We thought Wake Forest would be the game in which Stanford announced to the nation they'd arrived, definitively ending one chapter of their program's history and beginning another. That game got away from the Cardinal, but Stanford was lucky enough to get another chance on a larger stage yet: at home, against conference rival UCLA on national television, for a share of the Pac-10 lead.
Andrew Luck and Toby Gerhart were virtually flawless, and the defense was solid through three and though it buckled in the fourth, the D did what it had failed to achieve twice in recent years – hang onto a lead against UCLA.
Now, the paradigm shifts. I know, I know, the wins thus far – Washington State, San Jose State, Washington, and now UCLA -- might have come against what will prove to be the four weakest teams on Stanford's schedule. And I know that allowing Craft to throw for over 200 yards is a cause for concern.
But I also know this: Stanford right now is alone in first place in the Pac-10. They have a game on USC and two on Cal, the preseason favorites in the league. The Oregons and the Arizonas are the next four weeks, and while all those games will be tough, they are all winnable. So you have to figure Stanford, at a minimum, will still have an outside shot at the Pac-10 title when the visit to USC and the visit from Cal come in mid-November.
Potentially, the Card could now be 7-0 in the conference when they visit USC Nov. 14. If that does happen, you can accelerate the rebuilding schedule by three years, and say hello to College GameDay while we're at it.
Obviously, Stanford first has to take care of its business, starting next week in Corvallis., the Cardinal's recent history when playing on the road or, today notwithstanding, from ahead isn't promising, and the Cardinal have no recent history whatsoever playing with a target on their back and the accompanying expectations. Even so, at least there's the potential for two words so great we hesitate to write them lest we anger the football gods: Rose Bowl. It's still entirely possible that Stanford will miss a bowl entirely, of course, let alone fall short in the Pac-10 chase as the schedule toughens. But for the first year in a long while, there's an outside shot at something truly great. As fans, we couldn't ask for anything more.
That's our take. Stay tuned as we update with links to articles from around the country.
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