Pac-10 Week 11 Notes and Observations: Stanford Cardinal

By Sam Saig, November 18, 2009 11:49 am

Stanford Cardinal 7-3 Overall (6-2 Conference)

This Week’s Score: Stanford 55 – USC 21

Next Week’s Opponent: Cal

I thought last week’s win over Oregon would be the signature moment of the 2009 season for Stanford…boy was I wrong. Make no mistake about it, the Cardinal beat a better team two weeks ago in Palo Alto, but what Jim Harbaugh’s club accomplished in the Coliseum this past Saturday was absolutely remarkable.

For those still trying to figure out how this Stanford team has become a legitimate threat to win the Pac-10, all you have to do is take a look back at Harbaugh’s Pac-10 Media Day press conference from July. The 45-year old coach made it quite clear that his team was preparing for war every week. “This is going to be a physical conference — only the strong are going to survive in this environment, 2009 Pac-10 football. This is going to be a mighty men conference this year.”

Harbaugh challenged his team to be the most mentally and physically prepared group in the conference, and they have been.

The Cardinal consistently won the battle at the line of scrimmage against USC, as both the o-line and d-line punished the Trojans throughout the game. Obviously RB Toby Gerhart had another Heisman-worthy day (178 yards 3 TDs) but in my opinion the real reason Stanford has a shot at the Rose Bowl is because of #12. With all due respect to Tavita Pritchard, this Stanford offense is virtually identical to last season’s unit except at the quarterback position.

I believe Andrew Luck is the best QB in the Pac-10, and it continues to astound me that he is a redshirt freshman. Luck did not have a monster day against ‘SC (12-22 144 yards 2 TDs, 61 yards rushing 1 TD) but he easily won the “Battle of the Pac-10’s Young Guns” over Matt Barkley. I am amazed at Luck’s pocket presence, as he always seems to be in control of every play. Can you imagine how good this kid will be in 2-3 years?

How about the Stanford D? Ron Lynn’s unit was all over Barkley (threw three picks), and I have to believe Harbaugh is thrilled with how the group rebounded after the shaky performance against Oregon (Cardinal allowed 21 points vs. ‘SC, 42 vs. UO).

Up next for Stanford is a particularly big Big Game. A Cardinal win Saturday keeps the Pac-10 title dream alive (depending on the UO-UA game), but a loss to the Bears could drop Stanford all the way to fifth in the standings. Oh, and Bay Area superiority will be on the line.

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