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Tuesday, October 11, 2011
Midseason review: Stanford

By Kevin Gemmell

STANFORD CARDINAL

Record: 5-0 (3-0 Pac-12 North)

Who have they played? That's the question I get all the time about Stanford. Well, they've played five FBS football teams. Great teams? No. Good teams? Not really. But that's not how I'm looking at Stanford. They have taken care of business, and done it in such an impressive fashion that beat writers have come to nitpicking the tiniest of details to find flaws. It's not that they are yet to be challenged. It's that they've put themselves in a position where other teams can't challenge them. Stanford has avoided the traps and pitfalls that so many other teams succumb to early in the season. They are efficient on offense, physical at the line and punishing on defense. They grind down teams with a stable of running backs and confusing formations. And the tight ends are the best in the country. They can spread out as receivers or drop behind the line as fullbacks. But behind all the smoke and mirrors, they are a smash-mouth football team that hasn't let themselves be caught up in the hype of a post-Jim Harbaugh letdown or the nation's longest win streak.

Offensive MVP: QB Andrew Luck. As if there was a question. He's the front runner to be the MVP of all college football. He's put together a magical season thus far, completing 73.1 percent of his throws on 106-of-145 passing. He has 14 touchdown passes to two interceptions -- and both of those picks should come with an asterisk since they were off his wide receivers hands. He's also rushed for a touchdown. College quarterbacks like Luck don't come around too often. This one is special.

Defensive MVP: LB Chase Thomas. This one isn't as easy to call. The whole front seven is worthy -- especially the way they have responded with Shayne Skov going down in the Arizona game. But Thomas is a bona fide playmaker. He's one of the scariest pass rushers in the country. His five sacks lead the Pac-12 and he's ranked seventh nationally in sacks per game (1.0). He's second in the conference in tackles for a loss (seven) and has forced three fumbles.