Clardy's Corner 9/12/12: Biggest Rivalry Ever

Now in his 11th season of Cardinal and college football commentary, The Bootleg's Senior Columnist Troy Clardy is prepared to question prevailing conventional wisdom with regard to Stanford's prime rivalry in football. Is there a bigger game than the Big Game? At least this week... there is! Beat SC!

Clardy's Corner 9-11-12 USC

It's a simple question, really. But the closer you look, it becomes a deceptively simple question.

 

Has U$C replaced cal as Stanford's foremost football rival?

 

With the Cardinal preparing to host the Trojans this Saturday on The Farm, San Jose Mercury News college football writer Jon Wilner posed that very question on his blog this week. However, instead of answering it himself, Wilner merely offers this response: "[that question] can only be answered by Stanford players, fans, and alumni."

 

Well, I'm a Stanford fan. And, according to that piece of paper hanging on my wall (and all the mail I keep getting from The Stanford Fund), I'm a Stanford alum, too. I think those facts qualify me to take a swing at Wilner's question.

 

So, to Wilner's simple question, I offer this simple answer: Yes. And no.

 

I can hear some of you now: "but California has to be our biggest rival! That's why they call it Big Game! It's always been ‘Beat Cal', not ‘Beat U$C'!"

 

If you're saying that, you were probably one of the Stanford faithful who staggered out of Raspberry Ravine in complete disbelief after the Screw of '82. Time may heal all wounds, but the scars still probably haven't healed. Not even after 30 years.

 

You were also probably one of the Stanford fans who actually got to experience a real live Big Game bonfire in Lake Lagunita. You also probably remember when Big Game was always sold out, and when it was always the biggest college football game of the year in the Bay Area. To you, I would imagine, the question of who Stanford's biggest rival is may not even be a question at all.

 

At the same time, I also suspect that the younger Stanford fans may have a different answer. The current students and the young alumni have been absolutely amazing. Their support has been incredible, and they deserve a large measure of the credit for Stanford Football's renaissance. (I just wish they were able to be in full force for this game. But that's a different story for a different time…)

 

The thing is, the younger fans' experiences with Cardinal Football likely won't be defined by any Big Game moments. Sure, parading The Axe around is nice, but their fondest memories of watching the Card probably won't center around beating the University of California. After all, Stanford defeated both U$C and cal in 2007…but which game does everyone remember? Exactly.

 

Big Game is always big, but the recent games against U$C have all been bigger, more dramatic, and have had more impact nationwide. So if the younger Stanford fans considered the Trojans to be the Card's biggest rival right now, I wouldn't be shocked in the least.

 

Now, for cal, Stanford will always be the Bears' biggest rival. Period. Even if Golden Bear football ever reaches the heights that Stanford has experienced over the past few years (the heights they certainly seemed to be destined to reach a few years ago), nothing will ever satisfy Old Blues and New Blues like a win over Stanford. In anything. Football, basketball, table tennis, Farmville, whatever. That will never, ever change.

 

Perhaps the real question should be whether Stanford has replaced UCLA or Notre Dame as U$C's biggest rival. While that answer can only truly be provided by U$C players, fans, and alumni, I'll take a stab at that question, too. And my answer is yes.

 

Which program has had the biggest hand and the most responsibility for toppling U$C from the top of the league standings? Which program has dealt the Trojans their most devastating blows? Which program seems to have annexed the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum as its second home? Those answers would be Stanford, Stanford, and Stanford.

 

So it was no surprise that when Nickell Robey snagged that pick-six last year in the Coliseum to put the Trojans ahead of Stanford with less than four minutes left, U$C fans celebrated like it was the Rose Bowl, Super Bowl, the World Cup Final, and Cinco de Mayo all rolled into one.

 

The Greatest Upset Ever. The "What's Your Deal?" game. Triple overtime. Andrew Luck leveling Sharece Wright. After decades, the tables have finally turned. Stanford is in U$C's heads. And their fans will be looking for blood on Saturday. I'd venture to think they don't quite have those same feelings toward UCLA, Notre Dame, or anyone else right now. A win over Stanford would mean more than say, a 50-0 steamrolling of an incompetantly-led crosstown rival UCLA.

 

Personally, I've never really hated cal. That was true even when the Bears football program was light years ahead of Stanford's, and it seemed like the Cardinal would never catch up. I have never had a bone to pick with the UC athletic department, who seem to be doing things the right way. And as I've publicly mentioned in previous Corners, I love California's band.

 

However, the People's Republic of Berkeley is still stuck back in 1968. And when it comes to Stanford, cal fans lose their minds and act like absolute hooligans. Those two reasons are why, overall, I truly do dislike cal.

 

That said, dislike is never as strong as hatred. And my hatred for "That Think Tank on Figueroa" is well-documented in these Corners. I am always in an especially chippy mood during U$C week, and this year is no different.

 

You want to put me in a foul mood quickly? Start playing their fight song. Anything from that damn band serves as my personal musical laxative.

