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Tuesday, February 1, 2011
Best-worst case redo: Stanford

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

Every preseason we take a look at potential best-case and worst-case scenarios for every Pac-10 team. While these are often tongue-in-cheek, they nonetheless represent the top and bottom we see for each team.

So it might be worthwhile to revisit each.

Next up is Stanford, which finished 12-1 after whipping Virginia Tech in the Discover Orange Bowl.

Best Case: 12-1 with a Rose Bowl win against Ohio State and a final No. 2 ranking.

What was right: A number of Stanford fans have written, pointing out how much the 2010 season resembled the Cardinal's "best case." Most notable is the final spot in the BCS standings at the end of the regular season: No. 4. The best case gets the final record -- 12-1 -- correct, including a BCS bowl victory and final top-5 ranking. Quarterback Andrew Luck did end up staying. Moreover, the whole tone of Stanford gradually earning national respect approximated what actually happened.

What was wrong: Stanford's lone loss was at Oregon, not at Washington, which it whipped 41-0. The Big Game win against California was a blowout, not a nailbiter. The BCS bowl was the Orange, not the Rose. The Cardinal finished ranked fourth, not No. 2. Coach Jim Harbaugh bolted for the San Francisco 49ers instead of signing a lifetime contract.

Worst case: A 7-6 finish after a win against Temple in the Eagle Bank Bowl.

What was right: Well, seven wins were correct, as was the loss at Oregon. Stanford did win its bowl game. Harbaugh did leave.

What was wrong: A lot, most particularly envisioning the defense as being particularly weak. Stanford's defense ended up being one of the best units in the nation. Harbaugh did leave, but for the NFL, not Michigan. California most certainly didn't play in the Rose Bowl. Luck is returning for his junior year. Stanford hired David Shaw, not Walt Harris, though that was entirely a joke.

Conclusion: Considering it was one of the best seasons in program history, it makes sense that the "best case" prevails here by a wide margin. And going 1 for 2 with Harbaugh and Luck is probably as much as anyone could ask for.