Monday, September 26, 2011
Stanford questions worth asking
By Kevin Gemmell
The bye week, err, Improvement Week, is done and the No. 4/6 Stanford Cardinal will officially begin UCLA week when they resume practice Tuesday. A few questions to keep in the back of your mind this week.
Will there be a bye week hangover? Read the Twitter posts from a handful of the Cardinal players and it's clear they were antsy all day Saturday. Many went home to see family. Others stayed close to campus -- but most spent their free day watching football. There has been improvement every week in almost every facet of the team. But has that been stunted by having the time off?
Are the linebackers in order? There was a lot of change this past week. It's tough enough having to replace an extremely talented player like Shayne Skov with one guy. So the Cardinal are going to use two. A.J. Tarpley and Jarek Lancaster will platoon at the middle linebacker spot alongside Max Bergen in an attempt to plug the hole left by Skov and his season-ending knee injury. Are Tarpley and Lancaster all caught up on their assignments? Is the rotation set? Which one is going to get the start? Which leads us to ...
... Are the Cardinal ready for UCLA's rushing attack? Duke rushed 33 times against the Cardinal. Last week, UCLA rushed 49 times in its 27-19 win over Oregon State. The Bruins attempted just 12 passes all game. UCLA's strength on offense is the running game -- which also happens to be the strength of the Stanford defense. One will have to give. It's not like the Bruins are throwing Kenny "Kingfish" Washington at the Cardinal, but it should still be a decent test.
What's up with the polls? The Cardinal moved up from No. 5 to fourth in the coaches poll. They moved back from fifth to sixth in the AP poll. I've always believed you don't get rewarded or penalized for being idle. That's just me. Which leads us to ...
... Did Andrew Luck's Heisman stock drop in the bye week? Coaches say that players shouldn't lose their starting job to injuries. But it happens all of the time. Out of sight, out of mind. Kellen Moore and Robert Griffin III exploded for big games. Denard Robinson looks like the best running back in the country who is unfortunately forced to throw the ball from time to time. Marcus Lattimore showed his effectiveness in the receiving game. Landry Jones had some nice stats, (but still threw two picks). Does Luck have to dig himself out of a hole that was beyond his control? If pollsters are going to move the team up and down for being idle, will Heisman pollsters do the same?
What's attendance going to be like Saturday? An announced crowd of 47,816 showed up for the season opener on Sept. 3 against San Jose State. There are more students on campus now and it will have been 28 days since the last home game. During that time, the Cardinal have risen from No. 7 to No. 4/6 in the country and following losses by Cal and USC, are the only undefeated team in the Pac-12. That's got to be enough to draw at least 50K, right?