RBs Run Wild; Defense Misses Howell; Things You Never Thought You'd Hear -- Thank You, USC

It shouldn't be this easy.  It just shouldn't.  -- Stanford Football blogger Kevin Gemmell

He's right.  Washington came into Stanford riding a very good offense and a 5-1 record.  Their only loss was to a Nebraska team that was greatly assisted by one of the most incompetent officiating crews in college football this year.  Keith Price is a quarterback on the rise who many feel hasn't hit his ceiling yet.  Alameda Ta'amu is a beast for the Huskies.  Chris Polk is quite possibly the best running back not in Eugene, OR.

Yet, at the end of the night, whatever people thought about Stanford, Washington, and for that matter, BCS rankings, was turned on its head.  Washington was crushed by 44 points at Stanford.  Wisconsin was on the wrong end of a Hail Mary.  Oklahoma didn't prepare for a Tech team that ended a 38-game home winning streak in Norman.

And now, as the talking heads on ESPN note, and is especially evident in the human polls, the spotlight is no longer solely on the Alabama-LSU game in two weeks.  It now shines just as bright on Stanford.

Stanford came into the game with yet another loss on defense.  This time, SS Delano Howell was ruled out Thursday on an injury (supposedly to his hand).  The late injury may have played a significant part in Stanford's defensive play Saturday night as the defense had one of its not-so-good games against the Huskies.  Was the defense bad or terrible?  No, and far be it from it.  However, the loss of Howell may have played a part in Price's ease in moving the ball through the air during the first half, some of them for significant gains.  Coupled with perhaps Stanford's underestimation of Polk (given last year's 41-0 result in Seattle) that resulted in Polk evading Stanford's tacklers as though their hands were greased with butter, and it wasn't the defense's best half.

But true to form, where one part in Stanford's game may falter, the other is there to step up their game and help carry the team.  In this game, unlike against Washington State, Stanford's offense led the way for the Cardinal's eventual win.  What may come to a surprise to some people who haven't paid attention to Stanford, though, is that the offense wasn't headed by Andrew Luck.  Rather, Stanford's stable of running backs came to headline the show.

Stepfan Taylor, Tyler Gaffney, and Anthony Wilkerson combined for 348 yards on the ground, more than twice the entire Husky rushers did as a team.  In fact, Taylor's and Gaffney's 100+ yard nights was the first time since 2008 that the Cardinal had two rushers breach the 100 yard mark.  Remember when we used to watch Toby Gerhart and wonder if any of his backups behind him would be able to step into his large shoes?  I think we now conclusively have our answer.

Stanford entered the game with doubts about their strengths, given their opponents to date.  The Huskies were confident that while they may not come out of California with a victory, they would most definitely keep it closer than the Vegas bookies were predicting.  All week, stories amongst Husky fans were about Stanford's physical nature, Washington's strengths, and Harbaugh's off-the-record-that-became-on-the-record quip about beating the highest paid coaches in the conference.  Instead, Washington left Palo Alto on the receiving end of the worst beatdown by a college team  this weekend.

Now, as a result, Stanford enters this coming week as holders of a 7-0 record, a #3 Coaches poll ranking, a #4 AP ranking, and a #6 BCS ranking.  Why the disparity with the BCS?  Because the only team with a winning record that Stanford has played to date it beat by 44 points at home, causing the computer rankings to skew the Pac-12 as the worst AQ conference this year.

As a result of Oklahoma's and Wisconsin's losses, though, coupled with ESPN's Game Day crew heading down to Los Angeles, Stanford plays its biggest game against USC since the 1970s.  In a tables-turned way, though, it is now Stanford with the national title potential and USC hoping to play the spoiler.  Make no doubt about it, while 2008 may have been the "Revenge of the Biggest Upset Ever", Trojan faithful would take far more glee for years to come by spoiling Stanford's return to the Coliseum this Saturday.  History isn't on Stanford's side this weekend -- Stanford has never beaten the Trojans three consecutive times in the Coliseum, and has only gone on three-game streaks against USC three times, the most recent from 1999-2001.  However, this is also a Stanford team who has beaten ten straight teams by at least 25 points, something that has never happened before in the history of the polls.

While Stanford will be favorites, perhaps by double digits, this is also a rivalry game.  Despite perhaps Trojan fans' claims otherwise, USC will be most proud of a win over Stanford.  And it can do it, too, with a home-crowd that will likely make this game their unofficial "bowl" game similar to last year's Oregon-USC tilt in the Coliseum.  With the eyes of the nation now firmly on Stanford for the rest of the year, Stanford will have to play its best game of the year in Los Angeles this coming Saturday.

Stanford 65, Washington 21

Star-divide

One of the biggest detriments to Stanford's BCS ranking is how the computers rate the Pac-12 in comparison to the other conferences.  Thanks in large part to USC, the Pac-12, and Stanford's schedule, have gotten a boost.

UCLA 12, Arizona 48 -- O.M.G.  For 59:56, this game was utter trash.  The Bruins came out as listless as could be and did Rick Neuheisal no favors by allowing previous 1-5 Arizona run roughshod over them to a 42-7 halftime score.  However, the final four seconds of the first half made this game one of the highlights of college football this week.  How so?  Let's just say it involved a fake ref, a streaker, bench clearing brawlstwo ejections (and ten players ultimately suspended by the Pac-12), and Mexican Folklorico dancers.  Coupled with the earthquake here in the Bay Area Thursday night during the third quarter, this game was whole lot more fun that it should have been.  The best part?  The streaker later told the media he initiated the craziness so that he could have something to tell "Wipeout" producers so they would get him on.
Oregon 45, Colorado 2 -- As ESPN noted in its recap of the game, this game was over once Ralphie finished her opening run.  Colorado never made it past the Oregon 37 yard line, and only scored on a Cliff Harris mistake in the endzone.  While much of the attention has been on Stanford's rise this season, Oregon has quietly and efficiently made huge strides since their opening loss against LSU.
Utah 10, California 34 -- Utah's opening year woes continued in the Bay Area as the Utes were unable to ever be competitive in this game, at one point being down 34-0 and only scoring when Cal took their starters out.  It was a much needed game for both Jeff Tedford and Zach Maynard to get their previous two weeks of futility out of their system as well as continuing their march toward bowl eligibility.
USC 31, Notre Dame 17 -- Notre Dame came into this game hoping to break a five-game home losing streak to the Trojans after beating USC in LA last year.  While the Irish were favored by double digits, it was USC who got the last laugh in South Bend, winning in a dominating fashion that included a blocked punt returned for a TD.
Oregon State 44, Washington State 21 -- Washington State needed this game to say definitively that it has turned the corner on their previous years' woes as well as help Paul Wulff off the coaching hot seat.  Instead, it was the Beavers who came out and won in Seattle, controlling the line of play for three quarters and showing the conference that it may just be gearing up for its annual late-season rise that many are used to from OSU.
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