There's a chance we'll learn tomorrow that Shayne Skov is expected to return to the lineup in two weeks against UCLA. If you saw the play that led to Skov being helped off the field and later carted into the locker room during the second quarter of Saturday night's 37-10 win over Arizona, you realize there's a much better chance that the news won't be so positive.
Head coach David Shaw didn't comment on Skov's condition after the game, but Jon Wilner of the Mercury News tweeted, "Based on what I saw and heard, have to believe Skov is out many weeks (and possibly the season)." The Stanford football team's Twitter feed reported that Skov had an MRI today and an update will be provided tomorrow.
If that's the case, you can't help but feel for the eye-black wearing, mohawk-sporting leader of the Stanford defense, and his family, including brother Patrick, a freshman fullback for the Cardinal. Skov led Stanford in tackles last season and capped off his impressive sophomore campaign with 12 tackles in the Orange Bowl. He had a team-high 19 tackles, including five for a loss, and 1.5 sacks this season before cornerback Johnson Bademosi inadvertently rolled into his left leg while making a tackle on Wildcats receiver Juron Criner.
If Skov is lost for the season, he'll have plenty of support during the recovery process from his Stanford teammates. Outside linebacker Chase Thomas paid tribute to his friend by writing the number 11 in eye black on his arm during the second half of last night's game. Might Andrew Luck eschew a beard for a mohawk? Stanford's other No. 11, tight end Levine Toilolo, can share his own experience suffering a season-ending knee injury on his first catch last year.
We feel for Skov, but we shouldn't feel sorry for Stanford. The nine teams remaining on the Cardinal's regular season schedule sure won't. I have no doubt that USC's Matt Barkley and Oregon's Darron Thomas want to play and beat their opponents' best, but neither quarterback will lose any sleep over not getting to see No. 11 staring them down from across the line of scrimmage later this year.
I'll respectfully disagree that Stanford may need to revise its expectations for the season, especially considering that the rest of the Pac-12 isn't exactly setting the world on fire. We only have one half of evidence to go by, but the Stanford defense responded incredibly well to Skov's absence against Arizona, a testament to Shaw and senior captain Michael Thomas. Junior linebacker Jarek Lancaster, Skov's backup on the depth chart, had five tackles. True freshman James Vaughters, who, like Skov, was one of the top linebacker recruits in his class, registered his first career sack. The Stanford defense is undeniably better with Skov on the field, but that doesn't mean it can't be very, very good without him.
At the very least, let's wait and see, not only whether Skov will miss a significant portion (or all) of the season, but, if he will, just how well the Stanford defense plays in his absence. As Avinash noted, the schedule sets up well for Stanford. The Cardinal has a bye week before home games against UCLA and Colorado, a trip to Washington State, and a date with Washington on the Farm. That's a lot of time to ramp up for the gauntlet that is the second half of Stanford's schedule.
In the meantime, I'll continue to hope for the best for Skov and pine for the days--way back last week--when the biggest question about this team was whether the running game would ever get going. (I think that one's been answered.)