Permission has been granted by the highest authority to don
Lower the shades, also, on the
It isn't easy dismissing the two-time defending Pac-12 Conference champions and handing the pinball crown back to Nike Nation.
This decision comes with the blessing, though, of Stanford Coach David Shaw.
"I would be shocked if someone picked us over
Because this figures to be a good, not great, season for Stanford. The Cardinal's run of major-bowl success starting with
The nerds did it!
They beat down the Nutty Professor stereotype and proved academics and
Too bad the four-team playoff is starting now, because Stanford would have been a serious contender every year since 2009. The Cardinal finished fourth in the final
This year, though, there is probably too much "ground under repair" to let the Cardinal make it through unscathed.
Stanford not only loses cement-mixer tailback Tyler Gaffney and his 1,709 yards, but also several household names on defense: Shayne Skov, Ben Gardner, Trent Murphy and Ed Reynolds.
There are four new starters on what could be a great offensive line, but will it coalesce in time for
Stanford has steadfastly, perhaps surprisingly, remained hyper-competitive at a place where success, historically, has been difficult to sustain.
Yet the truth is undeniable since David Shaw took over for Harbaugh. Shaw has gone 11-2, 12-2 and 11-3 in three years, which included three straight BCS bowl games and a
This, however, will be Shaw's biggest test. He's retooling on the run against an unforgiving schedule that includes games at
Stanford's mind-set won't change. It will stick to its conservative, mule-team approach of containment and punishment.
"We're wearing shoulder pads," Shaw says, "we might as well use them."
Shaw needs to identify the next back in the continuum of Toby Gerhart, Stepfan Taylor and Gaffney.
Stanford doesn't know who that guy is yet as it tries to sort out a three-way runoff among Kelsey Young, Barry J. Sanders and Ricky Seale. It could be some combination of all three and Shaw might even loosen his collar and let them run outside the tackle box. Young is the fastest of the backs while Sanders has the irreplaceable, swivel-hipped lineage to his father.
Sanders has shown sidewinder glimpses in his first two years but, in Shaw's offense, you don't get touches until you learn how to pass-protect.
Stanford is stable with Kevin Hogan at quarterback and also returns star receiver-return man Ty Montgomery. This could be a breakout year for Montgomery, recovering nicely from off-season shoulder surgery. He reminds Shaw of Tim Brown, the former Raiders receiver.
Let's be clear: Stanford isn't going anywhere and Oregon may only be renting space this year in the preseason Pac North penthouse.
Life in the top five is tough, though, and Stanford may need a dip year before it takes another leap year.
If it was easy, anyone could do it.