 

Does my hatred stem from jealousy? Partly. After all, no program outside of Notre Dame has a more storied college football history than U$C. But it's hard for me to respect that history when they achieved much of that history by cheating and playing dirty, and when their fans use that sordid history to fuel their own superiority complex. That's where most of my hatred comes from.

 

Now don't get it twisted: I don't want Stanford to ever lose to cal. Ever. But as a card-carrying Cardinalmaniac, nothing gives me more joy than beating U$C in football.

 

But historically, the rivalry between Stanford and U$C has been next to nonexistent. Sure, it's been great the past five seasons, and during the Vow Boys years, the  late 1960s, and the early 1970s the rivalry got pretty heated, too. Outside of those three periods in time and maybe the How Boys' Rose Bowl season of 1951, Stanford was almost never U$C's chief rival. Heck, most years, Stanford was so far in U$C's rear-view mirror, the Indians/Cardinal weren't even worth Troy's concern.

 

You can't have a rivalry with someone who's out of your league. Meanwhile, the Bears have always seemed to be in the same boat with Stanford. Sustained success always seemed to be just within reach. Berkeley always seemed to be near Stanford in the standings whenever they met. So, historically, yes, California is still Stanford's biggest rival.

 

But the "most-hated" rival? I think those guys are showing up to Stanford Stadium this Saturday, looking for a fight.

 

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RANDOM PAC-12 THOUGHTS

 

Hard to quarrel when you hang a half a hundred on the opposing team. Much better performance from Stanford this time, particularly on defense…

 

Is it me or do we look a little faster in our black uniforms?

 

Don't look now, but Usua Amanam is quickly rising to become my favorite player on the Stanford defense…

 

I'll readily admit that I've probably been spoiled by the past few years, but I'm still waiting for Stanford's offensive line to start dominating. Haven't seen it yet…

 

It wouldn't surprise me to see Lane Kiffin and the Trojans try to bubble-screen Stanford to death. If they do, I hope the Card's tackling is up to snuff. But when the Trojans call dropback passes, I hope Stanford blitzes the hell out of Matt Barkley, who has never been a good passer under pressure…

 

Sure, it was a great weekend for the league. But how much better would it have been if it were still the Pac-10 instead of the Pac-12? Thumbs up to Oregon State, Arizona, and UCLA for taking care of its business. Thumbs down to Utah. And Colorado? They get the finger…

 

That said, the Pac-12's biggest wins this past weekend were at home. Let's see how the league gets represented this week in Columbus (cal @ Ohio State) and Columbia (Arizona State @ Missouri)…

 

FOX called Sacramento State's win over Colorado a shocking upset. Really? Quite honestly, with the Buffaloes in as bad a shape as they are, I wasn't shocked. Disgusted? Yes. Shocked? No…

 

Oregon State shut down Heisman hopeful Montee Ball, and held Wisconsin's offense to merely 207 yards. Pretty impressive. Now, just think what the Beaver defense would have done to Wisconsin if Badger head coach Bret Bielema had actually given Oregon State game film to look at…

 

Ryan Mannion looked very poised at QB for Oregon State. Ditto for Brett Hundley at UCLA…

 

Even though it's way too early to be talking Heisman, if you wanted to replace Montee Ball with UCLA RB Jonathan Franklin on the short list right now, I wouldn't disagree…

 

At halftime, I thought UCLA's defense might lose them that game. As it turned out, they were a major reason the Bruins were able to hold off Nebraska in the second half and win. They might not have discipline, but they have speed and they can hit…

 

Arkansas State, Fresno State, and Tennessee Tech? All at home? That's the best you could come up with for a non-conference schedule? Shame on you, Oregon…

 

LSU 41, Washington 3? Down in Baton Rouge? Yeah, that sounds about right…

 

Too bad for Utah QB Jordan Wynn, who was knocked out of the game against Utah State with another shoulder injury. After three previous shoulder surgeries, Wynn has decided to call it a career…probably wisely.

 

The season is yet young, but the Bears have a lot of work to do on defense…

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Not a Pac-12 thought, but… That win over Arkansas is the biggest thing to hit Monroe, Louisiana since my grandmother's gumbo…

Not a Pac-12 thought, but… by the way, have you noticed that none of the college football talking heads are using Arkansas' inexplicable loss last week to the Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks of the Sun Belt Conference as a damning indictment against the all-powerful SEC? If that had happened to Oregon or U$C, all of the pundits would be falling all over themselves to declare the Pac-12 as being overrated. Must be nice to be in the SEC…

Not a Pac-12 thought, but… oh, NFL RedZone channel, how I missed you so…


Troy Clardy is in his 20th year of following the Cardinal as a columnist, broadcaster, and announcer. In its 11th season of Cardinal commentary, Clardy's Corner appears Wednesdays during the college football regular season on TheBootleg.com. You can also check him out online at TroyClardy.com, hear him on Pittsburgh's Sportsradio 93-7 The Fan, or e-mail him at troyc@thebootleg.com.


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