It seems normal after how much noise Stanford made at the end of last season, but this No. 19 ranking they currently have is a rarity for the Cardinal this early in the season. Most of the chatter about Stanford focuses on their Heisman candidate at quarterback and of course Jim Harbaugh, who at the moment is the most popular devout head coach in the Bay Area, at least until the 49ers win two games in a row.
It’s far too early and the Bruins have been too shaky in recent years to ascertain whether Stanford’s 35-0 win over UCLA last week means anything at all. However, shutting out a conference foe on the road and picking up a Pac-10 defensive player of the week award in the process at least points to a defense that looks very un-Pac-10-like.
But again, this is the Pac-10 (until it’s the Pac-12, or Pac-11.5 if you’re considering how awful Colorado is). Offense is always the story in the Pac-10. And sophomore quarterback Andrew Luck is living up to the stiff-arm trophy hype so far, even without his 2nd-best receiver in 2009 (Chris Owusu, who may suit up against Wake Forest) or the Heisman runner-up from last year, Toby Gerhardt.
The loss of Gerhardt left a big hole when it comes to running backs to run through big holes created by the Stanford offensive line, and Luck has taken it upon himself to pick up some of the slack, running for 63 yards against UCLA. It’s nice that Luck is so mobile, but Stepfan Taylor, Tyler Gaffney, Usua Amanam, Anthony Wilkerson, somebody, ANYBODY needs to step forward and prevent Stanford’s best quarterback since John Elway from risking life and limb in the open field.
Ryan Whalen (who starred at Monta Vista) led the team last year in receiving with 926 yards, and over two games he has 104 yards and a touchdown. More surprising has been the performance of Doug Baldwin, who has already more than doubled his production from 2009 in the first two games with 161 yards and 2 scores, including an 81-yarder against Sacramento St. After the Demon Deacons gave up 48 points and 358 passing yards to Duke last week, Whalen and Baldwin could be in line for huge days.
The spread for this game is 17 points, so even though Wake Forest (2-0) beat Stanford in North Carolina 24-17 last season and won a shootout over the Blue Devils last week, not many are giving them a chance down at the Farm. Is all this new-found respect for Stanford deserved, or will they fail against a team outside their own time zone? Tomorrow night’s game should give us an idea whether Stanford will be a contender for the Rose Bowl, Luck will continue on his way to an invite to the NYC Downtown Athletic Club after the season or both. Or, Wake Forest will lie down like the Buffs did last Saturday against Cal, and we’ll have to wait until a 3-game stretch at Nortre Dame, at Oregon and at home against USC to find out what life will truly be like post-Toby.
(Note: tomorrow I’m once again covering local college football for CSN Bay Area. If you want to chat about Stanford Football, tree mascots, dag-gum Yahoo (or is it “dad gum”?) or anything else, join me here at 8:15 pm. That’s right, 8:15 pm. And you thought you had nothing to do on Saturday night.)