Author Archive - Willys

About Willys:

Willys DeVoll is the editor-in-chief and founder of The Daily Axe, a Stanford sports site.

Pasadena-Bound?

Thursday, November 4th, 2010
2011 Rose Bowl

(Image via Wikipedia)

[This post originally appeared on DailyAxe.com]

In the spirit of a new month and an updated Power Rankings that received a lot of positive reader feedback, today we’re reconsidering another all-time Reader Favorite, “The Rose Bowl Dilemma”. With the Card’s shutout victory in Seattle last Saturday and a big game coming up this weekend against #13 Arizona, Stanford fans are once again dreaming big about what might become of the 2010 Cardinal football campaign. And when PAC-10 fans (and Big Ten fans, for that matter) dream big about football, the Rose Bowl is almost always involved.

Stanford has a shot to play in Pasadena, but that shot seems to be decreasing in probability. Understand premise 1: Stanford must win out. The Cardinal would have almost no opportunity to play in the Rose Bowl if they don’t win every remaining game. (more…)

Daily Axe Preview: Stanford-Washington

Thursday, October 28th, 2010
jakelocker

Jake Locker's health is a key to Saturday's game. (Image by avinashkunnath via Flickr)

Washington comes into this weekend’s game at 3-4 and a pedestrian 2-2 in the PAC-10. The Huskies have suffered embarrassing losses to Nebraska (56-21), Arizona (44-14), and a BYU team that we now know is terrible. But Washington’s 2010 campaign has also included close wins at USC and against Oregon State in double overtime two weeks ago. The Huskies have a great home field advantage at Husky Stadium in Seattle–they’re averaging nearly 67,000 fans per game— but are just 2-2 at home so far. And their win-loss history is not a predictable product of their opponents: the Huskies should have beaten BYU and lost to Oregon State. So what’s up with UW?

Jake Locker. The performance of the Huskies’s star senior quarterback is an incredibly reliable predictor of success. When Locker throws for more than 270 yards, the Huskies win. When he doesn’t, they lose. Locker’s passer rating also flawlessly indicates whether UW wins or loses: when his rating tops 124, Washington wins. Locker’s completion percentage is only slightly less telling of how successful the entire team will be on a given Saturday. With the exception of the loss to Arizona State on October 9, the Huskies have won every game in which Locker has completed at least 60% of his passes. (more…)

It Must Have Been the Hair

Saturday, October 23rd, 2010

Butch couldn't get it done on Saturday. (Image via Flickr)

Let’s face it: the final score of today’s Stanford-Washington State football game was just a tad (read: sarcasm) surprising. Stanford was a 34-point favorite, it’s Homecoming Weekend, and Washington State hasn’t defeated an FBS opponent this season. So casual fans who look up the final result and see 38-28 Cardinal will most likely be taken aback. But what happened?

I offer two theories:

Theory 1: Sekope Kaufusi

Who’s Sekope Kaufusi, you ask? Good question. He’s a 6′ 3″, 236-pound, Redwood City-raised linebacker for the Cougars. He didn’t make enough tackles to even appear on the Stanford Press Relations stat sheet. He’s a member of a defense that let Stanford accumulate 28 first downs, 439 yards, and 38 points. But Sekope Kaufusi just might explain the unexpected closeness of this afternoon’s game.

In the often strange world of collegiate athletics, little things can often make the pregame underdog the postgame victor. Remember the 2006 George Mason run to the Final Four, which started when a nut punch galvanized the Patriots and inspired them to keep outplaying themselves? Remember when the 2007 Appalachian State Mountaineers beat #5 Michigan in Ann Arbor for absolutely no reason? What I–and I think nearly everyone else–love about college sports is their unpredictability and amateur athletes’ susceptibility to be influenced by the most seemingly trivial factors.

And that’s exactly why Sekope Kaufusi may have given his team the boost they needed to finish within 10 points of the heavily favored and clearly superior Stanford Cardinal. (more…)

Daily Axe Preview: Stanford-Washington State

Friday, October 22nd, 2010
Butch T. Cougar, mascot of Washington State Un...

I WANT YOU to beat the Cougars. (Image via Wikipedia)

[This post originally appeared on DailyAxe.com]

It’s Homecoming Weekend on the Farm, Stanford is coming off a bye week, and the PAC-10’s second-best team is hosting the worst football team in the conference. All signs point to a complete and total obliteration. Nonetheless, Saturday’s game deserves a thorough preview, and there are some wild cards to consider. Washington State, for instance, has been improving in recent games. Sure, the Cougars are still 1-6 (their only win was a 1-point victory over FCS team Montana State) but they kept Arizona to 24 points last week and lost to Oregon by a smaller margin than Stanford did.

