Notes and quotes: Finals week

The Stanford students are in the midst of "Dead Week", feverishly cramming their brains full of knowledge before final exams begin Monday. Cardinal head coach Jim Harbaugh said the team will begin practicing every other day starting on Thursday, December 2 and going through Friday, December 10...

Practice Schedule

The Stanford students are in the midst of "Dead Week", feverishly cramming their brains full of knowledge before final exams begin Monday.

Cardinal head coach Jim Harbaugh said the team will begin practicing every other day starting on Thursday, December 2 and going through Friday, December 10.

"We want to spread it out like spring practice," he said. "We also have to coordinate them around finals and everything."

Harbaugh added that these practice times will be used for the underclassmen on the team to get plenty of reps.

Cardinal Nation on the Road

Had Stanford not inched its way up to No. 4 in the BCS standings, many speculated it would have been left out of an elite bowl because the school wouldn't bring the same number of fans as a Big Ten team, for example.

Bowls, in part, are designed to stimulate the economy they're hosted in. But Harbaugh doesn't believe fan support should be factored into placement.

"One of the disturbing things is to hear that how Stanford travels to the game keeps coming up," he said. "I keep hearing media outlets talk about that, but I didn't notice that in any of the criteria for BCS rankings or what bowl you go to.

"There's a far greater story of conspiracy there to be delved into. Now I'm picturing guys smoking cigars in backrooms with pocket watches and gold chains, determining who the best football team is based on the almighty dollar."

Coach Harbaugh…your theory may not be that farfetched. Why else would overrated Big Ten teams get into multiple BCS bowls almost every season?

And if the "almighty dollar" does in fact decide the fate of the teams playing outside of the title game, Harbaugh wants no part of that corrupt system.

"If that is the case, then that's wrong," he said. "It doesn't seem that's what the spirit of the NCAA is all about. And if it does have an effect, then count me in favor of a playoff.

Bowl Wish

Harbaugh told the media Wednesday that he anticipates Stanford will play in the BCS national championship, Rose Bowl, Orange Bowl or Fiesta Bowl. Duh.

When asked which he would prefer to play in, outside of the title game, he dodged the question but wishes it wasn't the Rose Bowl's year to accept a non-automatic qualifier.

"The best Pac-10 team and the best Big Ten team have traditionally been in the Rose Bowl. I was a fan of that concept," said Harbaugh. "If it works out [where we play in Pasadena], then that would be great. I hope it works out that we're in the national championship game."

My unscientific prediction is that the team will end up in the Rose Bowl because Auburn will lose to South Carolina in the SEC title bout.

Preparation time

If Stanford is selected to a BCS bowl, it will have a minimum of 30 days to prepare for its opponent.

Harbaugh said that last year the team got in 15 or more practices in leading up to the Sun Bowl. He likened the preparation time to a second spring practice.

Being afforded a month to study, breakdown and gameplan is much easier than preparing on a short or regular week, but can a staff start to overanalyze the opponent with too much time? Harbaugh said that every team does it differently and their approach this year will be comparable to last year.

So is it similar to a Week 1 opponent where you've had an offseason to prepare?

"It's similar in that way but there's a lot more film leading up to it," he stated. "You've got all 12 games to watch of your opponent, whereas in Week 1 you have the year before but there are different players and a lot of time has elapsed."

Under Pressure

A month ago, Harbaugh sent the Cardinal media contingent on a wild-goose chase. He said that there was one intangible quality that separated Andrew Luck from other good quarterbacks. This week, Harbaugh revealed what that was.

"He's got the ability, when the game's on the line, to perform at an even higher level," he said. "That is the thing to me that separates the great ones from the very, very good ones. It's a perfect blend of focus and confidence with the game on the line."

Harbaugh went on to say that Luck is the best football player he's ever been around, whether it be a teammate or student. He also added that Luck is one of the finest people, from a character standpoint, he's ever known.

Resembling the Best

If you've read any NFL Draft scouting reports you've seen ample comparisons between Andrew Luck and Peyton Manning, and rightly so.

Coach Harbaugh provided another one Wednesday in way of quarterback mechanics, specifically throwing motion. Luck's delivery isn't quite over the top but more of an 11 o'clock arm slot.

"It is high elbow above the shoulder, it's not straight over the top," he said. "Mechanically, [he and Manning] are pretty close."

Keeping a Walsh-ful Eye

On Wednesday, Harbaugh was asked what kind of influence Bill Walsh has had on the recent success of the Stanford football program, even without his physical presence.

Harbaugh said that before Walsh's passing, he would stop by his office regularly and listen in during interviews or while he was talking to players. Harbaugh would sit in a chair in a corner, not saying a word, but absorbing every piece of information uttered from Walsh's mouth. He got tired of writing down notes so he bought a digital tape recorder and says that he frequently goes back and listens to Walsh's wisdom.

"There have been times through all four years here that I feel like Coach Walsh is watching over the program," he said. "His presence is still felt by all of football, certainly by all of pro and college football. Not just plays but how you setup practices, the week and the offseason. Those bloodlines are everywhere in football."

Roster Report

Chris Owusu has missed three straight games due to an undisclosed injury. The Cardinal were able to get by Cal and Oregon State without him but his presence was greatly missed in the nail-biter at Arizona State. And the return game has immensely regressed without him bringing back kickoffs.

So does Owusu have a chance of recovering, from whatever ails him, in time for the bowl game?

"We'll see, I think it's very possible," Harbaugh stated.

The head coach said that Alex Loukas, who suffered a leg injury against Cal, falls in the same category as Owusu. Harbaugh also mentioned there is a possibility Loukas could be eligible to return next season if the NCAA accepts an appeal for a sixth year.

If Loukas isn't healthy in a month, flipping a coin to determine Andrew Luck's backup might be easier than trying to predict whether it will be Josh Nunes or Robbie Picazo. Nunes attempted one pass in the Big Game but Picazo took a knee on the final play of the Oregon State game.

"He was the one that was practicing better in the drills and scrimmages before the Oregon State game," Harbaugh said of Picazo. "There were some weeks before that where Josh was. We'll evaluate it again, but whoever is practicing better will get the opportunity in the games."

It appears as if David Green has supplanted Daniel Zychlinski as the team's punter. Green booted four deep balls for 171 yards (42.8 ypp) against Oregon State and has been used in the starter's role the last two games. Again, Harbaugh only said that Green had been practicing better and that the job was open competition going into the bowl.

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 Bookmaker, Covers and Red Hott Locks. 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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