Clardy's Corner - 9/26

In his latest column, Troy Clardy evaluates whether the Pac-10 teams have lived up (or down) to their hype. Is Stanford the team he thought it would be, after three games? Read on then debate with him on the board!

You can't think of some football coaches without thinking of their most famous (or infamous) quotes. For example, it's hard to think of former Colts and Saints coach Jim Mora without thinking of "PLAYOFFS!!?!?"

This also applies to Stanford coaches past and present. Jim Harbaugh should have the phrase "enthusiasm unknown to mankind" trademarked. Then there's former Stanford coach Denny Green. During his still-incredible meltdown after a loss to the Chicago Bears last year, Green slapped the podium and yelled into the microphone: "The [Chicago] Bears are who we thought they were!!!"

Ever since then, many have started evaluating football teams on the basis of whether "they are who we thought they were." As in, whether a certain team fits into our preconceived notions of what they are (or aren't) capable of.

And that's what we'll do in this week's Corner! So which Pac-10 teams are who we thought they were? Well, as of right now, most of them.

Washington State? Easy. We thought their offense would be spiffy and their defense would be iffy. QB Alex Brink has racked up the passing yards, but against real competition their defense has been shredded. They've allowed more points than any other Pac-10 team. Yes, that includes Stanford. The Cougars are who we thought they were.

Oregon State? Another easy one. We knew that if Yvenson Bernard were controlling the game, the Beavers would win. We also knew that if the game were placed in the hands of their young and inexperienced quarterbacks, they would lose. Sean Canfield and Lyle Moevao combined for six interceptions in OSU's loss to Cincinnati, and Canfield threw five picks by himself in their come-from-ahead loss to Arizona State last week. The Beavers are who we thought they were.

Speaking of Arizona State, they're a squad that can explode on the scoreboard and implode with stupid penalties. What else would you expect from a Dennis Erickson-coached team? Oh by the way, don't look now, but A-State is 4-0 and they're back in the polls. What else would you expect from a Dennis Erickson-coached team? The Sun Devils are who we thought they were.

U$C. Are they who we thought they were? Is fat meat greasy? They literally have more skill players on offense than they know what to do with, and their defense is more dangerous than Lindsay Lohan at the wheel. You'd better believe U$C is who we thought they were.

Oregon's video game offense is as good as advertised. Heck, they were so good against Michigan that some folks spent the postgame aftermath trying to put Dennis Dixon in the Heisman Trophy race.

Meanwhile, expectations on the other side of the ball were considerably lower. They looked good against Michigan, but very vulnerable against Houston and, at times, Stanford. So, in that sense, Oregon's streaky defense hasn't disappointed. The Ducks are who we thought they were.

What about Stanford? Well, we figured the Card would be a better team and actually act like they wanted to spend their Saturdays playing football. We knew Stanford's effort would be improved; we just didn't know if that improvement would necessarily translate into wins. We hoped the Card would have the ability to compete; we didn't know if they had the depth to win.

And so far, most of that has been borne out. The way this team's magical second quarter against Oregon turned a ho-hum rout into a call-your-buddies-and-make-sure-they're-watching-this game was a very pleasant surprise. But, for the most part, the Cardinal are who we thought they were.

Is UCLA who we thought they were? Depends on who you are. If you saw the Bruins as a top-15 team, then they're not who you thought they were. If you saw Ben Olson as an inconsistent and injury-prone quarterback and had some questions about their defense, then they are. Since I'm in the latter category, I think the Bruins are who I thought they were.

In a lot of ways, the Washington Huskies have already exceeded some expectations, dominating Syracuse and beating ranked Boise State. Jake Locker has made this team exciting to watch, and I've become a fan of WR Anthony Russo. The Huskies aren't quite the automatic win many people pegged them to be.

But still, there are more than enough signs that this team could still end up right where they started. Locker is still a young quarterback, and he has yet to show any consistency in the passing game. RB Louis Rankin is still too tentative. And the defense folded like a tortilla during the second half of their loss at UCLA last week. The signs are encouraging, but for the most part, I think right now that the Huskies are still who we thought they were.

