Rushing, the hope was that the team could collectively replace Toby Gerhart, as no one tailback could be expected to fill his shoes. Indeed, 38 carries for 213 yards and three touchdowns is a line Gerhart would be proud of – it just took seven rushers, none picking up over 60 yards, to accomplish. Admittedly, a 5.6 per-carry average is a little disappointing considering the level of competition, that it's not that far off from what Stanford averaged last year against far tougher opponents and that the average drops when you strip out the 50-plus runs, but maybe that's picking at hairs? Time will tell. A B+, and we're on a pre-grade inflation curve here.
Defensively, call Sac. St. determined or call them stupid, because they kept rushing the ball all day, long after Stanford had shown that their front seven would not yield. The Hornets ran for 54 yards on 30 carries, about as well as you could expect Stanford's rush D to do, especially without the services of star linebacker Shayne Skov. A solid A.
In my Sac. St. preview, I said that the Hornets' passing attack versus Stanford's passing D would be the matchup to watch, as I felt confident about Stanford's advantages elsewhere, and the Cardinal D did not disappoint aerially. 15-of-27 for 113 yards is just over a measly four yards per attempt, and the 56% accuracy is nothing to write home about given the dink-and-dunk offense the Hornets tried to execute. Hard to see that going any better for Stanford. An A-, and raise your hand if you wouldn't have taken an A- secondary entering the season.
Coaches hate to hear this because they feel as though they can coach it up, but, statistically, fumbling has been shown to be pretty random from game to game, so if Stanford was going to cough two up, this wasn't a bad week to do it.
Meanwhile, some of the hidden stats – holy moly are they positive for Stanford. For the offense to have 32 first downs (20 gained, plus one to start each of Stanford's 12 drives) yet only face nine third downs all day is ridiculous, and for Stanford to score 38 points (five touchdowns and a field goal) on six red zone trips is ruthless.
Finally, the overall margin of 529 yards to 167 yards is really, really good, good enough that the final score is almost misleadingly close. Across the Pac-10, ASU allowed Portland St. 263 yards in a 54-9 victory, and Arizona allowed Toledo 183 yards in a 40-2 victory. We could quote more results to prove the same point, but Stanford wasn't that far off from a shutout or near-shutout, and moving forward, that's a strong sign for the defense, which of course will determine precisely how far this team goes.
Saturday was only one game, and at home against a grossly outclassed opponent at that, but it's the best data we have right now to project how the 2010 Cardinal will fare. Next week – on the road, against a real opponent, in a place Stanford seemingly hasn't won since our players were in the womb, will be many-fold more informative, but until then, the best information we have suggests that Stanford will finish toward the upper end of preseason expectations, which nationally centered around seven wins. Not that we'd tell you to bet, and not that betting with your heart is a good idea, but at least seven wins seems like a pretty good wager right now.
Optimism – it's a new feeling around the Farm, and perhaps more than any of those numbers from yesterday, it's the best sign yet that Stanford football has arrived.
That's our take. Here are takes from around the region.