The weather forecast for Saturday also predicts rain, which presumably would hurt Stanford more than it would hurt Washington State. Even though the Card rely on a smash-mouth style of play, it’s hard to deny that rain would slow down the Stanford offense. But can Washington State keep up either way? (more…)

The Daily Axe’s Rose Bowl Dilemma

Saturday, October 16th, 2010
Rose Bowl

The Cardinal still have a realistic opportunity to make the Rose Bowl. (Image via Wikipedia)

[This post originally appeared on DailyAxe.com]

Every PAC-10 and Big Ten football team begins each season with the goal of reaching the Rose Bowl. In today’s college football culture, such a goal has nearly become quaint: teams willingly aim for the traditional standard of regional excellence rather than the moneyed-up, political maneuverings associated with the BCS National Championship Game. But now that the season if half completed, some teams are out of the hunt completely (we’re looking at you, Washington State), others hold only the faintest chances (UCLA, Arizona State), one team is the clear-cut favorite (Oregon) and the others have impossibly complicated scenarios with which to gain a ticket to Pasadena. So to give you an idea of Stanford’s Road to Pasadena and weed out some erroneous rumors, here is what would need to occur for the Cardinal to play in the Rose Bowl.

  1. Stanford has to win out. Sure, this isn’t mathematically necessary, but Oregon would have to lose at least 3 times in its last 6 games in order for Stanford to lose 1 more and make the Rose Bowl. Anyone who has watched the Ducks this season should know that they will not go .500 the rest of the way, especially with an upcoming 4 consecutive weeks of games against unranked opponents on the schedule. Even if Oregon did lose 3 games, another team–most likely Arizona–could step into the Rose Bowl slot if Stanford falters. (more…)

Daily Axe Preview: Stanford-USC

Thursday, October 7th, 2010
Quarterback Matt Barkley during a visit to a U...

QB Matt Barkley and USC run the bro style offense. (Image via Wikipedia)

[This post originally appeared on DailyAxe.com]

For the first time in years, Stanford is the favorite to beat USC. Sure, the Cardinal overcame the greatest odds in football history to beat USC in the Coliseum in 2007, and Stanford thumped the Trojans in Los Angeles last year. But USC hasn’t been double-digit underdogs–the lines move, but it looks like the spread will be about 10 points at game time–since before the turn of the millennium. That spread came in September 1998, before Pete Carroll took over in Heritage Hall, when USC was set to play at Florida State. All this is to preface the following: USC finds itself in an unfamiliar, and probably uncomfortable, position.

The Trojans are also coming off their first loss of the season, a 32-31 defeat in the Coliseum to the hands of Jake Locker’s Washington Huskies. But the 2010 Trojans are not the USC of old, which would occasionally drop a game or two and still look dominant most of the time. Lane Kiffin’s USC v. 1.0 hasn’t played good defense and looks susceptible to giving up tons of points to the offensive juggernauts of the PAC-10 (i.e. Oregon, Stanford, and Arizona). Against Washington, the USC defense allowed 536 yards of total offense, a 50% 3rd down conversion rate, and forced only one turnover. And although Washington isn’t one of the conference’s weaker offenses, it isn’t as productive as Stanford’s. Washington’s average of 28 points scored per game pales in comparison to the Card’s nearly 45 points per contest, so USC’s defense will have its hands full. (more…)

Daily Axe Preview: Stanford-Oregon

Thursday, September 30th, 2010
Autzen Stadium in Eugene, Oregon.

Autzen Stadium, the stage for Saturday's mega-game. (Image via Wikipedia)

[This post originally appeared on DailyAxe.com]

Now begins the final lead-up to this Saturday’s Stanford-Oregon game in Eugene. By this point, you’ve probably heard much too much about the game’s pomp and circumstance, so we’ll forego mentioning the ABC national telecast, ESPN College GameDay, or the fact that the victor will secure a place in the nation’s top 5 teams, become the favorite to represent the PAC-10 in the Rose Bowl, and will have a legitimate chance to play in the BCS National Championship Game. Whoops: we just mentioned all of that. But from now on, we’re just talking football. So without further hype, apprehension, or ado, let’s talk about what’s going to happen on Autzen Stadium’s pinstriped turf (enjoy the Beethoven).

It would be silly to expect a defensive shootout, à la last week’s Alabama-Arkansas barn burner, from these two West Coast powers. Stanford and Oregon are both in the country’s top 5 in average scoring, and Oregon leads the nation with just under 58 points scored per game. The Ducks rely upon the run game to fuel their spread option offense, and that should not change on Saturday. Oregon averages almost 317 rushing yards per game (that’s good for 4th in the US of A) and features sophomore tailback LaMichael James, who is a premier running back by every measure. James leads the PAC-10 in rushing despite missing Oregon’s Week 1 game due to injury. He’s undersized (5′ 9″, 185 pounds) but speedy and agile as hell. (more…)