Within 24 hours of Saturday's fabulous Bruin bashing, the polls readjusted mightily, and the computer rankings started filing in with unanimous top five ratings. All of a sudden, it became clear that Stanford was making an undeniable move into the upper echelon of the BCS rankings, from last week's spot at #14 to this week's lofty #6. With the #1 strength of schedule in the country, "quality wins" over 2 of the BCS top 10, just one loss and computer rankings second only to Nebraska, there remains just one component of the BCS between Stanford and a National Championship bid in the Rose Bowl - the polls. Both the media and the coaches have responded and recognized Stanford's phenomenal play and wins at a pace best described as Mesozoic. The disheartening news is that polls in line with what the computers say, which we'll conservatively call a #4 ranking, would put Stanford as the #2 BCS team in the country, ahead of Oklahoma. The encouraging news is that a win-out Stanford scenario necessitates a win over the Pups up North this Saturday, which is a compulsory recipe for another rocket shot up the polls. After that, the schedule looks promising, with four teams sporting current losing records.
Yes, it's time to start talking about a title shot. This isn't fantasy folly we're cogitating over - this is imminently reachable, and completely consistent with the goals set by Tyrone and the team since the summer. A little help might be needed, to get those pollsters on the Cardinal bandwagon: probably a Miami loss to VaTech, BC or U-Dub (the latter two of which would help Stanford's strength of schedule); Michigan bowing out to their rivals from East Lansing or even the Cheeseheads; and a couple shake-ups in the Big XII, choosing from Texas down to A&M, Nebraska down to K-State, and Oklahoma down to Nebraska for the second time in the Big XII championship.
Sure, there are a few pieces likely needed to fall in place. The most formidable obstacle is arguably the game at hand in Huskyland this very Saturday. The good guys haven't come away with a dubya from U-Dub since the Rowland Rollover of '75, so history is stacked against the lads clad in Cardinal and White.
Moreover, there have been several cries on our own beloved BootBoard to stop the madness! Apparently, all of this jubilation and daydreaming is either inappropriate or a child's game. "Let's not get ahead of ourselves." "Let's focus on the game at hand." "Look at what happened to UCLA after all of their fans' talk of Pasadena Pastures."
As my innumerable Brit officemates would say, BOLLOCKS!
I maintain the exact opposite stance. Let's not duck into alleys to open up the sports page to the BCS rankings, and speak only in whispers, with fearful glances at prying eyes and ears. Let's fully embrace the magnificent season we're privy to witness this year. Dr. Bootleg recommends (against the better wishes of my fellow Boot-scribe, Gail Tate) title talk in the morning, noon and night. Eat, drink and sleep this stuff. Shout it from the mountaintops, and sing it in the valleys. From the Halls of Montezuma to the... OK, you get the point.
I'm talking about living these days like a veritable BCS-fest. Bookmark collegeBCS.com (I'd recommend making it your homepage, but hate to suggest you change that from TheBootleg.com), and read it from cyber-cover to cyber-cover. Start thinking about the entire college landscape in terms of BCS implications, meaning rooting your heart out in seemingly meaningless games across the country, between opponents of our opponents' opponents. It's time to root like heck for Boston College to run the table in the Big Least, for San Jose State to somehow find a couple more wins in the slack WAC... gulp, even to ponder the possiblity of thinking about contemplating a small quadruple-overtime win for the Demon Domers of South Bend. The rules have all changed. Let's embrace them.
It's time to inundate those around you this wonderful world of title talk. Invite your spouse or significant other to a candlelit dinner... at the local sports bar to take in all the BCS-impacting games next Saturday. Have your son or daughter sharpen up on his/her math and programming skills by challenging him to build a BCS prediction model that will generate scenarios that put Ty's Guys in the 'Rone Bowl. If you have a couple of kids, make it a fun family contest, with the winner getting the prized family La-Z-Boy to watch the Arizona game on TV on the 10th!
On this 2001 Halloween, dress the youngest ones up like greats of Stanford yesteryear. Plunkett striking a Heisman pose at each lit doorstep. Nevers running wild around the cul-de-sac. Vataha outstretched for chocolate-y goodies. If your kid has pent up energy, Lynch in full pads to bulldoze through the neighborhood Weenie kids. Perhaps even today's greats. Dress up two of your kids together as Eric Heitmann. Get one of the still remaining limited edition Coy Wire masks, sure to get your boy all the attention of the Hallow's Eve hotties.
