What They're Saying: Card 34, Washington 14

For every 2009 USC-Ohio State or Florida State-Miami, the ugly truth is that, by and large, good teams play boring games. (All of 2008 Florida's victories, for example, came by double digits.) So while Saturday's 20-point win over Washington may have lacked for drama or last-minute heroics, Stanford might have taken one step closer to the holy grail for all football coaches: consistency.

Look at the following top-25 final scores from this weekend.

First, a full ten teams won by at least 19:
No. 1 Florida, 41-7 winner over Kentucky.
No. 2 Texas, 64-7 winner over UTEP.
No. 3 Alabama, 35-7 winner over Arkansas.
No. 8 Boise State, 49-14 winner over Bowling Green.
No. 11 Virginia Tech, 31-7 winner over Miami.
No. 13 Ohio State, 30-0 winner over Illinois.
No. 12 USC, 26-7 winner over Washington.
No. 16 Oklahoma State, 56-6 winner over Grambling State.
No. 19 BYU, 42-23 winner over Colorado State.
No. 25 Nebraska, 55-0 winner over Louisiana.

By contrast, only six top-25 teams won by a touchdown or less: LSU, Michigan, TCU, Kansas, Georgia and Houston. (Plus, Houston, Georgia and TCU were all playing pretty legitimate teams in Texas Tech, Arizona State and Clemson.)

More importantly though, take those six teams with squeaker victories and pair them up against the 10 teams in blowouts and it's not even close. Florida or Michigan this year? Alabama or Houston? USC, last week and all, or Kansas? And that's the point.

Really good teams make football boring. The team enters every game prepared, their star players make the big plays they're known for, and the squads beat the teams they're supposed to beat -- and convincingly. The term, I believe, is consistency.

After seven years of hair-pullingly frustrating inconsistency, Stanford victories over the three worst teams on their 2009 schedule doesn't necessarily symbolize a new day for Cardinal football. Then again, a new day for Cardinal football necessarily starts with your Stanford Cardinal winning the games they're supposed to in the manner they're supposed to – without the drama. The sturdy senior running back Toby Gerhart goes 200 yards, the playmaker, wideout Chris Owusu, returns a kickoff for six, the star defender, safety Delano Howell, makes two picks and the freshman quarterback Andrew Luck throws for triple digits, but isn't asked to do too much.

34-14 over Washington is the type of solid victory an upper-division Pac-10 team like Cal (this week notwithstanding) or Oregon puts up against the bottom half of the league.

Stanford's next step is to start winning its fair share of the toss-up games that come down to the final minute, and they'll need to if they're going to double their present win total to reach a bowl. And if it's a last-second victory over a Notre Dame or Cal that sends Stanford to the paradise on Earth that is late-December Shreveport, Louisiana (or wherever the mercurial bowl winds blow), fans will undoubtedly point to that contest as the watershed moment, and obviously they won't be entirely wrong. Then again, of course, no postseason would be possible without wins like today's, a ho-hum win that good teams consistently produce.

That's our take. Here's the scoop from writers across the country:

National

Gerhart, Stanford run all over Huskies
Sports Network
"Toby Gerhart ran for 200 yards and a touchdown on 27 carries, as Stanford upended 24th-ranked Washington, 34-14."

Gerhart, Stanford beat No. 24 Washington 34-14
Josh Dubow
Associated Press
"Washington's momentum from its shocking upset of Southern California lasted as long as the opening kickoff."

Stanford

High hopes after stirring win
Tom FitzGerald
San Francisco Chronicle
" Stanford will have at least one vote for the Top 25 this week - coach Jim Harbaugh's."

Stanford Beat: 3rd kickoff return TD is a record
Tom FitzGerald
San Francisco Chronicle
" Chris Owusu's game-opening 91-yard kickoff return gave him three this season, setting a Stanford record and tying the Pac-10 record set by USC's Anthony Davis in 1974 and matched by UCLA's Matt Slater in 2007."

Big win in a small pond
Lowell Cohn
The Press Democrat (Santa Rosa, Calif.)
"[N]o team in the Pac-10 will play for the national championship, no way. Each team will lose at least two games on its schedule. It's even possible the conference champ will lose two conference games and still play in the Rose Bowl." [Ed: Isn't that last sentence entirely redundant?]

Gerhart's huge night carries Stanford
Glenn Reeves
Bay Area News Group
"Toby Gerhart established a career high for single-game rushing yardage Saturday against Washington. He did it by halftime."

Cardinal beat Washington 34-14 and takes over first place in the Pac-10
Rick Eymer
Palo Alto Online
"Toby Gerhart was running at a different speed Saturday. Chris Owusu only knows one speed."

Washington

Huskies need to improve on their run defense
Bob Condotta
Seattle Times
"They were running the same play at us — power left and power right," said UW linebacker Donald Butler. And the Huskies could never stop it as Stanford rushed its way to a 34-14 victory."

Grading the game
Bob Condotta
Seattle Times
"But the time it ended Saturday night it was hard to tell which was the ranked team."

Stanford sends Huskies crashing back to Earth
Bob Condotta
Seattle Times
"What they did, instead, was get manhandled on both sides of the ball by Stanford."

Gerhart gets loose, UW's night quickly goes downhill
Eric Gilmore
Seattle Times
""We were just going to go at them," Gerhart said. "It was just a mind-set. USC had quite a bit of rushing yards against them. We felt we could do the same thing, just go downhill.""


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