Rushing to a Record - Brian Allen put up his fourth hundred-yard game of the season this week, and is averaging 99.6 yards per game. His season total stands at 797 yards, which puts him on track to break the single season rushing record at Stanford. Tommy Vardell holds that mark with 1084 yards in 1991. One decade later, BA has three more regular season games and a pace that would put him at 1096 yards through the San Jose State game. When you consider that Brian has been running through almost the entire season as one half of a two-man running rotation, the numbers impress even more. Furthermore, Brian is currently in a position to be the feature back (with Kerry Carter's separated shoulder), which creates a more favorable position for him to fare better than his 99.6 yard per game average. As a team, the Card have gone over 200 yards rushing five times this season and are averaging 201.8 yards per game. As gaudy as that sounds, this season doesn't have a prayer of catching the Stanford season record for team rushing average, set in 1949 at 248.1 yards per game. Of course, the rushing rules have changed since then, including counting sacks as negative rushes today.
Century Celebration - The Arizona game marked several top marks for Stanford offensively this season, despite the non-existent offense through the second half of play. With Brian Allen, Kenny Tolon and Teyo Johnson all breaking the 100-yard barrier, it marked the first time this season that three Cardinal players did that in one game. It was also the first game with two hundred-yard rushers, not just this season, but in recent Stanford history. The 276 net rushing yards was a season high, also making the two top rushing performances of the year against the Arizona schools. Of course, the 51 points made for the second time in three years that Stanford put up 50 or more points against both desert schools. That gives Stanford a C-note in both '99 and '01 against the Arizona schools, and provides the motivation for a new moniker for the desert - "the ATM."
Team Totals - Believe it or not, but this Stanford team is averaging more points per game than the record-setting prolific Rose Bowl team two seasons ago. The Card are currently scoring 39.4 points per game and still have three relatively weak opponents left on the schedule in kal, Notre Dame and Sannizay State.
All-Conference Consideration - It's time to start thinking about who might grade out with top conference honors on this Cardinal squad. I believe a very strong case exists to place a ridiculous three of five on the first team offensive line, with Eric Heitmann, Zack Quaccia and Kwame Harris. Routinely, this line is literally destroying opponents' front lines, and the above three have been true standouts. Heitmann's domination of Larry Tripplett and Harris' domination of Kenyon Coleman are very compelling evidence. Kirk Chambers and Greg Schindler should make a good run at 2nd team or honorable mention. Also on the offensive side of the ball, Brian Allen, Brett Pierce and Teyo Johnson should make some noise. Pierce has become not just a receiving threat, but an outstanding run blocker. Bill Diedrick's on-and-off-again use of Pierce as a receiver will ultimately keep Brett down to honorable mention or 2nd team status, though. Teyo Johnson doesn't rank in the top ten in yardage for Pac-10 receivers, but he has made a name among fans and coaches as arguably the most indefensible threat in the West. His highlight quality grabs could help compensate for his statistical shortcomings, which have more to do with his gradual integration into the offense in this his first year. Looking at the other receivers in the conference, there is a lot of parity, and thus room for Teyo to get a 2nd team or honorable mention nod. Adding to his growing legend and stats in his final three games will be important. Brian Allen is putting up what may prove to be Stanford's best rushing season ever, and he is building a case to perhaps grab one of the two first-team spots. His competitors are primarily DeShaun Foster, Clarence Farmer and Onterrio Smith. Foster is the unquestioned top runner in the conference, though if he is held out for the remainder of the season as ineligible for an NCAA violation, the coaches will have a tough decision as to whether to include him or not. Brian has outgained Onterrio Smith, who also is in a two-back system like the Cardinal's, while Farmer augmented his numbers with four quarter jaunts through Stanford's reserves late in the 4th quarter. This could be tight.
On defense, the Cardinal could have had four or five players to get honors as this season was shaping up early, but the pickings are looking slim now. Matt Leonard has been out for most of the season, and Anthony Gabriel has been playing with one arm for the last month. Ruben Carter has been a very solid cover corner, and should get honorable mention, but his fate will not be helped by his unremarkable statistics. That leaves Tank Williams and Coy Wire as the runaway favorites for this defense to pick up top honors. Tank is frankly a rock solid lock at safety, but Coy is a little more questionable. He has played hurt, and hasn't picked up the tackles he should have over the last several games. His reputation was solid before he hurt his shoulder, and Robert Thomas is the only truly elite linebacker in the conference. Beyond Thomas, there is a lot of room for debate. 1st team is perhaps possible, but 2nd team wouldn't shock me. A very weak kal offense and Notre Dame's option could provide a lot of tackle stats in the next two games.