The cal Bears are undefeated, with an impressive win over Tennessee. They have more speed than a baseball locker room. As of right now they are the consensus second-best team in the Pac-10. They've gotta be who we thought they were, right?

Yes. And no. The offense is all that plus tax. But the defense has been inconsistent at best, and troublesome at worst. Until their defense puts together a complete game against a quality opponent, it's going to be hard for me to call them a dominant team. Are the Bears who we thought they were? Offensively, yes. Defensively, no.

The only team that isn't who we thought they were is the Arizona Wildcats. They were a sexy dark horse pick for many inside and outside the conference. After all, they grabbed a new offensive coordinator, returned many of their starters on defense, and still had a guy named Stoops on their sideline.

Even with all of that, Arizona is 1-3. They were dominated by cal before the Bears fell asleep and let them back in the game. Willie Tuitama has put up gaudy numbers the last couple of weeks, but the Wildcats still can't run the ball and they can't score. Worst of all, Arizona's once-stout defense has betrayed them so far this year. Of all the teams in the Pac-10, the Arizona Wildcats are the only team that we can say from top to bottom is not who we thought they were.

Despite Arizona's misfortunes, Pac-10 fans and followers haven't been sold a bill of goods so far. We thought the Pac-10 would be deep, and we thought it would be tough. So far it hasn't disappointed. But we'll see which teams are still who we thought they were by the time December 1 rolls around.


RANDOM PAC-10 THOUGHTS

Big props to the guys who make Stanford's running game go for their efforts last week. Even without Allen Smith for much of the game, the offensive line blocked well and created holes. Anthony Kimble looked decisive and ran aggressively. And I thought freshman FB Owen Marecic did a fine job of helping clear the way. Good job by those young men...

The winning teams in last week's Pac-10 games scored 44, 44, 45, 47, and 55 points. Three of the losing teams in last week's Pac-10 games still managed to score more than 30 points! Maybe defense in the Pac-10 is not what we thought it was...

Not a Pac-10 thought, but... since Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy and I went to the same high school, I was a little stunned to hear about and see his meltdown this week. And I agree with his overall point. But I can't believe he got that worked up over a Daily Oklahoman column that read more like something you see in US Weekly. Then again, many folks in the Sooner State refer to that paper as the "Daily Disappointment," so maybe we shouldn't be so surprised…

Not a Pac-10 thought, but... Donovan McNabb's first-half statistics last week against the Detroit Lions: 14-of-15 for 332 yards and four scores. Wow...

Not a Pac-10 thought, but... those Eagles throwback uniforms were heinous. Looked like UCLA threw up on themselves...


PAC-10 PICKS

cal @ Oregon. This is going to be a doozy. And this is also going to be a shootout. First one to 40 points wins. I like cal by 10.

UCLA @ Oregon State. I think both the Beavers and the Bruins might have a little trouble running the ball, given how quick both defenses are. This means that this game will be decided by the quarterbacks. And that's why the Bruins are thanking their lucky stars that Ben Olson has stopped seeing stars. I like UCLA by 15.

U$C @ Washington. The Huskies will be game, but there's really no reason for me to pick them to win this one. And if they do, Jake Locker should immediately declare himself eligible for next year's NFL Draft. I like U$C by 20.

Washington State @ Arizona. If Arizona could score more points, I'd pick them. But, as it is, I like Washington State by 8.

Last week and this year: 3-1 (straight-up), 1-2-1 (ATS).
Last year: 21-15 (straight-up), 17-19 (ATS).


Got a thought on this column, on Stanford sports, or anything else in general? Have a different set of expectations for Stanford Football this year? Drop me a line at my Scout.com inbox (username: troyc) or at troyc@thebootleg.com. The best e-mails will be answered in next week's Clardy's Corner Inbox!


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