Bring it to work. Your officemates are likely to make Cardinal small talk about the coming hoops season, recognizing that Monty has made the Farm a basketball factory. But enjoy educating them about the New World Order of Pigskin Pandemonium that is taking the Bay Area by storm. Niners, shminers. Uncle Al will have the Oaktown Faders back in La-La-Land soon enough. This Bay was built for Stanford football, and it's your place to make the office place a focal point, or more appropriate to the area, an epicenter of Cardinalmania™. Talk Stanford football and impending BCS bonanza with your coworkers at all times, in all situations. Trust me, it can be done. Hang a schedule and the latest BCS rankings up over the water cooler. Put depth charts in everyone's mailboxes. Bribe the IT guys to put proud Stanford football signatures into everyone's Outlook preferences. Talk it up at lunch, at the coffee machine, in the halls, on the elevator, at your cubicle, at others' cubicles, in your boss' office and in the middle of meetings. If you're more coy, go subliminal and stick a few slides in the middle of presentations with photos of Cardinal glory, and click through them quickly. If you are a strong speaker, try giving a seminar on the Stanford season and the BCS ratings (including a handout on the overall formula, as well as explanations of "quality wins," strength of schedule and the computer rankings) Friday afternoon at the weekly office social.
The festering fuddy-duddies will caution you to "stay the course" and take these coming Stanford games "one at a time." But that's not our role! We are fans, derived from the word fanatics. This is what we're supposed to do. This is out part of the program. Get rabid and live this experience to the hilt. For chrissakes, Stanford football is hitting November and has an increasingly reasonable shot at a national championship! Read that sentence over and over until it sinks in. Cham-pion-ship. No fan on the face of this green planet believed the goals of the program to get to a Pac-10 title and the Rose Bowl after the Undressing in Austin in '99, but four months later, there they were. Most reasoned fans brushed off the goal of a national title this season, and the left it for rotting, decaying dead when the Palouse Posse ran roughshod a few weeks ago. I'm not one to stop believing this time. Hell, no. I'm leading the charge in a blaze of glory!
To enable yourself this heightened level of fanaticism and immersion, you have to recognize one very simple fact: looking ahead as a fan doesn't hurt Saturday's chances in the way that looking ahead can for the players. They have to maintain focus and preparation throughout this week with the singular goal of upending the Charmed Chihuahuas, but fans can open Pandora's Box and make it their childhood sandbox. Throw your body around in there, and play like you don't have a care in the world. Explore every inch of it, and love every second of it.
I hope that clears up why it's OK to embrace this dreamland, but now to answer the question of why you ought to. The simplest answer is that these are the shiny 24-carat golden times of modern Stanford football. Talent is building each year through sustained high levels of recruiting, and we have relatively unprecedented stability on the coaching staff. The roster is loaded with seniors, and bolstered with richly talented youth, on both sides of the ball. The D is there to support and occasionally even save the O, which hasn't exactly been a hallmark of Stanford football. These days, you need a little more than just winning to get to a title game - you need a superlative schedule strength to put you over the top. Had the Card gone 10-1 in '99, the downtrodden Lack-10 would have easily kept the good guys out of BCS title game. But the West Coast is the toast of the country in 2001, with an impeccable out-of-conference record that is a huge boost to these Rose Ruminations. That's something that in many years could be out of Stanford's control, so it is not a stretch to say that this is a blessing. This is a unique chance. The stars are aligning. This is something special we're staring down, folks.
While there is a lot of reason to be confident in the sustained excellence that the Sheriff is bringing to the Farm, which could conceivably bear out 8-3 to 10-1 seasons with arousing regularity, it's worth taking this year of two-thousand-and-fun for all its worth.
To go one step further, I'll suggest that it's actually important that Cardinalmaniacs™ should be embracing the race. The buzz about what may still be can only help solidify the image of a program and fanbase wanting and yearning for the highest achievement in college football. Send a signal to the University that this program is bigger than big, and deserves a damned Stadium worthy of the house that Sheriff is building. Send a message to a nation full of recruits that this isn't just a competitive team, every once and a blue moon. High school seniors from sea to shining sea should see a team expecting to win every time, against every foe. This isn't a program waiting to see if we might get excited in December; this is a program engendering greatness in October. These fans will support these young men from start to finish, and not be bashful to praise the promised land to come!
