Pac-12: Wake Forrest Demon Deacons
Understand: These are not predictions. They are extreme scenarios and pieces of fiction.
Up next: Stanford
Hard to say when it really started. "It" being the notion that Stanford was a national title contender. And a team to be feared.
The blowout win over Sacramento State didn't exactly reverberate with the college football nation. Nor did three running backs combining for 225 yards and doing their best Toby Gerhart imitation at UCLA earn top billing on SportsCenter.
A 24-3 win over Wake Forest pushes the Cardinal to 14th in the nation. A 31-17 win at Notre Dame lands them just outside the top-10. Still, things were mostly quiet outside the Farm.
"Things are mostly quiet here," says coach Jim Harbaugh. "To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield. That's what Stanford football is about. Not noise."
Oh, but there are whispers.
"What about the Stanford Cardinal?" Kirk Herbstreit asks on College GameDay. "Their quarterback may end up the No. 1 pick in this year's NFL draft. They may have the best offensive line in the nation. They're averaging over 200 yards rushing per game, despite the departure of Toby Gerhart. And, finally, they've got a defense to match."
Replies Chris Fowler, "Let's see what they do at No. 5 Oregon."
What they do is Luck throws for three touchdowns and the Cardinal rolls up 485 yards of offense in a 31-24 win.
The Cardinal climbs to No. 7 in the national polls. Yet some are still not sold.
"I'm still not sold," says Lou Holtz. "Let's see what they do against Southern Cal."
What they do is stink up the joint. For three quarters. But Luck completes 10 of 12 passes for 148 yards and two TDs in the fourth quarter, including a 28-yard seeing-eye bullet that finds Ryan Whalen for the winning score with 15 seconds left.
"That's two unbeaten, top-10 teams in two weekends," Rece Davis says to Holtz. "Are you sold?"
"Yep," says Holtz.
After a bye week, Stanford easily dispatches Washington State. It then heads to Washington. Scouts from every NFL team are on hand to watch Luck's showdown with Jake Locker. Luck and Locker each account for three TDs apiece, but the Huskies get the ball last, and that proves the difference. Stanford suffers its first defeat. When Oregon wins at USC that night, it looks like the Cardinal and the Ducks will engage in a race to the Rose Bowl finish.
After wins over Arizona and Arizona State, the fifth-ranked Cardinal heads to Berkeley for the Big Game, with California eagerly embracing the role of spoiler. Stanford leads 28-14 in the third, but a pair of TD passes from Kevin Riley ties the count with two minutes left. Then Jeff Tedford shocks everyone in the stadium with an on-side kick. The Bears recover. Riley expertly leads his offense to the Stanford 10-yard line, and Giorgio Tavecchio lines up for the chip-shot winner.
Stanford blocks the kick. Chris Owusu picks up the ball and runs it the other way for the game-winning score. "D'oh," is the one-word column on California Golden Blogs that night.
After beating Oregon State 28-24, Stanford finishes fourth in the BCS standings. It's consolation prize is the Rose Bowl opposite No. 3 Ohio State, which is one of three unbeaten teams. The mighty Buckeyes, Rose Bowl champs the year before and ranked No. 1 in both human polls, aren't happy they got computered out of the national title game.
"We're going to make a statement," says quarterback Terrelle Pryor.
Before taking the field, Harbaugh gathers his team.
"From this day to the ending of the world, but we in it shall be remembered," he says. "We few, we happy few, we band of brothers. For he today that sheds his blood with me shall be my brother."
Whispers Whalen to center Chase Beeler, "Is it Saint Crispin's Day?" Replies Beeler, "Forget the Rose Bowl. We're at Agincourt!"
Stanford wins 21-17, securing its first Rose Bowl victory since 1971 after stopping the Buckeyes on fourth-and-goal from the 2-yard line.
The 12-1 Cardinal finishes ranked No. 2 behind Alabama. Harbaugh announces he's signed a lifetime contract.
"Yes, I'm coming back," Luck tells reporters a week later. "We have unfinished business."
A switch to a 3-4 defense evidently isn't the answer for Stanford's defensive woes. That's made clear when UCLA and quarterback Kevin Prince roll up 468 yards in a 35-30 win.
Despite beating Wake Forest and Notre Dame, it becomes clear that Stanford has to score a lot of points to win. Its defense still lacks top-end athleticism, which is abundantly evident during a 45-30 loss at Oregon. Moreover, a backfield-by-committee approach does not a Toby Gerhart make.
That puts pressure on quarterback Andrew Luck to make plays downfield against defenses scheming to stop him. USC does just that in a 31-20 win, sacking Luck five times.
Washington State doesn't have the talent to follow the plan. Luck out-duels Washington's Jake Locker in Husky Stadium and leads a comeback win over Arizona. But, in the first quarter at Arizona State, Luck feels a tweak in his hamstring as he tries to elude Vontaze Burfict. With Luck out, the Sun Devils record the upset.
A Big Game in Berkeley without Luck is not a good thing for Stanford. California rolls 38-17. Luck again isn't available for the finale vs. Oregon State, and the Beavers drop the Cardinal to 6-6 on the year.
Luck returns to lead the Cardinal to a victory over Temple in the Eagle Bank Bowl, but it's hardly a day of celebration when Harbaugh announces he's headed to Michigan.
That's big news over at Rose Bowl practices for both California and Ohio State.
A week after Cal's victory, Luck announces he's entering the NFL draft.
"I'm sure the program will do great things during the second tenure of Walt Harris," Luck says.
The date change was made to eliminate a conflict with the beginning of finals week at Stanford.
Stanford will now end the regular season with a home game against Oregon State on Nov. 27.
