Author Archive - Kabir

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Life After Luck: The Lowdown

Thursday, January 26th, 2012

As you may or may not have heard, Andrew Luck, our hero and savior of the Stanford football program, is off to the NFL. While he could have stayed one more year, he’s done with his degree and I wish him the best in his future endeavors.

Andrew Luck (artist's depiction)

Besides, I don’t exactly envy the guy. Though he’s going to get drafted first overall and make gigantic piles of money, he’s headed to the Indianapolis Colts. The team recently went 2-14, fired its head coach and general manager, and has a huge dilemma at a key position (I won’t tell you who’s in the middle of it, but I’ll give you a hint: it starts with a “P” and ends in “eyton Manning”).

Luck isn’t the only important name headed to the pros. Offensive linemen Jonathan Martin and David DeCastro, two major cogs in the Cardinal’s success on offense, are both likely to be drafted in the first round. A bunch of other important contributors are gone too, like safety Delano Howell, tight end Coby Fleener and wide receiver Griff Whalen.

But never fear, dear readers! The Cardinal has a bunch of young playmakers eager to step into starting roles for next year’s (shamefully poorly scheduled) season. We caught flashes of these underclass dynamos last season, but an extended introduction will have to wait until spring practice. Head coach David Shaw and his staff is also hard at work assembling a top-25 recruiting class, quite a feat for a school with Stanford’s academic standards.

Will Stanford go 11-1 and make another BCS bowl? Probably not. Can we score a solid record, a trip to a decent non-BCS bowl, and an upset or two over some Pac-12 heavyweights? Sure, I definitely think so. The program isn’t quite at the point where it can just reload after players like Andrew Luck leave (and it probably never will be), but there’s no reason Stanford can’t return to the elite after a rebuilding year or two.

So who, you ask, are these mystery youngsters that form the next generation of Stanford football? To the breakdown! (more…)

Stanford Football’s Scheduling Travesty

Wednesday, January 4th, 2012

If you’re anything like me (that is, a rabid follower of college football and our beloved Stanford Cardinal), then you’ve already gotten over our gut-wrenching, heart-stopping loss to Oklahoma State in the Fiesta Bowl and are looking eagerly forward to spring ball and the start of next season. Basketball? A silly game where unnaturally tall people run back and forth for no discernible reason. Baseball? Can’t keep me awake past the second inning. The NFL playoffs? OK, I’ll admit you got me on that one, but those only last until February.

I always knew Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott cared only about money and not at all about students, and this just confirms it. (Image courtesy of the Pac-12)

So that’s why I was appalled when I saw the full 2012 football schedule the Pac-12 Conference released earlier today. To summarize, here’s the Cardinal’s full 12-game schedule for next season:

Sept. 1: San Jose State
Sept. 8: Duke
Sept. 15: USC
Sept. 27: at Washington
Oct. 6: Arizona
Oct. 13: at Notre Dame
Oct. 20: at California
Oct. 27: Washington State
Nov. 3: at Colorado
Nov. 10: Oregon State
Nov. 17: at Oregon
Nov. 24: at UCLA

This schedule sucks and it’s extremely unfortunate that our athletic department didn’t try for something better. Let’s start with the fact that, out of Stanford’s six home games next season, three come before the start of fall quarter: San Jose State, Duke and USC. This is hugely unfortunate for two main reasons. Obviously, the vast majority of students won’t be able to attend any of these games; since next year will be my last on the Farm, I’m especially ticked off that I’ll get to see Stanford football in person a grand total of three times in a 12-game season. Nearly as important is the fact that USC is one of those games. Whenever the Trojans come to town, it’s always the biggest home game of the regular season and a guaranteed sellout, so it’s an incredible letdown that only a few of us will get to go to that one.

This year's Stanford-USC matchup was a triple-OT thriller. Too bad we won't get to see these teams play next year.

