A few years ago, Stanford football players wore T-shirts that offered this proverb: "Win at home and you're a hero. Win on the road and you're feared."
Right now, Stanford is 3-2. Both of their losses happened at home. All of their wins have come on the road. The Card have played their best ball away from The Farm. So based on that T-shirt's theory, Stanford should be the most feared team in the land, right?
Well, not quite. That distinction unfortunately belongs to the team that plays for That Think Tank on Figueroa. Many opposing fans probably think about Stanford and say, "These guys lost to UC Davis, for crying out loud. What's to fear?" Cougs fans certainly thought that way during the pregame festivities in Pullman a couple of weeks ago. Maybe their players and coachers felt that way too.
While seeing Stanford on the schedule may not necessarily cause the Card's next few opponents to panic, go home, turn out the lights, and cower under the sheets, other teams should definitely be concerned about facing the Cardinal right now.
This week we might see one of the more confident Stanford squads we've seen in a while. And why not? Winning breeds confidence, and a belief that the system is working. Stanford has had two big bumps in the road so far, and they've still got a ways to go before they can be considered in the Pac-10's upper division (although the way cal and Arizona State have been playing lately, that gap might not be as wide as we think). But right now, the Cardinal have to feel better about their progress, because that progress has led to two straight wins.
Maybe it stems from watching King John Elway do his thing for the Broncos, and maybe it stems from watching Roger Staubach on NFL Films, but I'm a sucker for mobile quarterbacks who can get downfield with their legs. That's why I'm loving the new dimension that Trent Edwards has shown in his game the past two weeks. In previous seasons, Trent has shown the ability to pass while on the move, but he had never proven himself to be a scrambling weapon. That is, until now.
I'm still amazed by what he did to the Cougars. I'm amazed that he also scrambled effectively against the Wildcats. I promise you that this development isn't going unnoticed around the Pac-10. A mobile quarterback is a dangerous quarterback. Add that to his skills as a passer, and Trent could be developing into a true weapon at quarterback.
The Stanford defense should also give their next few opponents cause for pause. Jon Alston absolutely erupted against the Wildcats last week. Nine total tackles, four of them for losses. Three sacks and two forced fumbles. If I had seen it in person, I probably would have compared it to something Pat Tillman used to do to Stanford back in the day.
In fact, the more I think about it, the more frightening Stanford's entire linebacking corps becomes, especially when a healthy Michael Okwo is in the mix.
But maybe the most concerning development for the offenses Stanford will face might be the emergence of Nick Sanchez. Against the Ducks a few weeks ago, the Stanford secondary performed as poorly as I've ever seen. Obviously in the Pac-10, a good secondary isn't a luxury, it's a necessity. Sanchez has emerged as the rising star of this group. So far this season he has shown a nose for the ball, and has even made two game-saving interceptions (even though only one of them officially counted!).
Those are all good reasons for Stanford not to be taken lightly. Plus, the fact that Stanford is 3-0 on the road means that the Card don't seem to be intimidated by hostile environments. Heck, they seem to thrive on them. Stanford's ability to win consistently on the road so far has to send a signal to their opponents that they'd better be ready.
Say what you want about the Cardinal's own performances the past two games. Say what you will about the quality of the Card's last two opponents. But the fact remains, Stanford found a way to win those two games on the road. And that should make Stanford's next few opponents lose a few winks at night.
That said, there is no substitute for winning at home. Take the Arizona Wildcats. Please. (Sorry, couldn't resist) Since 1999, the Wildcats are an astounding 4-21 in home Pac-10 games. It's very, very hard to build a program and a fan base when you're constantly sending your fans home unhappy.
Stanford has had more success at home in Pac-10 games over that span (13-12, if you're counting), but this year Stanford's efforts at home have not been heroic. The next two weeks, Stanford has a chance to atone for that against two good teams. The Cardinal have already won praise for their road work this season, but the next two games give Stanford a chance to make some heroes.
RANDOM PAC-10 THOUGHTS
Next week… you know them, you love them, they're the Pac-10 midterms!
For the last two games, Stanford's leading rusher has been Trent Edwards. Is this a good thing or a bad thing?
I'll rely on the folks who saw the game in person, but some seem to think that Walt Harris turned conservative with his playcalling in the second half. If that's the case, could that be a function of Walt publicly second-guessing himself earlier this season after some of his more aggressive playcalls didn't quite work? Just wondering…
Is the U$C-Notre Dame one of the greatest games in college football history? I don't know, but I haven't been that exhausted just watching a game on TV since the Miami-Ohio State Fiesta Bowl a couple years ago…
What bright mind over at the Raiders thought it would be a good idea for the pregame and halftime entertainment at Sunday's game against San Diego to be provided by, of all things, the Oregon State band? Especially after the Beavers had knocked off the Bears the day before? Did Nnamdi Asomugha lose a bet to DeLawrence Grant or something? The Beaver band got the heck booed out of them by the ever-hospitable Raider fans, by the way…
If you'd told me that Mike Hass would only catch four passes for 17 yards against cal, I would have thought that the Bears would have won in a rout. Kudos to the Beavers rushing game. Further proof that good things happen when you run the ball…
Then again, Jerome Harrison up at Washington State has been running the ball brilliantly the Cougs' last two games (218 yards vs. Stanford, 260 yards vs. UCLA)… but Wazzu lost them both. Another unhappy weekend in the Palouse…
Another comeback for UCLA? Geez… who's playing quarterback for that team, Drew Olson or John Elway?
