Cruelty & Class

The classy side of Stanford football has been talked about for decades, but as far as cruelty, how about Stanford giving six teams, fully half their 2010 schedule, their most-lopsided defeat of the season? That compares favorably to other elite teams in the country, more on which in a minute, but first, let's run down the gauntlet…

  • The Card beat Sacramento State 52-17 in the season opener. The Hornets did finish a middling 6-5, but they could have easily been 10-1, losing to no opponent other than Stanford by more than four points.
  • Stanford then shut out UCLA in the Rose Bowl, 35-0. The Bruins scored at least a touchdown in every other game this season, and were beat by more than 35 only once – 60-13 at Autzen.
  • Stanford then scored touchdowns on eight straight possessions to down Wake Forest 68-24. The 68 points were a season-worst for Wake, though Maryland did beat the Demon Deacons by a greater margin, 62-14. Another team with its second-worst defeat at the hands of Stanford.
  • Then came a visit to Touchdown Jesus and Notre Dame, where the Irish allowed a season-worst 37 points to Stanford in their most lopsided defeat of the season, 37-14. Only a 35-17 loss to Navy came close, as Notre Dame's other losses to Michigan State, Michigan and Tulsa were all within four points.
  • Week Five sent Stanford and College Gameday alike to Autzen Stadium. Though Oregon had the scare against Cal, the Ducks beat everyone else on their schedule by at least 17. (Auburn, by contrast, won six of its games by a score or less, and four by no more than a field goal, yet is favored by three in the title game.) Bonus note: I have to imagine Stanford's 21-3 first-quarter lead marks Oregon's biggest of the deficit of the season as well, though obviously it didn't hold up. Bonus, bonus note: Also, Oregon allowed only USC, with 32 points, more than Stanford managed in its 52-31 loss.
  • In week six, Stanford needed Andrew Luck and Nate Whitaker's last-minute heroics to get past a USC team it could not stop, 37-35, and week seven was Stanford's one underperformance the whole season. Luckily, they picked a good opponent for their B game, and still got past Washington State 38-28 with 21 of Wazzu's points coming in the fourth quarter. No records set against the Trojans or the Cougs, but Stanford was just resting up for its final stretch run.
  • If good teams get better throughout the season, Week Eight was a good sign for your Cardinal, who bounced back from a nailbiter and an ugly game to demolish Washington, in Seattle, 41-0. Washington scored at least seven in every other contest this season, and the 41-point margin was Washington's worst defeat of the season. If it were ever possible for a 41-point game to end up closer than it really was, this would be the game, as Washington managed just 107 yards(!), most of them in the fourth quarter, and Stanford ran 47 times while passing it only 26, helping keep the final score down.
  • Week Nine was more of the same, as Stanford steamrolled Arizona 42-17. The Card were in ABC primetime for the third time in five games (with Oregon and USC the previous Disney affairs) and didn't disappoint, as, save for Stanford, only Oregon, at 48-29, beat Arizona by more than three points. Only Cal, in a 10-9 Arizona win, allowed the Wildcats fewer points, and no one beat Arizona by more than 25.
  • A miscalled field goal and Anthony Wilkerson's sit down to run out the clock when he was clear to the end zone made the final score appear closer than the game was (Stanford, for example, held a 420-268 yardage edge), but still, the Cardinal set no records against Arizona State with a 17-13 win in Tempe in Week 10. Four of ASU's six losses came by four points or fewer though, with a hard-fought 42-31 showing at Oregon and an inexplicable 50-17 meltdown against Cal the only exceptions. Additionally, ASU's 13 points were a season-low.
  • Back to the good stuff, as Stanford kicked off an unbelievable final two games in style, routing California 48-14 in the Big Game in Berkeley. Cal had to scramble to keep it to "only" 48-14, scoring two fourth quarter touchdowns against Stanford's backups, both by air, one on a wide-receiver pass. Still, Cal suffered no wider loss in a 2010 to forget, with in-state rivals Stanford and USC throttling the Bears by identical 48-14 margins.
  • Finally, Stanford's season ended vs. Oregon State in a 38-0 shutdown, easily OSU's worst loss of the season. OSU scored at least 14 in every other 2010 game, and its next-biggest losses were to Oregon and, yup, Washington State, by 17 points apiece.
  • While recalling the best regular season in Stanford football history won't get old any time soon, fans already knew that Stanford blew out a lot of teams. Thus, fans might not be shocked that Stanford handed half its opponents their worst loss of the season (despite sharing nine common opponents with No. 1 Oregon and its touchdown-a-minute offense). What fans might not know, however, is just how well the six worst losses Stanford administered compares with other top teams.

    Oregon handed five opponents (New Mexico, Tennessee, Portland State, Stanford and UCLA) their worst loss of 2010. Interestingly, those were five of Oregon's first seven opponents, as Oregon "only" won its final five games by 20ish points on average, instead of 40ish.

    Auburn handed worst losses to six teams, Arkansas State, Louisiana-Monroe, Arkansas, Chattanooga, Georgia and South Carolina. However, Auburn had one of those blowouts against South Carolina in an extra game, the SEC title game, after beating South Carolina by just eight in a regular season match-up. Plus, of course, half those teams on the list are tomato cans. Stanford's 6/12, and probably Oregon's 5/12, is more impressive than Auburn's 6/13, in this writer's assessment.

    We're not comparing TCU because its league is much easier than a BCS league, so our two final teams of interest are the No. 5 and 6 teams in the BCS standings, Wisconsin and Ohio State. The Badgers gave worst losses to Austin Peay, Ohio State, Indiana and Northwestern, just four teams (despite all the press they got for putting up big numbers against Indiana and Northwestern). Ohio State, meanwhile, stuck five teams, Marshall, Ohio, Penn State, Purdue and Michigan, with their most lopsided loss.

    Final score then for the top five BCS-conference teams – Stanford 6, Auburn 6 with an extra game and Chatanooga, Arkansas State and Louisiana-Monroe on the list, Oregon 5, Ohio State 5 and Wisconsin 4. This measure isn't precise enough, nor the teams' results different enough to draw any firm conclusions about the relative strength of these five teams, but at a minimum, Stanford belongs firmly among the national elite, and perhaps more than that yet.

    (Much thanks to Lars for the story idea.)

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