When your friendly neighborhood
politician needs your vote, his message to you always zeroes in on one of two
emotions: Hope and Fear. Candidates want you to see them as a beacon of hope, an
instrument for change, and a conduit to better times. A chicken in every pot, a
car in every garage, and two-dollar gas for everyone.
When it comes to sending a message about their opponent, they use Fear. You don't want to vote for the opponent; you might as well feed a Gremlin after midnight and let Britney and Paris babysit your kids.
So, in the backdrop of this week's events in Denver and next week's happenings in the Twin Cities, it seems appropriate that Stanford Football kicks off the 2008 season. After all, most Cardinalmaniacs are experiencing the same two emotions they always do this time of year: Hope and Fear.
Hope that the Cardinal can continue to make progress, win games, and become a truly relevant program once more. Fear that the usual suspects always conspiring against the Card (injuries, the schedule, and the rest of the Pac-10) will serve up yet another hot-buttered beatdown on Stanford Football.
Still, with the season opener a day away, most of us are drinking that Hope & Fear cocktail. Some of us are making it a double. What's my recipe? Glad you asked.
I fear injuries. And as I write that sentence, I'm knocking on wood while touching a four-leaf clover and wearing my lucky underwear. (Yes, I'm wearing pants, too. For this Corner, anyway.)
I hope sophomore FB Owen Marecic starts to get the due he truly deserves throughout the conference. When Stanford has the ball, he is my favorite player to watch.
I hope QB Andrew Luck truly is the real deal.
I also hope we don't have to find that out this season.
I fear that no matter who is taking snaps for the Card, the receivers may not be consistent enough to help them out.
I hope our offensive line lives up to the hype (they, along with Oregon State's shuffled offensive line, are my key units to watch on Thursday night, by the way). This could be the best unit on The Farm since the crew that sprang guys like Brian Allen, Kerry Carter, and Kenneth Tolon II for big gains in 2001.
I fear those back-to-back sauna games at Arizona State and at TCU. Maybe I'm still shellshocked by the Card's last visit to the Lone Star State in the 1999 season opener and that Hell-on-Earth visit to Tempe in 2002. Stanford lost those games by a combined score of 134-41. Not good times.
The students did an outstanding job of supporting this team last year, the best I've seen, well, maybe ever. I hope that once school is back in session, the students will rock Stanford Stadium even harder than they did last year. Even if most of them will have only three chances to do so after classes begin.
I have nothing but pure, unmitigated Fear of cal RB/KR Jahvid Best, Washington QB Jake Locker, Oregon RB Jeremiah Johnson, and the Brothers Rodgers at Oregon State. And pretty much anyone in a U$C uniform. I'm wary of two freshmen, Arizona CB Robert Golden and cal WR Michael Calvin. (By the way, OSU safety Al Afalava would make this list too, but since he's serving a suspension this week, well, I don't fear him.)
I hope that the so-called "experts" (many of whom I happen to share an employer with) stop harping on the fact that the Stanford defense finished ninth in the Pac-10 last year, while conveniently overlooking the fact that very same defense also ranked 11th nationally in sacks, and fifth nationally in tackles-for-loss. Yes, Stanford's defense gave away a bushel of big plays, but they also made a bunch of big plays, too. The "experts" need to realize the entire story, instead of looking at one set of numbers and drawing all their conclusions from there.
I fear Oregon State's infamous "fly sweep" featuring shifty slotback James Rodgers becoming a household phrase on national TV Thursday night.
I fear that the real U$C, the one we all expected to see last October, will finally show up at Stanford Stadium on November 15.
I hope that Cardinalmaniacs will put the ObamaWatch on hold for one evening and go to the game. Politicians make speeches every day. A gameday behind the Eucalyptus Curtain only happens only five times this year. Five. That's it. Make those five games count as much as you can and support this team that's been busting its hump all summer.
I fear that, for all the progress Stanford may show on the field, it may not truly be reflected in the win-loss column.
Sometimes, Stanford fans' hopes are answered (it didn't end well, but that 2001 team lived up to the hype). Other times, their worst fears are realized (the Buddy Teevens Era and 2006 come to mind). And sometimes, that rare season occurs where reality surpasses even a Cardinalmaniac's wildest dreams (1999. ‘Nuff said).
