When you are little, your dreams can be so crazy and so extreme yet your parents don't want to burst your bubble because of that smile you get when you think about those dreams. As a child, I dreamt of sports day in and day out and wanted to see all of my teams win championships every year. Now even as a young boy, I knew that this wasn't possible but I DREAMT it could happen. Of all of the teams and schools that I am glad to say I represent in one way or another, Stanford University and from a sports point of view, Stanford Football was my ultimate dream. I knew that the only way I could see Stanford winning a National Championship in football was playing NCAA on my PlayStation or Xbox.
The Reality of the Past
In 2010, Stanford had an early season hiccup in Eugene but went on a winning streak that lasted well into the 2011 season. We had the best quarterback I had ever seen in Andrew Luck and thought that maybe my dreams would come true. Unfortunately, neither season was good enough for a BCS Championship appearance.
The next two seasons, Stanford had won the Pac-12 but neither team was good enough to go through the season unscathed so we had to "settle for the Rose Bowl" and I truly mean that as a joke. The Rose Bowl is something I will always cherish. Skip 2014 and that brings us to 2015. I kept dreaming that maybe this was the year. This wasn't going to be our best offensive or defensive team of the Shaw era but it was good enough to compete on the national stage again.
On September 5th 2015, I was on vacation in Disneyland, the happiest place on Earth. I was getting ready for the season opener. I knew this was going to be a great vacation...." And that's a wrap here in Evanston where the Northwestern Wildcats upset the 21st ranked Cardinal 16-6." I was disgusted. How could my dreams of a National Title be over so quickly? That was the worst day I had ever spent in Disneyland.
Fast forward a month and all of a sudden, that nightmare may have been a blessing in disguise. There is no such thing as a good loss but that loss may have been the best thing to happen to Stanford since the 2009 Big Game where Cal fans/students got to actually feel like a Stanford student and party on our field.
Since that Northwestern game, Stanford has gone on to win their next 4 games and is averaging 42 points per game. Kevin Hogan is now playing like the Hogan of old where he doesn't try and do too much. He's thrown for 71% in the last 4 games with a touchdown to interception ratio of 9/1. That interception was a dropped ball that would have been a 1st down conversion. The offensive line although still lacking that 2010 power is beginning to gel. With the offensive line getting better each week, the rushing attack as a unit has been the best statistically at any point during the Harbaugh or Shaw years.
The defense is giving up 19 ppg. That is just unacceptable and Lance the Dance should quit.... Or you realize that maybe the schemes that Stanford implements can make any good athlete look great and great athletes look unstoppable (Hello Blake Martinez) and that except for the 31 points by USC, who were God's gift to college football before our game, Stanford is giving up 16 ppg. The exact amount of points given up in the loss. The magic number that should burn into the hearts and souls of the Stanford football team.
Meanwhile, special teams have been electric and I can actually watch our field goal kicker kick field goals and not have the thought that it will go wide. Punting has been the worst part in my opinion but it is something that isn't season threatening.
Taking care of business
The dreams of a possible national title always seem to die somewhere and playing a great conference like the Pac-12, any game can squash that dream. This season hasn't gone to plan but the goals and dreams are all still there and the schedule definitely favors Stanford. Now yes, Stanford still has to play 3 current ranked teams and Oregon but all 4 of those games are at home. The only remaining road games are at Washington State and Colorado. No road game is easy but you tell me what other Pac-12 schools would rather have their remaining road schedule than Stanford's.
And if Stanford takes care of their own business, the rest of the conference will eat itself alive and it is very realistic that Stanford could clinch the Pac-12 North before Oregon even comes to town. Now the dream is a National Championship but the goal is always a Pac-12 Championship so imagine being able to play loose against Oregon AND Cal.
Oregon with 1 conference loss already, still has to play at Washington (rivalry), at Arizona St. and Cal. Cal on the other hand better soak up that undefeated sun now because the schedule picks up Saturday. Cal plays at Utah, at UCLA, USC, at Oregon, and Oregon State before Stanford. If you see them getting through with only 1 loss at worst, take off your 1982 glasses.
But first, the Bruins . . .
Before Stanford can even think about Oregon or Cal or championship aspirations, they must look at their upcoming game next Thursday versus UCLA. UCLA has a great coach in Jim Mora Jr. who has brought the program up to expectations that haven't been seen since the 1980's. Starring at quarterback is true freshman Phenom Josh Rosen who has led the offense to 34 ppg and a 4-1 record. The defense has been phenomenal in stopping opponents in clutch situations and is showing why many pundits believed they are a National Championship contender.
Now here's the statistic that you won't want to hear if you are a UCLA fan. Stanford is on a 7 game win streak with an average score of 31-13. UCLA has only scored in the 20's once in that time and has been shutout as well. Not only has Stanford beaten UCLA 7 straight times but 2 of those victories have cost UCLA in the postseason. In 2012, UCLA was up 24-17 in the 4th quarter of the Pac-12 Championship and ended up losing 27-24 while Stanford went on to win the Rose Bowl.
Last season, Stanford was coming into the game 6-5, fresh off a Big Game victory and had nothing to play for. UCLA came into the game ranked #9 needing a victory to seal the Pac-12 South and gain a rematch with Oregon for the conference title. Stanford played its best game of the year and won 31-10 and it wasn't even that close.
When you think of the 3 greatest quarterbacks in Stanford history, you think Plunkett, Elway, and Luck. When you ask a UCLA fan, they will tell you Hogan, Hogan, and Hogan. Plunkett and Elway both went .500 in their careers against UCLA and Luck beat up 3 bad teams but Kevin Hogan has been a dream killer for UCLA. Hogan has thrived against UCLA with a 73% completion rate and has 6 total touchdowns compared to 1 interception. Hulkamania runs wild on UCLA and a win next Thursday would put him at 5-0 with a potential rematch in the Pac-12 Title game that could put him at 6-0, a record that would never be broken. If Stanford can get by UCLA, the dreams could have endless possibilities.
So am I still dreaming like a kid??? You're absolutely right. Stanford football may not be what the country wants but Stanford and the Silicon Valley are home to many dreamers who have been told that they couldn't do this or that. There were people who said Facebook was a stupid idea... By the way, can I borrow a million dollars Mr. Zuckerberg? Anyways, Stanford last won a National Championship in football in 1940. 75 years is a long time to dream but anything can happen... Well except Cal playing in a Rose Bowl of course.