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Monday, October 4, 2010
Stanford might get back to top-10

By Ted Miller

The most obvious good news for Stanford is this: USC.

It seems unlikely the Cardinal will suffer a hangover from the 52-31 loss at Oregon against the Trojans on Saturday. Coach Jim Harbaugh simply enjoys getting after the Trojans too much. He beat them in 2007 as a 41-point underdog. He ran up the score on them last year in a 55-21 clubbing.

The guess here is there are more questions about USC's hunger heading to Stanford after a home loss to Washington. Just imagine: The Trojans, once the lords of all of college football, might, gulp, not be confident they can beat Stanford.

But the the takeaway from the Oregon defeat shouldn't be a lingering loss of faith for the Cardinal. It was clear that the decisive result was more about how good Oregon is than Stanford's status. You can probably count on one hand the number of teams the Ducks wouldn't make look ridiculous. And you wouldn't need a third hand to count the number of teams that are better than Stanford.

Did Oregon exploit a speed advantage? Absolutely. The Ducks might be the fastest team -- we're talking all 22 starters, not just skill guys -- in the nation. There's only one or so of those.

Already Stanford's body of work verifies it as a good team. Michigan and Michigan State are unbeaten and ranked, but they needed near-miracles to beat Notre Dame, and the Spartans were at home. Stanford manhandled the Irish in South Bend. It did the same to Wake Forest and UCLA, which pushed around Texas and Houston.

It's, in fact, not a stretch to say an 11-1 finish is possible for the Cardinal. With Arizona and Oregon State both coming to the Farm, it's hard to see where they will next be an underdog.

Sure, Stanford can't afford too many more injuries. It's hard to believe the passing game won't be effected by the potential absences of receivers Ryan Whalen, who didn't play vs. the Ducks, and Chris Owusu, who was knocked out in the second half. But having an outstanding offensive line and a talented, dual-threat quarterback in Andrew Luck means few teams feature as sound a foundation upon which to build a successful outing.

So Stanford fans: Take heart.

You lost your top-10 ranking after getting whipped by a very good team in one of the nation's toughest venues. That doesn't mean you won't get it back.