Future opponent watch

All the BCS numbers, rankings and ratings don't matter one whit if Stanford doesn't take care of its business moving forward. Here are the teams the Card will have to tangle with in the weeks to come.

USC (6-1, 15)
Wins:
31-17, Notre Dame
30-9, California
38-17, Syracuse
48-41, Arizona
23-14, Utah
19-17, Minnesota
Losses:
22-43, Arizona State
Analysis: The record's gaudy, and with the Trojans missing Oregon State and Washington State in the rotation, the computers will love them. Stanford's best bet is to keep rooting for USC down the stretch, therefore. It's hard to evaluate how good USC is though – you may not see a top-40 win on the resume thus far, especially if you're not a Notre Dame believer.

Oregon State (2-5, 114)
Wins:
37-27, Arizona
44-21, Washington State
Losses:
20-35, Arizona State
19-27, UCLA
0-35, Wisconsin
28-38, Brigham Young
28-29 (OT), Sacramento State
Analysis: Hard to argue with Pac-12 detractors this year. Utah, Colorado, Oregon State and Washington State are thoroughly awful. UCLA, Arizona, Cal and Washington are horribly inconsistent, overrated, and each 4-8 at best in the SEC. There are four credible teams in the conference, and, of them, Arizona State lost to Illinois and USC beat Minnesota by two. The Beavers, of course, helped the cause with their Week 1 loss to Sacramento State. Not a banner year.

Oregon (6-1, 12)
Wins:
41-27, Arizona State
43-15, California
56-31, Arizona
45-2, Colorado
69-20, Nevada
56-7, Missouri State
Losses:
27-40, LSU
Analysis: Alongside Alabama, Stanford, LSU and Oklahoma, in that order, I think the Ducks are one of the five best teams in the country. (Edit: Sure enough, Sagarin agrees. His predictor ranks them LSU, Alabama, Oregon, Boise State, Oklahoma and Stanford.) The Ducks had four turnovers and no All-American Cliff Harris against LSU, and still outgained the Tigers by 62 yards in a de facto road game. Meanwhile, their offense has been absolutely dirty against everyone else, as you can see. In my opinion, then, Stanford fans are overrating the rest of the conference and – though I realize this sounds oxymoronic – overlooking the Ducks. It's really a two-team conference, with USC, Arizona State et al not remotely in the same league as the Card and Ducks, despite receiving nearly as much mental bandwidth as Oregon. Consider: had Oregon not played LSU, they'd be undefeated and, say, No. 3 in the country. They're every bit the part.

California (4-3, 45)
Wins:
36-21, Fresno State
34-10, Utah
36-33 (OT), Colorado
63-12, Presbyterian
Losses:
23-31, Washington
15-43, Oregon
9-30, USC
Analysis: A perfect example of the phenomenon above. Cal is really not that good. The Colorado score looks awful now, and Fresno State and Utah are both in the FBS' bottom half. The Bears should beat at least two of UCLA, Wazzu and Oregon State in the next three weeks to reach bowl eligibility, but, as is Stanford's custom as of late, the Card should roll by 25-plus against these guys.

Notre Dame (4-3, 43)
Wins:
31-13, Michigan State
15-12, Pittsburgh
38-10, Purdue
59-33, Air Force
Losses:
31-35, Michigan
17-31, USC
20-23, South Florida
Analysis: The Irish are better than their record indicates. (Edit: Sure enough, Sagarin's predictor has them No. 14. Whoa.) The turnover bug struck twice, making the Irish unlucky to lose to Michigan and South Florida. Plus, the Michigan State win looks a lot better now than it did at the time. With Navy, Wake Forest, Maryland and Boston College in the next four weeks, the Irish should be 8-3 when they roll into Palo Alto.

Arizona State (if applicable)
(5-2, 15, likely Pac-12 South representative in Pac-12 Championship Game)

Wins:
43-22, USC
37-30 (OT), Missouri
35-14, Utah
35-20, Oregon State
48-14, UC Davis
Losses:
27-41, Oregon
14-17, Illinois
Analysis:

That Illinois loss is killing the conference – if Sagarin has the Devils No. 15 with the loss, they're probably top-eight without it. Still, the Devils should be double-digit favorites the rest of the way, and 10-2 come Pac-12 Title Game time. Another opportunity for a quality win in what would be Stanford's last chance to make a statement.


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