Where will Stanford's 2008 season stack up? I hope we're all ready to find out!
RANDOM PAC-10 THOUGHTS
U$C has had its share of mini-distractions this summer. Injuries to QB Mark Sanchez and RB Joe McKnight. A mean case of jock itch that wrecked the Trojan locker room. Even a "Song Girls Gone Wild" scandal that rocked Figueroa. Still, don't be fooled. The Pac-10 is still U$C's playground. Everyone else is just hoping to get in the game…
I gotta admit, I need to see something from Arizona State's offensive line before I can truly anoint them as a top-tier team in the Pac-10. They've got the talent, and Dennis Erickson knows a thing or two about coaching college players. But unless they can protect Rudy Carpenter better, I can't see them challenging U$C for a place at the head of the Pac-10 table…
Arizona should be ashamed of its non-conference schedule. The Wildcats open at home against Idaho and Toledo before going to New Mexico. Meanwhile, Oregon State's non-conference schedule is no joke (at Penn State, at Utah, vs. Hawaii), while Washington's is downright murderous (BYU, Oklahoma, Notre Dame). Heck, even U$C, the team that has the most to lose by scheduling tough non-conference opponents, has Ohio State on the schedule this year. If Arizona isn't at least 4-1 by the time they visit The Farm in October, they can't blame the schedule…
Psyched to see the BootTrain is making its Notre Dame run once more! I've said it before, and I'll say it again: you must make the road trip to Notre Dame. I don't know what it's like there the other 358 days of the year, but that place is just so special on game days. And if you're taking the BootTrain, I look forward to meeting you! Hopefully we're hoisting a few triumphant beverages on the way back to Chicago…
Not a Pac-10 thought, but…I couldn't be an SEC head football coach. I just couldn't. That league is so tough, it doesn't matter how good your team is…you're not sleeping very much at night! Even if you're 11-0, you'd better not lose that twelfth game to your hated arch-rival, or it might be curtains!
Not a Pac-10 thought, but…J.T. O'Sullivan? J.T. O'Sullivan? Is that the best the 49ers can do? Wow…
Not a Pac-10 thought, but…anyone else find it ironic that former cal RB Marshawn Lynch injured his own quarterback when the two collided in the backfield? That quarterback, by the way, is Bills starter (and, of course, former Card) Trent Edwards. Even now, Lynch is killing the Cardinal…
Not a Pac-10 thought, but…JFK. Worst. Airport. Ever. You've got a better chance seeing Flavor Flav at the Emmys than you do seeing me at that godforsaken place ever again…
Not a Pac-10 thought, but…if you're looking for a good football read, check out "The Genius" by David Harris, who takes us through Bill Walsh's rise through the 49ers. Not as good as Lowell Cohn's "Rough Magic", I thought, but still well done nonetheless. I think it hits the stores next week!
Okay, once again I'm putting my credibility and sanity on the line by picking the conference matchups. The usual two disclaimers apply: I do not pick Pac-10 games involving Stanford, and these picks are for entertainment purposes only. That said, let's take a look at the other conference game this week…
Washington @ Oregon. This really shouldn't be much of a contest, as depleted as the Huskies are. But Oregon has some interesting question marks of their own (particularly at linebacker), and Washington will have the best quarterback on the field. I have a weird feeling the Huskies are frisky enough to make this game interesting. For about 40 minutes, anyway. I like Oregon by 20.
Last year: 26-10 (straight-up), 20-15-1 (ATS).
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Got a thought on this column, on Stanford sports, or anything else in general? Drop me a line at my Scout.com inbox (username: troyc) or at firstname.lastname@example.org. The best e-mails will be answered in next week's Clardy's Corner Inbox!
Troy Clardy hosts the Stanford Daily Update, airing every weekday at 7:30p on Cardinal Sports Network flagship radio station KTRB (860 AM) in San Francisco. Clardy's Corner appears Wednesdays on TheBootleg.com. You can also check him out online at TroyClardy.com.
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