Next, let’s take a look at the three teams we will get to see at home: Arizona, Washington State and Oregon State. These three programs were at or near the bottom of the Pac-12 in 2011, and were three of the five conference teams that failed to earn bowl eligibility. Arizona and Washington State both ended up firing their coaches, and Oregon State’s top man enters the season on the conference’s hottest seat. While we’re probably not going to steamroll these teams the way we did this season, I’m not exactly excited to see games featuring some of the Pac-12’s cellar dwellers. As an addendum to all of this, five of our last seven games are on the road, meaning it’ll be tough for us to follow the team and put more pressure on the team to win road games late in the season.

Last but certainly not least, notice how the Big Game has been inexplicably moved up to mid-October, when it has traditionally taken place in late November (usually the Saturday before Thanksgiving). Big Game, and the week leading up to it, are among the most hallowed traditions both on the Farm and across the Bay at Cal; putting the game in mid-October messes everything up and makes Big Game highly anti-climactic.

The reason for all of these shenanigans is two letters: TV. The Pac-12’s scheduling priorities are dictated entirely by the conference’s television partners. The upshot is that every Pac-12 game will be available nationwide on television, which I guess is supposed to substitute for taking away our game day experience.


We Shouldn’t Have Won that Game

Monday, October 31st, 2011

I realize that what I’m about to say probably borders on heretical, but here it goes anyway: Stanford got thoroughly outplayed and outcoached by USC last night, and it’s fairly miraculous that our beloved Cardinal managed to leave the Coliseum with a victory. Of course, any team needs some luck (and no, I don’t mean Andrew Luck) to win a triple-overtime game, but Stanford got so many breaks that I have to wonder if the oft-cited “football gods” actually exist and are smiling on the Card.

Let’s start with the horrendous play of our defense, which sorely misses injured starters Shayne Skov and Delano Howell. It couldn’t stop the run—Curtis McNeal ran right over Stanford’s vaunted front seven for 145 yards on 20 carries. More than anything, though, the secondary blew so many coverages that I could have stayed at The Peninsula Beverly Hills if I had a dollar for each one. There were several plays where Stanford’s defensive backs got torched and then got lucky when the Trojans failed to execute, usually via a dropped pass or an overthrown ball from USC quarterback Matt Barkley. I vividly remember one instance where star USC receiver Robert Woods had nothing but green in front of him, only to see the pass bounce off his right hand harmlessly onto the turf. To top it all off, the pass rush was nonexistent; Barkley got hit a few times but didn’t take a single sack.

Then there was the miracle drive with three minutes remaining to tie the game at 34 each. Sure, Andrew Luck led a great drive down the field to tie the score with about 40 seconds remaining; however, the offense probably never would have scored that touchdown without a personal-foul penalty on USC’s T.J. McDonald to keep the drive alive after a third down incompletion.

Of course, there’s also the fact that USC probably would have had the chance to kick a game-winning field goal as time expired in regulation had it not been for a momentous screw-up. With nine seconds left to go, Barkley completed a pass to Woods to get into field goal range, but Woods ran to the side instead of going down and calling timeout; his run took the remaining seconds off the clock and sent the game to OT. “I was yelling at Robert to get down because I could see the clock,” Barkley said later. “That play never really goes that far across the field. It’s designed to turn upfield.”

Last but not least, let’s talk about the penalties. Stanford committed 11 penalties for 91 yards; USC got hit with three for 35 yards. You’re just not supposed to make that many mistakes against a team like USC and walk away with a win. Penalties killed a Cardinal drive or two and extended Trojan offensive drives as well. It’s not that the refs were homers, either—Stanford just played sloppy football.

As any football player or coach will tell you, a win is a win no matter how you got it, and it keeps Stanford undefeated and in the hunt for the national championship. On Saturday, the team that played better couldn’t close it out and win the game, and that happens all the time in football. Stanford fans had just better hope that the USC performance isn’t the best this team is capable of, because if it is, then the Nov. 12 showdown with Oregon is definitely not going to be a pleasant experience.