Week 6 Thoughts, Oct. 10
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By Terry Johnson
Under new head coach David Shaw’s leadership, the Stanford Cardinal has demolished its first five opponents by a 231-53 margin. Obviously, everyone knows Andrew Luck, but lost on the West Coast is a top ten national ranking in both scoring offense and scoring defense. With only three road games remaining on their schedule and their toughest two opponents visiting Stanford Stadium, the Cardinal have an excellent chance to finish the 2011 season undefeated.
However, even with an unblemished regular season, Coach Shaw’s team will probably find itself shut out of the BCS title game unless it gets a whole bunch of help.
This week’s Coaches’ Poll made sure that getting to New Orleans will be a problem.
The Cardinal entered Saturday’s game ranked fourth, after moving up one spot during a bye week while Boise State move down. After dominating every facet of the game in a 48-7 victory over Colorado, Stanford unexpectedly moved down to number five, behind idle Wisconsin.
They face a similar uphill battle in the Harris Interactive Poll, which made its debut this week. The Harris Poll has the Cardinal ranked No. 7 behind Boise State and Oklahoma State.
Since these two polls account for two-thirds of the BCS formula, Stanford would need to move up in both to have any chance at the title game. In order to do that, it needs a marquee victory. Wisconsin moved up in the afterglow of a 48-17 pounding of Nebraska two weeks ago. Boise State and Oklahoma State debuted higher than Stanford in the initial Harris Poll by recording signature wins over Georgia and Texas A&M, respectively.
Those games are coming for the Cardinal, but after dropping this weekend, will it matter?
The toughest remaining contests are USC, Notre Dame, Oregon, and, maybe, Pac 12 championship game. With Notre Dame hosting USC on October 22nd, Stanford will lose the luster on a least one potential victory before taking the field. The Oregon game could also lose its significance if Arizona State defeats the Ducks in Eugene this weekend – or if the offense isn’t the same with LaMichael James banged up. However, beating Oregon will matter.
Likely Pac 12 title game opponent Arizona State already has a loss on the road at Illinois, carrying weight among the pollsters, especially if the Illini drops a few contests in Big Ten play.
Even with al the good games left, strength of schedule will be a problem. The SEC and Big Ten already have big wins against the Pac 12 teams this season. With LSU beating Oregon and the Illinois win over ASU. It’ll take LSU, Alabama, Oklahoma, and Wisconsin to all lose a game, and the voters would have to ignore the tougher conference slates.
With half of the season left to play, anything can happen. However, if the season ended today, Stanford has become the new Boise State.
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