Gut Reaction: Any day now

It was just the first week of conference play. And it's undoubtedly premature to think about the national title picture. Still, Saturday had to be mighty frustrating for long-suffering Stanford fans.

The doomsday scenario is for Stanford to run the table, only for some combination of Oklahoma or Texas A&M, Alabama or LSU, Wisconsin or Nebraska, and any other 11th-hour darkhorse to survive the gauntlet and find themselves in the national title game with the Cardinal on the outside. This week didn't help matters any.

I think Stanford football has a bright future ahead of it, with no shortage of potential top-10 and top- 15 seasons on the horizon. Still, I don't think the Cardinal are going to find themselves looking at 14- 0 anytime soon. Despite the profound turnaround of the past few years, we're not exactly Oklahoma or Alabama here, perennial top-five teams – and even those blue chips find out that playing for it all is easier said than done. (See Miami or Michigan or Texas or USC or Nebraska or, now, Ohio State).

We're not running the table the next few years, not with arguably the best player in program history leaving come January. Not with the Pac-12 almost having to get tougher given its poor showing thus far this year, not to mention the very real possibility of a Pac-16 with the Sooners and Longhorns. Not with Stanford recruiting well, but top-20 well, not Alabama well.

So it's now or never for the Cardinal, and given the six straight wins by 27-plus and possession of the longest active winning streak in D-I football, it's hard not to see the Trees heading toward a 1.5-game season of Oregon and, maybe, USC or Arizona State. So if Stanford loses to those talented programs – or gets shocked somewhere else along the way – so be it, we'll have to sleep in the bed we made. But if we get shut out of the national title game through no fault of our own, and likely in no small part for the irrelevant reason that we're not a name brand like those other programs, I think our frustration will, and should, know no end.

And as we run down last week's poll, 1. Oklahoma, 2. LSU and 3. Alabama each won by 10-plus points over solid opponents, Missouri, West Virginia and Arkansas. Heck, the only top-10 team to lose was No. 8 Texas A&M, and they were playing 7. Oklahoma State – someone had to lose. Meanwhile, the remaining top-10 teams, Boise State, Nebraska, Wisconsin and Oregon won by a combined 108 points.

There are nearly 500 losses (about 8 games remaining * 120 teams)/2 to be handed out across college football, but that number is dwindling by the week. There's still a lot of sand in the timer, but it's never fun to see the grains tumbling through, with nothing to show for it and nothing we can do to stop it.

So, no pressure, Stanford, but we better beat Oregon by more than LSU did, and for goodness sakes, someone, anyone, in the Pac-12 outside of Palo Alto and Eugene better distinguish themselves in a hurry. (Arizona State?) And, oh, it'd be great if someone lost somewhere along the way.

That's our take. Here's the latest on Stanford football, and keep it locked into The Bootleg moving forward.


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