As up-and-down as special teams has been this year, Mike Biselli got a big boost from the Arizona game and could still get honors at placekicker. Stanford's return game is the best in the conference and one of the best in the nation, which will give both Brian Allen and Luke Powell a great shot. We could see a one-two finish with that pair at the return position. Colin Branch has an outside shot at 2nd team special teams player (for non-kickers and non-returners).
National Recognition - I have no doubt that Eric Heitmann and Tank Williams are very strong candidates for 1st team All-American honors, though I fear the disadvantage bestowed upon them by the Stanford Hype Hibernation Department. We've already witnessed the damage wrought by Sports Disinformation Director, as Heitmann was jobbed completely inexplicably in the recent naming of finalists for the Lombardi Rotary Award for the top lineman in the country (open for both defensive and offensive linemen). The most striking example in that list of finalists was the inclusion of Washington's Larry Tripplett versus the exclusion of Stanford's Eric Heitmann. Tripplett has frankly been a ghost this season, falling behind his hype by a nautical mile. Tripplett isn't even in the top ten in the conference in sacks, and has the proud distinction of contributing to the second worst run defense in the conference. I watched the tape very closely in the Stanford/U-Dub game to see Heitmann go head-to-head with Tripplett, and the results were alarming. Tripplett was dominated at the line of scrimmage throughout the game, and was not once double-teamed. Not once! I talked with Eric about the game, and he remarked that the line was surprised at how easily Trips was handled with single blockers. The excuses Puppy Pundits have made of double-teams don't ring true. I watched him pushed back like a tackling sled in that game. Heitmann in contrast has delivered the most exceptional season by a Stanford offensive lineman I have seen in nearly a decade of watching Stanford football. Too bad his story wasn't told by the boys in Arrillaga to get him his just spot in the Lombardi running.
Tank Williams is at a position where statistics can help tell the tale all by themselves, which might give him a better shot at the final trio to be named next Monday for the Jim Thorpe Award finalists. 11 pass deflections, 4 picks, 2 forced fumbles, 2 recovered fumbles, 1 TD and 2 sacks are solid through 8 games. Let's hope for some big numbers this Saturday to impress the committee. My top three in the nation would be Roy Williams of Oklahoma, Quentin Jammer of Texas and Stanford's own Clevan "Tank" Williams.
Diverse Portfolio - In a season where Stanford has been notorious for giving up defensive and special teams touchdowns, the Card have been striking in their lack of similar contributions. Prior to Saturday's game in Tucson, Stanford had failed to score a touchdown on defense or special teams. With Tank Williams' and Coy Wire's fumble returns for scores, that number has jumped from zero to two. It may also surprise you that those were the first two fumbles returned by Stanford for any yardage this year. All prior recoveries had Card defensive players fall on the ball.
Familiar Farmer - Clarence Farmer, Arizona's starting tailback, was completely stuffed prior to Stanford's defensive decompression in the 4th quarter Saturday, but "Beaten" John Mackovic continued to run him. Farmer got a lot of meaningless yardage to hugely inflate his stats in that 4th quarter, but more notable was his convulsive mugging for the cameras and both Arizona fans left in the stadium. The resemblance to another Farmer in the Pac-10 was striking. Maples Maniacs know the similar spasmodic antics of U$C's Desmond Farmer quite well...
Whose Homecoming? - Two teams have hosted Stanford this season for their homecoming games, and after the Tree Tornado Tore Through Tucson on Saturday, the good guys are 2-0 in those games. Of course, the Card failed to take care of business on the Farm for their own homecoming. Isn't this all quite contrary to what schools hope to achieve by scheduling a home game on Homecoming Weekend?
Rivalry Redefined - Stanford opened up favored by more than 24 points against the Care Bears for this week's Misnomer Melée. That's four scores, folks, and the largest spread in this series' modern history. When Sannizay goes extinct from D-IA football, there will be no true rivalry left in the Bay Area. Time to think about importing some team to play on the Hayward Fault. My vote goes to Northwestern or Notre Dame. The Big Ten despises having an accomplished academic school in their midst, and it would trim them rightfully back to (tah-dah) ten teams. The Dirty Domers would be easier to watch if they were local, and are already on our schedule into perpetuity. Heck, they love to recruit in California, anyway...
