Stanford lost to Oregon last week, 45-16. That result marked the first time Ducks QB Marcus Mariota had beaten the Cardinal in his career. It was a weight off Oregon’s shoulders, and it put them back in the playoff bracket.
But for the Cardinal, it was their first loss to the Ducks in three years. It knocked Stanford out of the Pac-12 North title race, also for the first time in three years.
It was the first time Stanford had allowed more than 30 points in a game since a 54-48 overtime thriller over Arizona in 2012. That streak of 31 games had been the longest in the nation.
A lot of streaks came to an end for Stanford last Saturday. Come to think of it, this season has featured more than a few instances of streak busting. And not necessarily for the better.
Stanford’s loss to Arizona State last month put the Card in an unusual position: unranked in the polls. That had not been the case for Stanford since early in the 2010 season, a school-record run of 72 straight weeks as a ranked team.
That night in Tempe, the Cardinal also failed to score in the first half for the first time since 2007, a 33-17 loss to Washington State.
With so many streaks falling, some Stanford fans are, unsurprisingly, marking this year as the end of an era in Cardinal football. Whether this is the end of an era remains to be seen. But it’s not the end of the season. The Cardinal have three games left: the home finale against Utah, Big Game in Berkeley, and a Black Friday showdown with the Bruins.
Each of those games pose their own dangers. The Utes rugged defense makes you earn every single yard. The Bears are unpredictable as a team, and legitimately volatile as an offense. And who knows which Bruin team is going to show up on any given day?
Still, those are games Stanford can win. The Treefense can match Utah blow for blow. We’ve seen what the Cardinal can do against ineffective defenses like cal’s. And who knows which Bruin team is going to show up on any given day?
And if the Cardinal wrap up the regular season with three straight wins, that will put them at 8-4. Maybe it’s not as good of a season as we were all hoping for 2014, but it’s still a good season.
After all, not long ago, we would have been dancing in the streets over Stanford going 8-4. I realize the bar has been raised for Stanford Football these days, but I also remember the days when we would spend every August arguing and debating over how the Cardinal could scratch and claw and somehow get to six wins. Maybe that’s why I don’t look at 8-4 with the gloom and doom and the dread and disappointment that others seem to.
And I have to admit, I’m not quite sure what to make of the folks who are turning in their fan cards and calling various players and coaches “garbage” on the message boards.
If you didn’t turn in your fan card while Buddy Teevens was stumbling around Stanford’s sidelines, and if you didn’t turn in your fan card after 2006, why turn in your fan card now?
In 2003, there were legitimate reasons to leave Stanford Football behind. In 2006, there were legitimate reasons to think that the Cardinal would never, ever be able to field a competitive football team again.
In 2014, that’s not the case. Even though this season is going to fall short of the mark that most of us had set for it, there are few (if any) legitimate reasons to think that a slew of 3-9 seasons are just around the corner.
Still, maybe it is the end of an era. Time will tell. If it is, man, what a great ride it was. Two Rose Bowls? Four straight BCS bowls? National attention? A packed Stanford Stadium? Countless big games? Countless huge wins? A rockstar quarterback? I wouldn’t trade any of that in for anything.
But if Stanford is back in the playoff conversation in 2015, this season will merely be known as a blip in the road. It happens.
Look at it this way: if the Cardinal win the conference next year, that would be three times in four years. Apparently, if you win big three times in five years—while not even making the playoffs in the other two—that’s still good enough to be called a dynasty. (I keep getting told this, but I’m not quite sure I completely buy it.)
So, apparently, while you’re winning big things, it’s easy to ignore the seasons in between that don’t go your way. Hopefully this season falls into that category.
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RANDOM PAC-12 THOUGHTS
Given that it kept the Ducks in the playoff conversation, something tells me that Oregon’s win over Stanford was met with relief in the Pac-12 offices…
Against the Ducks, you need touchdowns, not field goals. Even though Stanford didn’t convert, I had no problem with going for it on fourth down in the first half. Had a problem with kicking the field goal from Oregon’s eight-yard line in the third quarter…
Tough day for Connor Halliday. But, as I noted in last week’s Corner, Mike Leach’s scheme makes his quarterbacks too vulnerable. In all honesty, I’m surprised Halliday made it to November without getting hurt…
The Bears keep getting the kind of wins that denote progress. They’ve won a couple of road games this season. Against the Beavers, they won with Daniel Lasko’s legs. Now, if their defense can be more consistent, they may actually be a legit team again…
Rare is the week that I’ll be rooting for Arizona State. But the facade that is the 2014 Notre Dame football team must end. Go Devils…
Not a Pac-12 thought, but… sure, I have a problem with Maryland’s captains refusing to shake hands with Penn State’s captains at the coin toss last week. But I have a bigger problem with Maryland being in the Big 10 in the first place…
Not a Pac-12 thought, but… I said back in the spring that I think Jim Harbaugh had a 20 percent chance of being the San Francisco 49ers head coach in 2015. Now? 10 percent. No matter what happens…
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I’m not having a very good year, am I?
Washington State @ Oregon State. With Connor Halliday, I’d say the Cougs get it done. Without Halliday? I like Oregon State by 11.
UCLA @ Washington. Look, it wouldn’t surprise me if the Huskies woke up against the Bruins. But I’m not counting on it. I like UCLA by seven.
Colorado @ Arizona. No better way to rebound from a tough loss than to welcome the Buffaloes to your stadium. I like Arizona by 24.
Oregon @ Utah. I’ve had this pegged as a trap game for quite a while. Can Devontae Booker, that stingy Utes defense, and a rowdy Rice-Eccles crowd add up to an upset? Why not? I like Utah by nine.
Last week: 3-2 (straight-up), 3-2 (ATS).
This year: 18-11 (straight-up), 11-18 (ATS).
Last year: 35-10 (straight-up), 24-21 (ATS).
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Troy Clardy hosts evenings 7p-11p and Oakland A’s pregame & postgame shows on San Francisco’s 95.7 The Game. The 2014 season marks his 22nd year of following the Cardinal as a columnist, broadcaster, and announcer. In its 13th 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, or follow him on Twitter @TroyClardy.
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