No. 30: Suck for Luck

He was highly rated in high school, but no service ranked him the No. 1 quarterback in the country, let alone the No. 1 quarterback of the last 15-plus years. As Andrew Luck started to succeed at Stanford and NFL teams started to struggle elsewhere, however, that all changed in a hurry.

We continue our ambitious offseason series, counting down the top 40 moments of the Harbaugh/ Shaw era.

No matter how you slice it, Stanford football has arrived. Though we've since assumed all the trappings of a football powerhouse – the three straight runner-up finishes in Heisman voting, the two straight BCS bowl berths and top-10 finishes, the top-ten 2012 recruiting class, or the eminent graduation of top pro prospect of the last decade – it wasn't that long ago that Stanford football was an afterthought.

On December 19, 2006, new athletic director Bob Bowlsby hired Jim Harbaugh, a former star quarterback, but an unproven coach who had never worked at the FBS level. The rest, as they say, was history.

We are pleased present Stanford football's 40 most memorable moments, trends, games and personalities from the magical five-plus years that followed that December 2006 announcement.

30. Suck for Luck
The media machine deems a college senior the next football savior

David Shaw recently said that Andrew Luck was the second-most covered football player of the past year, with only demigod Tim Tebow beating out the goober from Southlake. While Luck tore it up at Stanford, and is a thoughtful and perfectly affable guy, let's not deceive ourselves. His visibility on the Farm was, conservatively, a full order of magnitude greater than it would have been were it not for the potential NFL impact.

Depending on whom you ask and the day you ask them, Luck is the best pro prospect since Peyton Manning, John Elway, Johnny Unitas, nay, John Heisman himself. Of course, ask the same analysts the same question five minutes later, and they claim in all seriousness that Robert Griffin III could be the No. 1 pick. Like nature, media hates a vacuum.

Anyway, unlike in the NBA, where draft order is set by a lottery weighted by teams' records, in the NFL, the draft order is cut and dry. The lower in the standings you finish, the higher your draft pick.

When your team is en route to a 3-13 thriller of a season, you need hope wherever you can find it, and for denizens of Miami, Indianapolis, Jacksonville and a few other choice locales these past six-plus months, the shot at landing Andrew Luck was the football equivalent of finding Jesus in your French toast.

You'd think fans would have learned to temper expectations after last year, when Carolina fans were left at the alter after Luck announced his intentions to return his senior year. (In retrospect though, I suspect the Panthers aren't too disappointed with Cam Newton.)

But Mel Kiper, Todd McShay, your local talk radio show and any yokel with a login and a password at Bleacher Report were all too happy to keep feeding the hype beast and, thus fed, the monster kept growing. It got to the point where fans were actively rooting against their teams, all the better to improve their odds of landing the Neck-Bearded One.

Stanford found itself with its own ESPN blog and the team found itself on national television this past season for every game except for the San Jose State opener. Ironically, Luck may have been a victim of all the surrounding hoopla, as he ended up No. 2 in the Heisman chase (albeit to an equally deserving Griffin). Measuring by eyeballs or statistics, Luck's season was superlative, but when folks have been conditioned to expect a 25-of-27, suddenly a 24-completion day is a disappointment.

When it's all said and done, here's betting Luck has the last laugh.

50-41. More memorable moments - Loukas, Luck, and a phantom clipping call
40. Fake out - Luck stuns UW with a naked bootleg in 2010
39. Polls and bowls - Stanford climbs into college football's beauty contests
38. Steamrolled - Card run for 446 yards in 2011 beatdown of Washington
37.Opening act - 2009 win over Oregon launches a November to remember
36.Going bowling - Loss to Oklahoma doesn't ruin first bowl game since 2001
35. "Shut up and play football" - Cal jaws pregame, falls behind 45-0 in 2010
34. Look ma, no legs - Luck throws a 52- yard dart while in free fall
33. Sit down - Burfict's head leads to go- ahead TD, Wilkerson's ices W at ASU
32. Injury bug - Despite multiple injuries, 2011 Card manage to rally
31. Whale watching - Stanford starts recruiting at an elite level

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