The Sky Isn't Falling, Stanford Fans -- Or Is It?

This season will be all right now. Right?

We interrupt your brooding about last night's 20-17 win for this public service announcement: Stanford football will should might be fine. Maybe. Or not. Yes. What?

Also, Cal lost.

Perhaps you think last night's ugly win -- which featured 280 yards of total offense, a 2-of-13 success rate on third down and a porous, at times, pass defense -- was a harbinger of things to come. A loss to Duke -- Duke. A revenge-filled beatdown at the hands of the Trojans (wow, they look good against Hawaii). We're headed for 6-6, no, 5-7. If we're lucky.

If I recall correctly, there was some concern about the offensive line after last year's season opener, a 57-3 nailbiter against the same Spartans. But of course these aren't the same Spartans, which might be a small part of the reason some fans are convinced the sky is falling. San Jose State went from one win in 2010 to five last season, and lost three games by three points or less. That's an improvement of Harbaughian proportions. You shouldn't be surprised if SJSU wins the WAC this year, which isn't saying much, but still.

There's no way to sugarcoat last night's win. The offense and the defense took turns looking terrible. Execution was lacking. The playcalling was suspect. Still, I'm not ready to lower my expectations -- 9 wins -- for this year's Stanford team after one game. We'll save that for next Sunday, if necessary.

Here's a look back at three cherry-picked games -- one from each of the last three years -- that seemed to spell doom for the heavily favored teams that narrowly avoided embarrassing losses, but ultimately proved to be nothing more than minor hiccups (wakeup calls?) in very successful seasons.

Sept. 3, 2011
Robert Woods caught 17 passes for 177 yards, but No. 6 USC managed only 19 points in a two-point win over woeful Minnesota.
Postscript:
The Trojans finished 10-2 and closed the season with a 38-35 win at No. 4 Oregon and a 50-0 rout of UCLA. Minnesota finished 3-9, including a loss to North Dakota State.

Sept. 4, 2010
No. 7 Oklahoma needed a late interception to hold off an upset bid by Utah State, and the Sooners held on for a 31-24 win in Norman.
Postscript: The Sooners capped a 12-2 season with a 48-20 blowout of Connecticut in the Fiesta Bowl. Utah State finished 4-8.

Sept. 5, 2009
No. 22 Iowa blocked two Northern Iowa field goal attempts in the final 7 seconds to preserve a 17-16 win at home.
Postscript:
The Hawkeyes capped an 11-2 season with a 24-14 win over Georgia Tech in the Orange Bowl. After going 12-3 in 2008, the Panthers stumbled to a 7-4 mark.

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