Whether it's TV talking heads relying upon intrade.com to handicap the
Presidential election, companies deciding which products to develop by letting
their employees buy shares in a virtual internal market, or the popularity of
the best-selling book "The Wisdom of Crowds," group decision-making is proving
itself a hot idea in today's American culture. I'm no management consultant,
but, intuitively, the idea makes sense to me. Individually, we might all be
pretty dumb, but let the market's invisible hand factor in the opinions of
hundreds of people, and the resulting consensus is likely to be pretty
In sports, that's why the Vegas spread is a darn accurate predictor of future games. To eliminate its risk, Vegas uses its decades of experience to try to set the line at its bettors' median opinion. Sure, individuals can beat the spread, but, oftentimes, not without a Ph.D. in math, and computer algorithms crunching ten years' worth of stats. And for every professional gambler who has proven himself smarter than the Vegas wisdom accrued from the general populace, there are ten who've gone broke trying.
I'm no philosophy major, so why am I talking about group-think, and how does it relate to Stanford football? Well, this year, the national consensus on Stanford football proved itself almost spot-on. To paraphrase Denny Green, 2008 Stanford is who we thought it is.
Nationally, the outlook on Stanford was a three- or four-win season, with the D the team's relative strength and an offense that figured to struggle at times. Vegas had Stanford's season-win total at four, and the preseason Pac-10 media poll had Stanford ninth, right about where national magazines and writers pegged the Card. I'm a diehard Stanford fan, but I've been a fan of national college football a decade before I had any Stanford connection, and, armed with that perspective, I called for a 3-9 season, with wins over Oregon State, San Jose State and Washington State.
Today, Stanford's season's only three games old, but the national projections all look pretty accurate. I would say that there's the natural tendency as a fan to have expectations that are way too optimistic when everyone's undefeated in the offseason. (We're making a bowl this year.) Then, when the season starts and your team is not performing in accordance with our dreams, there's the tendency to think your team is atrocious. (We're not winning another game this season.) Those national writers with the Goldilocks perspective are laughing at our weekly vacillations, and it turns out that they've been right the whole time.
Sure, it's possible we rally and make a bowl, but I don't think that's happening. And, sure, it's possible we don't win another game this season, but I don't think that's happening either. Three or four wins feels about right for this season, as was the national preseason consensus.
The positive side of all this, of course, is that the national consensus is that Stanford is going to be significantly improved within the next few years, and will start challenging for bowl bids once Harbaugh's recruiting classes start to make their impact felt. If you believe in wisdom in numbers, that opinion has to be respected.
So this season isn't as bad as it feels now, the season isn't as good as we'd hoped a few weeks ago, the season is progressing about as well as the mile-high view said it would be all along. Rome wasn't built in a day, and this program won't be rebuilt in a day, but, make no mistake, it is on the right path.
That's my take, and I'm sticking to it. Here's what writers from around the nation thought of Saturday's game:
TCU improves to 3-0 with 31-14 beating Stanford
Ryan Christian scored the go-ahead touchdown and Steven Coleman made a key interception to help TCU beat Stanford 31-14 Saturday in a game moved up six hours because of Hurricane Ike.
San Francisco Chronicle
Stanford couldn't depend on its offense. Not to get one more touchdown. Not to get one more yard.
It turned out that the Cardinal didn't have to battle the elements Saturday at Amon G. Carter Stadium. TCU was more of a challenge than they could handle.
Win slips away from Cardinal
Tobias Xavier Lopez
San Jose Mercury News
"Not enough offense, that's for sure," Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh said. … " I didn't think our plan was good and thought we got out-coached in that regard."
The Stanford plan seemed to be a one-dimensional reliance on running back Toby Gerhart, who finished with 45 yards on 19 carries.
A bad day for Stanford's offense
Tobias Xavier Lopez
The Cardinal boasted a 161.5 rushing yards per game average in its first two games but was held to 71 yards on the ground by Texas Christian.
Running back Toby Gerhart managed 45 yards after rushing for 147 against Oregon State in a season-opening victory.
Stanford drops another road football game
Palo Alto Online
Heavy winds and rain certainly made matters worse, but the Stanford football team was its own worst enemy, offensively speaking, in a 31-14 loss to TCU in a nonconference game on Saturday. …
"This is a tough one to get over but we have to," Harbaugh said. "We're only three games in. We have to regroup."
TCU takes the wind out of Stanford, 31-14
The Dallas Morning News
FORT WORTH – The dreary, rainy weather didn't bother TCU on Saturday against Stanford. But the Cardinal's jawing did.
TCU coach Gary Patterson said he read articles in West Coast newspapers in which Stanford players called the Horned Frogs' win over the Cardinal last season "a fluke."
TCU does the job in the fourth quarter
Fort Worth Star-Telegram
"There's definitely enough talent on this defense to be the top, if not one of the top, defenses in the nation," [TCU] linebacker Jason Phillips said. "If everybody does their job, we'll be fine."
In every way, TCU is a better team than Stanford
Fort Worth Star-Telegram
The measurably better team won Saturday, 31-14, with all due respects to Stanford and the allegedly mighty league that it plays in.
The numbers proved what the loyal and hardy 18,000 or so in attendance already saw.
TCU Win Doesn't Come
The game was much closer than it should have been. The Frogs' poor special teams' play was the equalizer Saturday, not the weather. …
"We tried to give it away on special teams," said TCU Head Coach Gary Patterson. "That was one part of the game that I wasn't impressed with, any phase of it."
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