Whenever Bryce Love touches the ball, there's a a chance he might score, and he carried Stanford to victories over UCLA and Arizona State with two monster performances. Against Utah, he sealed the win with a 68-yard touchdown run. Recently against Oregon, Love was on pace for almost another 300-yard game before leaving with an ankle injury. Now as Thursday approaches, our Heisman hopeful is day to day, which begs the questions: what if Love doesn't play? What if Stanford never had Love?
Even without Love, Stanford should have no problem taking care of business versus Oregon State. Frankly, the Beavers are awful right now. If Love doesn't play, I'd expect to see Cameron Scarlett and Trevor Speights carry the load, and they combined for almost 100 yards against Oregon. Expect them to shine against a weak Beaver defense if Love can't suit up.
What separates Love from these two running backs is his speed and shiftiness. He's lethal in the open space, and once he's loose, he can take it all the way. Meanwhile, Stanford's two other running backs rely on their size and power. They can pick up a solid four yards per carry, but they aren't game-changers in the way Love is. Frankly, not many backs are.
Remember when Stanford struggled in 2014? The team went 8-5 largely because a weak run game. Simply put, the 2014 Cardinal didn't have an x-factor like Love, and Stanford lost every close game.
If that was the case this year, I'm not sure Stanford would be 4-2 currently. Let’s say Stanford would've still beat Rice, UCLA, and Arizona State, but the game versus Utah may have had a different result. The Stanford offense struggled for most of the game, and if not for Bryce Love, the team would've scored at most 16 points instead of 23.
Take a look at this clip:
In any world can an average running back make this run? Love dodges two defenders in the backfield and then breaks free for a touchdown. Ultimately, this run alone won the game for Stanford, and the Cardinal would be standing at 3-3 without their star.
How big of a difference does Love make? He probably adds a touchdown or two per game over his counterparts. Against a team like Oregon State, it doesn't matter if Love, Scarlett, or Speights get more touches, but against tougher opponents, it makes all the difference in the world. You stop watching for one second, and Love is breaking for the end zone, and suddenly, Stanford takes a slim lead.
I'm crossing my fingers that Love stays for one more season. Next year could be special, and Love must be a part of that equation. As for now however, we should all be thankful that he's a part of the Stanford family.