Stanford’s 2010 Football Schedule
Sept. 4: Sacramento State, Stanford Stadium (TBA)
Sept. 11: at UCLA, Pasadena, Calif. (TBA)
Sept. 18: Wake Forest, Stanford Stadium (TBA)
Sept. 25: at Notre Dame, South Bend, Ind. (TBA)
Oct. 2: at Oregon, Eugene, Ore. (TBA)
Oct. 9: USC, Stanford Stadium (TBA)
Oct. 23: Washington State (Homecoming), Stanford Stadium (TBA)
Oct. 30: at Washington, Seattle, Wash. (TBA)
Nov. 6: Arizona, Stanford Stadium (TBA)
Nov. 13: at Arizona State, Tempe, Ariz., (TBA)
Nov. 20: at California, Berkeley, Calif. (TBA)
Nov. 27: Oregon State, Stanford Stadium (TBA)
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
Final Pac-10 injury report based on news reports.
TE Rob Gronkowski, back, doubtful
TE Spencer Ladner, knee, out
TE Tad Smith, knee, out
S Sean Cattouse, concussion, questionable
S T.J. Ward, ankle, out
WR Rory Cavaille, shoulder, out
OL Charlie Carmichael, foot, doubtful
WR Tyrece Gaines, knee, questionable
LB DeWitt Stuckey, knee, questionable
WR Darrell Catchings, wrist, out
QB Lyle Moevao, shoulder, questionable
DT Brennan Olander, knee, doubtful
CB Keynan Parker, shoulder, probable
RB Ryan McCants, knee, out
CB Brandin Hardin, leg, out
OT Timi Oshinowo, knee, out
LB Tony Wilson, knee, out
S Josh LaGrone, knee, out
OT Matt Kopa, foot, out
OT Allen Johnson, knee, out
OT Allen Smith, knee, questionable
CB Mark Mueller, undisclosed, out
RB Blaise Johnson, shoulder, out
S Taylor Skaufel, knee, out
LB Nick Macaluso, oblique, out
LB Alex Debniak, knee, out
CB Aaron Hester, fibula, out
OG Micah Kia, knee, out
OL Nick Ekbatani, knee, out
DE Reginald Stokes, knee, out
RB Christian Ramirez, ankle, out
WR Gavin Ketchum, hamstring, out
C Kristofer O'Dowd, knee, probable
DT Averell Spicer, ankle, probable
RB Marc Tyler, toe, out
CB Kevin Thomas, illness, probable
DT Jurrell Casey, illness, probable
OG Butch Lews, ankle, probable
CB Brian Baucham, illness, probable
WR Ronald Johnson, collarbone, out
DE Armond Armstead, foot, out
OG Nick Howell, ankle, questionable
DE Darrion Jones, knee, ou
LB Matt Houston, biceps, questionable
LB Matt Mosley, knee, questionable
OL Skyler Fancher, ankle, out
S Jason Wells, Achilles, out
DE Kevin Kooyman, knee, out
WR Kevin Norrell, suspended, out
DT Dan Spitz, illness, out
S Eric Block, concussion, out
CB Aire Justin, quad, out
S Tyree Toomer, pec, questionable
LB Louis Bland, knee, questionable
WR Daniel Blackledge, illness, probable
WR Johnny Forzani, foot, questionable
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
Stanford right tackle Matt Kopa fractured his foot against Washington State and will be out six to eight weeks.
The Cardinal already were replacing two starters from 2008's line and used a pair of redshirt freshmen against the Cougars.
Senior Chris Marinelli will move from left guard to right tackle when Stanford visits Wake Forest on Saturday. Junior Andy Phillips, an 11-game starter in 2008, will start at left guard. There's also the possibility talented but oft-injured senior Allen Smith could get back into the picture.
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
Who couldn't use some luck?
Of course, some need it more than others. So we're handing out four-leaf clovers in the Pac-10.
A four-leaf clover for ...
Nonconference success: The Pac-10 went 5-0 in bowl games, but that only improved the 2008 nonconference record to 19-17 -- 7-8 vs. the top 18 in the final regular-season AP poll. While no other conference even approaches the Pac-10's aggressive scheduling, it's about winning -- not just playing -- the game. So with road trips to Ohio State, Iowa, Tennessee, Georgia, Boise State, Notre Dame and Wake Forest as well as visits from LSU, Cincinnati, Maryland and many others ahead, the Pac-10 needs to produce.
Quarterback competitions: Only Washington and Oregon are certain who the starting quarterback is going to be in 2009 (knock on wood). The other eight teams have quarterback competitions that are fairly wide open. Here's a four-leaf clover for the coaches who need to pick the right guy before Game 1 in order to avoid (cue dramatic music) a dreaded quarterback controversy!
The Crapple Cup: A clover each to Washington (which will get plenty of water) and Washington State (which will need a warm coat). Last year, the two programs played a rivalry game where the stakes were simple: The loser was the nation's worst BCS football team. The Huskies lost, but the Cougars certainly didn't walk away from the season roaring with pride. So let's toss in a third clover -- extra luck may be needed -- for the hope that Apple Cup 2009 features teams that enter with more than one victory between them.
Health for star players: Injuries are part of the game, but it seems like the Pac-10 got more than its share at key positions last year. What might happen if players like Jahvid Best, Jake Locker, Joe McKnight, Jeremiah Masoli and Jacquizz Rodgers play every game in 2009? Maybe one of them will go to New York as Heisman Trophy finalist.
BCS luck: The BCS formula hasn't been good to the Pac-10 in large part because it rewards a team that schedules four nonconference patsies, while the Pac-10's round robin scheduling means five teams lose each week over the nine weeks of the conference schedule. Here's a clover for Pac-10 teams that are in the hunt for the BCS national title game or a second BCS bowl berth getting the nod from the obscure system.