the first half! This is already the highest-scoring team in Stanford Football's 128-year history, producing more than 40 points per game and giving up less than 20. We like that ratio a lot. (By the way, how can there be no nick-name for the offense or the defense this year?)
Much-heralded redshirt junior quarterback Andrew Luck has been an amazingly efficient field general, going 18-5 as a starter, with one of those rare losses coming last season in Corvallis. Behind a bruising offensive line and featuring ball-security-conscious backs, Stanford leads the nation in "time-of-possession" at more than 35:00 per game. Interesting number: Total Trips to the Red Zone: Stanford 67, Opponents 27. Holy Harbaugh!
Stanford is currently ranked #1 in the country in third-down efficiency, converting better than 57%, which is just plain old "outstanding" work! Not surprisingly, Stanford had punted fewer times (25) than any team in the FBS. That should limit the chances for Oregon State's special teams to hurt us.
Fifth-year senior kicker Nate Whitaker is 16-18 on FGs and is very likely to gain First-Team All-Conference honors. Guess that wasn't good enough for the bone-headed Bead-Stringers, eh? Here is an amazing statistic – Stanford opponents have attempted one field goal in the last six games. Has to be some kind of record.
Quietly, coordinator Vic Fangio's "3-4" defense has allowed just 44 points in the past four games, including two meaningless late "gadget" TDs last week against Cal. That is the fewest points allowed over such a stretch since the 1992 team with the "G-Men" and future NFL Hall of Fame safety John Lynch.
Look for the offensive line, aka the Tunnel Workers Union, to try and get sophomore Stepfan Taylor at least 92 yards, which would make him only the fifth back to gain 1,000 yards or more in a single season in school history!
Locker Room White Board Material: Cal, Wake, and OSU were the only teams to "out-rush" us last season, and you have seen what happened to Wake (68-24) and Cal (48-14) when we got a second shot at them in 2010!
second-team Academic All-American Luck is not only an efficient game-manager and
passing-game playmaker – the guy can really run. He is Stanford's second-leading
rusher with 445 yards on 49 attempts for an average of 9.1 yards.
Stanford's Keys to the Game: Stick to the knitting. Score early (and often). "Contain The Quizz". Continue to avoid turnovers (the Cardinal has committed only four in the past five games – knock on wood! ) It would help to limit penalties, but that has not been a real problem this year.
Oregon State's Keys to the Game: Don't fall behind! Try to get to Luck, which is easier said than done as #12 has been sacked just four times in 11 games. The Beavers could use some big special teams plays, but they had better get them on kick-offs since the 2010 Cardinal rarely punts! They need to be "in it" in the fourth quarter and hope for some Stanford mistakes. Not likely, but anything is possible.
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