Cupdate: Stanford in Danger

The Cardinal have won the Directors' Cup 18 straight years, but find themselves over 50 points behind last year's pace and second to Michigan at the two-thirds mark. Folks, Stanford is in an absolute dogfight for trophy No. 19… Read on for more.

Michigan has 914.25 at the turn, just ahead of Stanford with 902.75. Penn State (857) is third, but Florida (748.5) back in fourth is the biggest threat, as we'll see.

First, let's look at Stanford's performance this season. Spring sports are bolded, with projected points based on current rankings.

Stanford projected total: 1,311.25 points (Last year: 1,448.25)

Men (599.5)
Gymnastics 85 (3rd)
Football 73.5 (6th)
Golf 72 (7th)
Swimming 72 (7th)
Fencing 66 (8th)
Baseball 50 (projected T-17th, currently 21st)
Cross country 58.5 (16th)
Indoor track 43.5 (30th)
Track & field 43.5* (projected 30th, currently unranked)
Wrestling 35.5 (38th)
Tennis 0 (unranked)

Women (731.75)
Water polo 100 (1st)

Cross country 85 (3rd)
Soccer 83 (T-3rd)
Volleyball 73 (T-5th)
Swimming 70.5 (8th)
Gymnastics 68.25 (T-7th)
Basketball 64 (T-9th)
Tennis 64 (projected T-9th, currently 12th)
Softball 64 (projected T-9th, currently 15th)
Golf 59 (13th)
Track & field 59 (14th)
Rowing 50 (9th)

Field hockey 25 (9th)
Lacrosse 25 (projected T-9th, 14th)

Only the top ten sports for each gender count, hence the italics. With men's tennis having its worst season in decades, Stanford has little slack on the men's side, where just about every remaining sport will count, so the important thing is to simply show up at the national championships to get some points. Despite the No. 14 rankings, baseball's current RPI is 82, so they're going need to close strong to make the NCAA Tournament, good for 25 points even if you don't win a game the rest of the way. By the same logic, outdoor track simply needs someone to score at the national meet in order to place, because even dead last would be worth about 30 points. No. 42 tennis could surprise by winning the Pac-12 Tournament this weekend or showing enough to qualify for an at-large berth; if they make the NCAA Tournament field, that'd provide some much welcome slack on the men's side. As is, Stanford's work is cut out for them if they hope to win with under 600 points from the men, so at least two of their three spring sports must score to avoid taking a 0.

While the men have a downside risk of, say, 50 points (if baseball and tennis don't qualify for NCAA play), there is upside potential on the women's side just as large. Rowing won a national title a few years ago, tennis has won a million titles, golf is having their best season in years and, as you can see, all of these sports are right on the cutline. We can't rightfully predict that any particular sport goes on a postseason tear, but of those five spring sports on the bubble, some will finish strong, while some will disappoint. That will bring in more points on balance for the Cardinal, who have enough women's sports scoring that a poor performance will simply be dropped, but a surprisingly strong performance will add to the ledger.

Add it all up, and the 1,311.25 for Stanford sounds about right, with the men's downside risk balancing the women's upside potential. As a sanity check, adding Stanford's 2012 spring to its year-to-date results yields 1396.25, but take away men's tennis 5th place finish and 73 points of last year, and our projection is looking right on the mark.

This year's projected total of 1,311.25 is 137 points behind last year's total (1,448.25), and keeping the win streak alive with that mark gets really dicey. Let's project the final standings by adding this year's fall and winter totals to last year's spring totals for other top teams.

Projected final standings
1. Florida (748.5 + 662) = 1410.5
2. Stanford (see above) 1311.25
3. UCLA (624.5 + 624.75) 1249.25
4. Michigan 914.25 + 333.5 = 1247.75
5. UNC 712.83 + 380.5 = 1091.33
6. Notre Dame743 + 340 = 1083
7. Penn State 857 + 182.5 = 1039.5

It's not as dire as it seems, because just like Stanford's previously mentioned sum of 1,396.25 got revised downward upon further examination, so too will Florida's. The Gators had a ridiculous spring last year with two national titles (track and women's tennis), a third place in lacrosse of all things, and six other top-20 finishes. Florida won't score 662 spring points again, nor will UCLA match their mark of 624.75. Still, the Gators are 100 points ahead of their pace last year and Stanford is 52 points behind, so Florida doesn't need their best spring in school history to hold the Cardinal off.

Bottom line
If anyone has the best odds right now, it's probably Florida, with Stanford nipping at their heels and then Michigan and UCLA a step back. The biggest swing factors for Stanford are the men's sports, so root hard for men's tennis this weekend at Pac-12s to show enough to make the NCAA Tournament, root hard for baseball to keep the hot streak going and make the NCAAs, and root for track to at least equal its indoor performance. And, of course, it would be great if a women's sport took down a national title to push that streak to 37, some other women's teams made runs, and Florida, Michigan and UCLA had mediocre springs.

But for all those fans clamoring year after year for a more competitive race, we've got one on our hands. Time for Stanford fans to help will their school across the finish line in what is shaping up to be a photo finish.

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