Nov. 27, 2010
STANFORD, Calif. - The chant started in the Stanford locker room: "BCS, BCS ..."
In its final regular-season game, Stanford stated its case for inclusion in college football's elite Bowl Championship Series with a resounding 38-0 victory over Oregon State on Saturday at Stanford Stadium.
Coach Jim Harbaugh said it's not Stanford's place to resort to politics before the bowls are determined next weekend.
"I think we've done all the lobbying we can do on the field," he said.
Stanford was very persuasive. The Cardinal (11-1) set a school single-season record for victories, broke another record for points (484), and saw quarterback Andrew Luck break the record held jointly by John Elway and Steve Stenstrom for single-season touchdown passes (28).
File away that Stanford's defense earned its third shutout of the season - the most since 1969 - and beat a team that only lost to potential BCS busters TCU and Boise State by a combined 22 points, and its apparent that Stanford has much to say indeed.
Stanford entered the week ranked No. 7 in the A.P. writers' poll and No. 6 in the computer-based BCS rankings, which takes into account the coaches' poll that has the Cardinal at No. 8. Only the top four in the final BCS rankings will be guaranteed BCS bowl berths. With Boise State and LSU - two teams ranked higher in the BCS - losing this weekend, it would stand to reason that Stanford could move into a top-four position.
Asked if he thought Stanford deserved inclusion, linebacker Chase Thomas, who terrorized Oregon State quarterback Andy Katz all night, said simply, "Yeah, I do.
"I think we're the best one-loss team in the country. Our offense is really hard to stop right now, they're so reliable. Our defense made so many strides from last year. I don't see why we shouldn't go to a BCS game."
The other big question concerned Luck, as in, does he deserve the Heisman Trophy? Again, a big performance said more than any promotional campaign.
Luck completed 21 of 30 passes for 305 yards and four touchdown passes and threw no interceptions. He completed nine of 10 passes on Stanford's first two drives, including touchdowns of 21 yards to tight end Zach Ertz and 42 on a bomb to Doug Baldwin, and the Cardinal was never threatened.
Harbaugh, for one, thinks Luck deserves it.
"I do," he said. "He's the best player, the most valuable player on maybe the best team in the country. He's thrown for 28 touchdowns. That's incredible when you think about all the quarterbacks that have played at Stanford.
"He's really done it all. He plays on one of the best offenses in the country. He's done everything a guy can do in a season.
"It's tough to make a case for anyone other than Andrew Luck. I feel Andrew's head and shoulders above them all."
There was no argument from anyone on the Stanford sideline. Needing a big game to cement consideration among Stanford's greatest teams, the Cardinal put on an impressive show that has been a regular occurrence as the season has progressed.
Consider these performances among Stanford's past five games: 41-0 at Washington, 42-17 against Arizona, and 48-14 at Cal.
The offense was dominant, totaling 470 yards. And the defense was as well, forcing five turnovers.
Baldwin had five catches for 97 yards and scored on two spectacular plays - the long pass and a second-quarter 29-yarder in which he broke a tackle and made several cuts to break free and give Stanford a 24-0 lead.
"That play didn't go as scripted," Baldwin said. "It was supposed to go in front of the linebackers, but Andrew gave me the eye to say it was OK to go behind. Then I let my instincts take over."
Stepfan Taylor broke off a 62-yard touchdown run on a trap play in the third quarter to bolster his rushing totals to 115 yards on 14 carries. Taylor, who now has 1,023 yards, became the first Stanford sophomore since Darrin Nelson in 1978, and the sixth back in school history, to break 1,000.
The defense held Oregon State to 285 yards, and intercepted three passes, including a dramatic interception by safety Delano Howell, playing with one arm in a cast, in the end zone while colliding with the intended receiver.
"The kid must have more interceptions (four) than any guy with his arm in a cast that I've ever seen," Harbaugh said.
Oregon State back Jacquizz Rodgers was held to 76 yards on 17 carries - quite an accomplishment considering the way he carved up Stanford's defense the past two years. It all added up to a performance that Harbaugh simply described as "thorough."
"I feel we're an exciting team to watch," Baldwin said. "I don't know any part of the country that wouldn't want to see Stanford football."
Thomas, who had 2½ sacks and eight solo tackles, said "it'd be hard not to" think of the BCS at this point.
"Everyone tells us, `Don't worry about it, you can't control it,'" he said. "But a couple of guys were checking their phones at halftime to see if LSU lost. We always have that in the back of our minds."
Harbaugh walked into the postgame press conference with a smile on his face, and a look of utter contentment.
"Pretty, pretty good," he said, shaking his head. "Pretty, pretty, pretty good."
It was one of those games where words - especially those in relation to the complicated BCS formula - took a backseat to feelings.
BCS or no BCS, Stanford knew it had done all it could, and left the field slowly, savoring a season that will forever be remembered on The Farm, as players filed through a mass of students and fans who flooded the field afterward.
"We're not lobbyists, we're not campaigners," Harbaugh said. "But the voters should be impressed. We're a heck of a football team."
-- David Kiefer, Stanford Athletics