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The road for Stanford to win the PAC-12

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Yeah, they can still do this people

Stanford v Arizona State Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

The season has been grim for the Stanford Cardinal, with tough losses to the Utah Utes and Notre Dame Fighting Irish, followed by a victory which required a team that never turns the ball over.

Confidence for the Cardinal to take the PAC-12 title is shaky at best, worse when considering the competition in the North includes Washington State and Washington, probably the best two teams in the conference.

But the path for Stanford to take the conference is still very much alive; here is how they win the conference.

1 - The Washington Huskies and Washington State Cougars cannot run the table

Washington State plays Stanford, California, Colorado, Arizona and finishes with the Apple Bowl. The Huskies run up against California, Stanford, Oregon State and (of course) close with the Apple Bowl.

Headed into the weekend, Stanford and WSU tie for second behind the Huskies. If Stanford can find a way to beat the Cougars, then turning around to beat the Huskies, would easily snatch them the North. As it stands in the real world, Stanford needs two things to happen:

  • Beat WSU and watch the Huskies falter twice down the stretch.
  • Beat the Huskies, who then beat the Cougars to end 2018.

Stanford is looking for a victory against one of these teams, while both find losses as the season closes out. It seems to be a tall task, but then again the No. 2 team has lost in consecutive weeks. in the words of NBA star Kevin Garnett - “Anything’s possible!”

2 - Do the next best thing to running the table

Two games against the best teams this side of the conference will keep Stanford from running the table. But the combined records of the California Golden Bears, Oregon State Beavers and UCLA Bruins (their other three opponents) is a grand 7-14.

Stanford will also stay home against the Cougars and Oregon State, meaning the Huskies are by far their most challenging road game left on the 2018 slate. Of the five remaining contests, two (UCLA and Oregon State) teams allow an average of 30 points per game.

Playing a weak defense is especially crucial for Stanford, as every opponent that Stanford plays, outside of UCLA, averages more points per game on offense. The egregious lack of scoring from the Cardinal will haunt them down the stretch of their remaining games, making even games against Oregon State up for grabs.

The Cardinal desperately need to go 4-1 to gain any traction as they race towards the season’s end.

3 - Play USC in the title game

In the happy place of the Stanford faithful, better teams have bumbled away the final stretch of games while the Cardinal cruised to the top of the North. The next question is: who can they beat in the PAC-12 title bout?

The Utah Utes currently lead the South, a team that waxed Stanford just three weeks ago. The next choice, the only team that could sneak up on the Utes, are the USC Trojans. For the sake of the white and red, hopefully, the Trojans get to the title round.

In the first round between the Cardinal and the Trojans, Stanford stifled J.T. Daniels and company to the lowest score Stanford has held USC to since 1941. For all their flaws this season, Stanford found a winning formula against the Trojans offense; sacking Daniels four times and coming up with three turnovers.

It was also the best game both Stanford’s running game and Bryce Love have had this season, pacing USC for 159 yards and a score on the ground. The Cardinal can beat up on the Trojans, forcing poor throws and silly mistakes, pounding the ball down their throat on the other end.

This all is a long shot to finding reality. Washington and Washington State are both excellent teams with top some of the best quarterbacks leading their squads. If you are a betting man, place your money on one of these teams to take the North. And even if everything broke for the Cardinal and they found themselves at the top of their division, the Utes have the tiebreaker over USC meaning they would need to lose most of their games down the stretch to drop the bid for the conference championship game.

It is all very much a long shot for the Cardinal to capture their 16th conference title. But it is not impossible.

This was also the best game both Stanford’s running game and Bryce Love have had this season, pacing USC for 159 yards and a score on the ground. The Cardinal can beat up on the Trojans, forcing sloppy throws and silly mistakes, pounding the ball down their throat on the other end.

USC v Stanford Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Obviously, this all is a long shot to finding reality. Washington and Washington State are both very good teams with top some of the best quarterbacks leading their squads. If you are a betting man, place you money on one of these teams to take the North. And even if everything broke for the Cardinal and they found themselves at the top of their division, the Utes have the tie breaker over USC meaning they would need to lose most of their games down the stretch to lose the bid for the conference championship game.

It is all very much a long shot for the Cardinal to capture their 16th conference title. They need three good teams to lose their way, and an average team to surge just enough to get to the conference game before regressing in said game. That’s it.