Cardinal among nation's statistical leaders

Through five games, Stanford finds itself atop not only the Pac-10 standings, but also high on the NCAA leader boards in many key categories. Here's the breakdown of which Cardinal are having superlative seasons, and their chances of keeping it up as the schedule toughens.

No reason to bury the lead: Toby Gerhart leads the nation with 650 rushing yards. Darius Marshall, appropriately enough of Marshall, has played four games to Gerhart's five, and thus is the national leader with 160 yards per game. Marshall's 639 rushing yards are second to Gerhart's, while Gerhart's 130 yards per game rank fourth, trailing Marshall, West Virginia's Noel Devine and Fresno State's Ryan Matthews.

The good news doesn't stop there for Gerhart. His eight rushing touchdowns are tied for third nationally, behind Ricky Dobbs of Navy (10) and Jacquizz Rodgers (9) of Oregon State, Stanford's next opponent (and current 1.5-point underdog). Tied with Gerhart at eight touchdowns are Jahvid Best of Cal, Ryan Williams of Virginia Tech and Frank Goodin of Louisiana-Monroe. Gerhart's fifty points (eight touchdowns and a two-point conversion) also rank 19th nationally.

Unlike Gerhart, quarterback Andrew Luck, Stanford's other headline star, doesn't lead the nation in any statistic, but he is quietly having quite the season for himself – and the statistics are beginning to show it. His 147.7 pass efficiency rating is superb, and ranks 35th nationally. Jimmy Clausen leads the nation in pass efficiency and Tim Tebow is third, suggesting the stat, though much maligned is capturing something important.

The No. 35 rank is more impressive when you consider that it places Luck second in the Pac-10, behind only Arizona's Nick Foles. Luck is also the third-best freshman nationally in pass efficiency rating, checking in behind Oklahoma's Landry Jones and Boston College's Dave Shinskie, and ahead of big names including Michigan's Tate Forcier (39th) and USC's Matt Barkley (44th). Luck is also in the nation's Top 75 in total offense and passing yards per game, on the strength of 188 passing yards per contest.

While Luck's 62 percent accuracy is impressive (and markedly better than the Card's 53, 54 and 56 percent performances the last three seasons), his 9.13 yards per attempt may be more impressive yet. Stanford averaged just 6.36 yards per attempt last year, so not only is Luck more accurate than in years past, but he's also achieved that accuracy while throwing the ball further. For comparison's sake, USC last year, in Mark Sanchez's senior season, averaged only 8.70 yards per attempt, albeit on 65.5 percent accuracy.

The schedule will get harder for Luck and Gerhart, beginning this weekend, and the rest of the nation will make up a game on the Cardinal during Stanford's Halloween bye. Still, the duo have a strong shot at maintaining their status on the national leader board even if their raw numbers decline, in our opinion. The reason? Most BCS-conference teams play four non-conference games (unlike the Pac-10's three) and are just now beginning their in-conference schedules, so their outputs figure to decline as well.

Elsewhere for Stanford, Chris Owusu's three kickoff returns for touchdowns and average return of 55.6 yards both lead the nation. No disrespect intended to Owusu, but 55.6 yards per return is an unbelievable pace to maintain for a season, and nearly impossible to do once the law of averages kicks in and he stops returning kickoffs for touchdowns every other game. Even so, however, Owusu also has a strong shot at remaining among the nation's best in kickoff returns, because no other player nationally is averaging over 40 yards per return, save for Texas wunderkind freshman D.J. Monroe (whose 51.5 yards per return also figures to come back to earth.)

Other Card of statistical note include:

Richard Sherman, whose 13.7 yards per punt return ranks 21st nationally.

Tom Keiser, whose 0.9 sacks per game (4.5 total) rank 18th nationally, and 1.5 tackles for loss per game (6.5 total) 21st.

Ryan Whalen, whose 75.6 yards per game rank in the Top 50 and 4.4 receptions per game the Top 100.

Clinton Snyder, whose 7.8 tackles per game place him in the Top 100.

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