Despite our hopes, despite our recent success, Stanford is facing a Mount Everest of obstacles to reach the four-team FBS playoffs. Please, before you hate on me, hear me out.
#10 – We’re Tiny. Something like 6,980 undergrads—about the size of Duke and a little bigger than Yale. Somewhat smaller than Harvard or Notre Dame. Miniscule compared to a UCLA (27,900) or Alabama (28,000) or Florida State (32,000) or Michigan State (37,000) or Ohio State (44,000). We’re picky, accepting less than 6 percent of applicants. We thus draw from a tiny pool of qualified recruits. Football players must meet the academic entrance requirements—unlike most other schools. Also, small enrollment—even when you add in graduate students—means we don’t have huge numbers of alumni to attend or view football games. Which leads me to…
#9 – Our Fan Base is Too Small. And not "rabid" enough. And doesn’t know how to behave (booing our own winning team—actually the play calling—at a home game against Arizona State in 2013). Booing visiting bands (USC, September 2012). Not showing up for the inaugural Pac-12 Championship game AT HOME (I know, I know—rain and Friday night Bay Area traffic.) Not "traveling well" to bowl games. We’ve displayed a certain lack of etiquette and loyalty, which does not endear us to television audiences. The fan base, quality and quantity, helps generate excitement and a wider following for the team.
#8 – Prejudice and Resentment. There’s a perception that Stanford is inhabited by spoiled rich brats. Not true, but it exists. There’s no sympathy for nerdy privileged kids. They’re in the 5 percent, they don’t deserve to win. They’re part of the "robber baron" class. (According to Wikipedia, if all companies founded by Stanford grads were collectively an economy, they’d be the 10th largest in the world. Who’s gonna love you for that?)
#7 – No Flash. No score run-ups, few blowout wins, no superstar hype, just ground and pound maul ball with mostly predictable play calling. Ugly, unnecessary losses (Utah, USC) and sometimes ugly W’s. Sometimes simply (yawn) boring.
#6 – Too Many of the Selection Committee Have Ties to Stanford. Three of the 13 committee members have direct ties to Stanford. Condi Rice, Oliver Luck, and Ty Willingham will likely need to recuse themselves from voting if Stanford is again in the top 10. The Southeast bias will prevail.
#5 – Coaching Deficits. Our program is a launching pad to bigger and more lucrative jobs. Last year, it was the offensive coordinator to the NFL. This year, our defensive coordinator left for Vandy, taking a couple of players and staffers with him. Play calling decisions led to at least two if not all of our losses last season. Don’t see anything changing much with that.
#4 – Mega-Tough Schedule. Our 2014 schedule is brutal. Oregon, UCLA and Washington away. USC the second week of the season. Parity within the Pac 12 means no gimmes, no cupcakes. Out of conference, we can’t even take UC Davis for granted (they beat us last time)—and certainly not Notre Dame on their home turf. Which leads us to…
#3 – Reality Check. Realistically, we will need an undefeated record to even be considered. When is the last time Stanford had a season with zero losses? 1940, 10-0. That’s 74 years ago, folks, and in 2014 we need to be 13-0. It’s never happened. Our best ever season was 2010-2011 with Luck/Harbaugh, 12-1. The only year Stanford was considered to be a national champion was the 1926-27 season, when we were 10-0 but tied Alabama in the Rose Bowl, thus SHARING the title. Which reminds me…
#2 – We Don’t Get Respect. In January 1941, after our undefeated season, we beat Nebraska #7 in the Rose Bowl… but were ranked #2! No respect. In 2013, we hammered top 25 teams (remember all the Hundley hype before we beat the then #9 UCLA team?) By the way, what other team in the country has had three consecutive runners up (Gerhart, Luck, Luck) in the Heisman voting? Hmmm, no mention of Kevin Hogan in the preseason Heisman watch, despite his 16-3 record. Coach Shaw is right when he says we don’t get the respect we’ve EARNED. (See #8).
#1 – The NCAA is a Business. College football is, sadly, part of a leviathan nonprofit organization generating BILLIONS of dollars. Sports networks and sponsors want broadcasts that will attract huge audiences. Stanford doesn’t fit the bill. No legions of sequin-clad blond baton twirlers. No 300-piece militaristic marching band. No widespread fan base (see #9). Lucrative ad revenue? The SEC, Big 12, Big Ten and ACC dominate by sheer numbers of fans and level of interest in their teams.
Despite all this, can Stanford achieve a "perfect 13" season and be chosen to play for the NC?
Anything is possible. Is it likely? Not.
Next post: Top 10 Reasons Stanford Might Go to the NCAA Football Playoffs