Quote of the Week, courtesy of Michigan State head coach John L. Smith, who had this to say to ABC sideline report Jack Arute after the Spartans rushed a last-second field goal attempt that was blocked and returned for a game-changing Ohio State touchdown right at halftime: "Our kids are playing their tails off, and the coaches are screwing it up!" Can't sum it up any better than that. They had plenty of time to spike the ball, stop the clock, and give their field goal unit time to get set. Instead, they rushed it, and they ended up losing that game because of it. Didn't they learn from Stanford's mistake against Washington State?
Not a Pac-10 thought, but... every time I look up, I see Ohio State somehow doing just enough to win a football game. Barely…
Not a Pac-10 thought, but…the consensus pick to win the Big East is now 0-2 in that conference, with a tough overtime loss to West Virginia and an inexplicable loss to South Florida. Seems to me that Louisville is more overrated than the Black Eyed Peas…
Not a Pac-10 thought, but… let's take a trip to the "if it's on the internet then it must be true" department, where rumor has it that Rick "Who, Me?" Neuheisel might be the head coach next year at, of all places, Temple. This is one of those rumors that might be so far-fetched that it might actually make more sense than it should. After all, what does Temple have to lose? What does Slick Rick have to lose?
Not a Pac-10 thought, but… Rocky VI. Oh no. This is so wrong…
Not a Pac-10 thought, but… if I had to make my list of three sports cities that just seem to be cursed, Buffalo would have to be one (Super Bowl failures, Brett Hull's foot in the crease in 1999). Minneapolis would have to be another (the Vikings' nonstop parade of embarrassment on and off the field for three decades). And, of course, Houston would have to be right up there. Everyone in that city just has to be thinking to themselves right now, "Oh no… not again"…
Not a Pac-10 thought, but... rest in peace, Bill King. His calls of the great moments in Raiders', Warriors, and A's history will be relived forever. The broadcasting world has lost a true legend and a master of his craft…
My e-mail issues have been temporarily resolved! Extra special thanks to all of you who wished me well on my move back East. Clearly I've taken a few things the West Coast has to offer for granted. Like, for example, the sun! Anyway, let's catch up on an e-mail that caught my eye…
Ken from parts unknown writes: "I'm belatedly responding to your Clardy's Corner, dated October 5. You wrote, ‘Nothing could make me happier than to see them fall off.' Well, you… are correct in predicting that USC will lose a game, in time (that's a no-brainer), but the main question is where and when. Neither of you have that answer, just the fervent hope that USC will lose. Unfortunately, unbridled hatred will not make your beloved teams any better. But respect might help with balancing your blatantly biased attitudes. What you don't realize is how much legitimacy USC brings to the Pac-10. You're well aware of the Eastern bias; you write about it yourself. Without USC defeating juggernauts from the Midwest and Southwest (Iowa, Michigan and Oklahoma - no other Pac-10 team has acquitted itself so well), the Pac-10 wouldn't even register in the minds of the national media. With USC performing so well, it has spurred other Pac-10 schools to perform likewise. Just look at how great Cal has become. And Oregon, Arizona State and UCLA are definitely getting better. Interestingly, $tanford and WSU are bringing up the rear. Hmmmm. Could your problem be just plain unadulterated and mindless jealousy? Sure seems that way to me."
I'm belatedly responding to your e-mail, dated October 13. Good stuff. And you're right on some things, but I think you need to look at all of the comments I've made about U$C in my Corners. I think you'll find that as usual, I've made no secret that U$C is not my favorite football program, and they're certainly not my favorite fan base to deal with either, especially now.
But I think you'll also find that I've also made no secret that I think U$C represents the Pac-10 extremely well on the football field, and that they've raised the bar for everyone else in the conference. The Trojans are a very good football team, perhaps all-time good. And as I write this at 11:34p Eastern time on October 18, 2005, there is no evidence that suggests otherwise. I respect what Pete Carroll has done in such a short amount of time, and I think Reggie Bush not only is the best player in college football this year, I think he should have won the Heisman last year. Even though I take a sarcastic swipe at U$C every once in a while (heck, who don't I take sarcastic swpies at?), I think I convey my respect for what they've done in these Corners. I'm throwing up in my mouth while I'm doing it, but I have to give respect where respect is due.
Just like the NFL is more fun when the Cowboys, the Steelers, and the Packers are relevant, college football is more fun when U$C is relevant. And let's face it, this U$C team is beyond relevant, they're fun to watch. And they're not going anywhere for a long, long time. Even though I don't particularly like it, I'll say what I've been saying all year: it's U$C's world, the rest of us are just living in it.
Got a thought on this column, on Stanford sports, or on anything else that's on your mind, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org! The best e-mails I get will end up in next week's Corner…
Looks like I picked the wrong upset last week. Thanks a bunch, Cougars!
U$C @ Washington. Will U$C suffer a letdown after that titanic matchup in South Bend? Yes. For about 20 minutes. I like U$C by 24.
Oregon @ Arizona. This time last month, the Wildcats still had some promise. Now, I promise they'll be spending another bowl season at home. I like Oregon by 16.
Oregon State @ UCLA. The Bruins sure did sneak into a top-10 ranking, didn't they? Wow. But in the back of their minds they still have to be concerned about their normal November swoon. Does it start this weekend? No… but it might start next weekend! I like UCLA by 18.
Washington State @ cal. Must-win game for both teams. Cougs need to win this one to prove they can beat a quality BCS team. For that matter, so do the Bears. Unless Marshawn Lynch coughs up two more fumbles, I like cal by 13. Do you think Jeff Tedford made Lynch carry a football around with him everywhere he went this week like James Caan did to Omar Epps in The Program?
Last week: 1-2 (straight-up), 2-1 (ATS).
This year: 9-4 (straight-up), 7-6 (ATS).
Troy Clardy is a host and reporter for the Stanford Cardinal Farm Report, airing Saturdays on FSN Bay Area.
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