Big Storm Bruin - You could see this coming as soon as the Cougs upended UCLA in Pullman a week ago, but UCLA is now chin-deep in yet another certifiable meltdown with Bob "Tantrum" Toledo at the helm. In '99, Toledo had a wealth of talent and expectations, but bombed without a bowl. He was very public to blame the season on the September slow start from the handicap placard suspensions. In 2000, he was pounding his chest with a 3-0 start. Again, very vocal in pointing out that '99 was too damaged by early season events. This was the real deal, and they were the best team in the country. Enter a 3-6 finish, including an inexplicable loss to the Barely Bears. And now for his pièce de resistance, "Tank" Toledo has folded an apparent title contender with a 6-0 start into a 0-3 skid. In the blink of an eye, they have fallen from a Rose Bowl path down to 5th place or worse in the conference. But death will truly come on a pale horse if the Bru-crew drops to the Trojenz this coming Saturday. Lose that, and all hell breaks loose. $C would lock up the Seattle Bowl, while UCLA would have no guaranteed bowl. Yep, with a 6th or 7th place finish then assured (depending on the UCLA/ASU and UO/OSU games), the baby blues would be homeless for the holidays. Holy Toledo!
HotJobs.com - After the kal/UCLA game, Bob Toledo told Tom Holmoe that he would have a position on his staff for him next season. That's a kind gesture, but begs the question... his staff where?
Pac-10 Ponderings: BCS - There are two ways Stanford can get a BCS bowl bid: either the Pac-10's title slot in the Fiesta, or one of the two at-large bids that doesn't go to the six BCS conference champions. The latter scenario requires some top teams losing, and a subjective decision made by the BCS officials in Stanford's favor. The former scenario entails Oregon and Washington State both losing their rivalry games, to drop into a tie with Stanford and Washington at 6-2 in the conference. But this is where it gets sticky, as a four-way tiebreaker is not easy to navigate.
The tiebreakers, simplified down, run in this order:
- Take all teams tied, and check if any won out against all others. If so, game over, send 'em to the promised land. If not, next tiebreaker...
- Look at overall record of all tied teams, not counting any twelfth game. Given that the teams in question are tied in the conference, this means you are examining non-conference games. The kicker is that games not against Division IA teams count less. Knock off anyone who trails anyone else in this record. If there are still two or more teams left standing...
- Finally, knock off the team of this remaining group who most recently played in the Rose Bowl as the Pac-10 champion.
- Repeat this process for the remaining teams, if there are two or more.
The only tiebreaker group that can include Stanford is the result of OSU beating Oregon and U-Dub beating Wazzu. That would put Stanford, Wazzu, Oregon and U-Dub all at 6-2 in the conference. Stanford needs to beat Notre Dame and San Jose State to survive the overall record tiebreaker (as UW needs to beat Miami), and both Oregon and WSU have won their three OOC games. However, Wazzu played Montana State, which counts less than a D-IA win, and would axe them. The "recent Rose Bowl" tiebreaker would then remove U-Dub, and Stanford would beat Oregon in the head-to-head tiebreaker. Hello, Fiesta.
The sticky part is that WSU played Montana State only because their scheduled game against Colorado was cancelled the week of September 11, and was not rescheduled. The Pac-10 is leaning toward giving Wazzu the benefit of the doubt, and giving them the full D-IA credit for that win, so as to not "penalize" them for the aftershocks of September 11th.
If WSU gets that credit, then Stanford can not be the Pac-10 champion. Stanford lost head-to-head, and would get eliminated for playing in the most recent Rose Bowl.
While frustrating for knocking the Card out of the conference's title slot in the BCS, the controversy extends beyond the supposed inability to get the WSU/Colorado game rescheduled. While you have likely heard that there was no Saturday remaining open for the two teams, be aware that neither team will be active the weekend of Thanksgiving. They simply chose not to play that weekend of their own volition. Funny how Stanford, Arizona, ASU and kal all had games on the books for that weekend. Even Washington rescheduled their postponed game with Miami to that Saturday.
The spirit of such a Pac-10 ruling would be to make an exception so as to give WSU their "rightful" spot in the Fiesta Bowl, should they deserve it. However, there is no tiebreaker scenario possible where Wazzu could get the nod, even with this exception. In the four team scenario, Washington would be first eliminated (2001 Rose Bowl, followed by Stanford (2000 Rose Bowl). Oregon would edge WSU head-to-head to get the Fiesta bid. If Oregon and WSU both win their rivalry games, Oregon still beats WSU in the head-to-head tiebreaker. The only way the Cougs get to Tempe as the conference champs is if they are the only 7-1 team in the conference.
Given that this exception to the Division IA rule could not possibly help WSU, and in effect would only serve to allow Oregon to sneak ahead of Stanford, it's the Duckies alone who benefit. The question then becomes: Will the conference make this an official ruling/exception, when they quickly recognize that it won't help its recipient in any way? The Palouse populace sure doesn't have a reason to lobby for it, though they have an entire open weekend to do just that over Thanksgiving...