Truthfully, this is a little bit unexpected. We've been caught napping again, lagging behind the expectations held by the talented and proud young men in Cardinal and White. But it's not too late. Embrace the BCS-fest and screw the scrooges!
If we are to set our sights on the Pasadena Prize, we have to be concerned about what the Side Show Spartans will do to Stanford's strength of schedule when they face off on December 1st. Even though kal has the weakest record on our schedule at 0-7 right now, by virtue of playing in the Pac-10, they have a superior SOS and hence BCS ranking to our friends from four-oh-eight. We don't have the means to run the numbers, but we should be braced for the following nightmare (nay, doomsday) scenario: Stanford wins out while Miami and one of the big Big XII boys loses, putting the Card in a top two BCS spot... but falling back to #3 when Sannizay tanks Stanford's strength of schedule in the final game of the year. Thud.
Being the proactive fellows that we are here at the Booty, we've been scratching our heads for an out. The game is on the books, and looks difficult-to-impossible to let slide at this point. Ted Leland could just pay the Spartans off, which fits with their MO in recent years to take dough at any opportunity. But this program on the edge of NCAA D-I extinction badly needs a home game and the attendance that a Bay Area match up would bring. My best answer then is to make a switch of opponents between this game and the season-euthanizing scrum between kal and Rutgers. It's a win-win for all involved:
- Stanford gets a crack at playing its final game of the season against a team from one of the "big six" conferences in the form of Rutgers, which gives a reasonable chance at providing a better SOS component. East Coast Cardinalmaniacs™ would get to see the boys in Jersey, and the Stanford staff would get recruiting visits and exposure in that area of the country.
- Rutgers gets the hottest team in the country to come to their humble home, which would be a far better draw than the Beenie Bears from Berzerkeley.
- kal gets a chance to maintain some semblance of "dignity" by playing their 11th game, without taxing their cash-strapped AD. And what a frugal fare they could get to Sannizay: just take BART across the Bay, and then take CalTrain all the way down! Hapless Holmoe gets to give an interview for the head coach position of the Spartans D-II team next season without spending any of his own coin, as well.
- San Jose State gets their desired Bay Area match up at home, but in the form of a defeatable foe. This is a natural rivalry, with the all-important title of second best (worst?) team in the Bay on the line!
The only problem is that Stanford's advantage on the strength of schedule isn't a gimme. Rutgers plays in the Big Least, which means their BCS rating right now is almost identical to Sannizay's, with a 2-5 record and gawd-awful SOS. Hrumph.
Speaking of woeful kal, anyone else notice this year's match up of Pac-10 cellar dwellars is upon us? The Weenies play host to the Airzona Mildcats in a game featuring the absolute dregs of this proud conference. kal has the worst record on the coast this year at 0-7, but it's the Kittens who sport the longest conference losing streak at 9 games (kal beat last year's El Lay teams, cuffing their current Pac-10 losing streak at a mere 7 games). Something has to give here, thanks to the introduction of the overtime to college football back in '96...
By the by, it's mind-numbing how fast and how far the Mildcats have fallen from grace. They were the hottest commodity in the conference it seems just yesterday, when they finished the season #4 in the country with a win over Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl. Wow...
Much was made two weeks ago about the battle between Randy Fasani and Joey Harrington, who came out of high school the same year and were both hot prospects on the West Coast. Stanford of course had a verbal commitment from Fasani very early that year, which made it difficult to pull in Harrington. Joey ended up in Eugene, though the Card didn't fare too poorly with Joe Borchard at the other QB slot. But there is a reason Cardinalmaniacs™ should shake their heads in disappointment over missing out on Hype Harrington. You see, Joltin' Joey was quite an accomplished punter in high school, with a long frame and great athletic potential. The Sheriff and his deputies were keenly aware of this fact, and badly wanted Hangtime Harrington on the Farm to punt. If he panned out at QB, that would be gravy, but just imagine what could have been...