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CHRIS DUFRESNE ON PAC-10 FOOTBALL

Stanford unranked? That's a Cardinal sin

Stanford is 4-1 overall and 3-0 in the Pacific 10, widely regarded as one of the nation's strongest conferences. So why is the Cardinal getting no love from poll voters?

October 07, 2009|CHRIS DUFRESNE | ON COLLEGE FOOTBALL

Maybe all these pollsters need is a weekend visit to a Palo Alto think tank.

Situation: the Pacific 10 and Southeastern conferences this season are generally conceded to be the top two, right?

Five of the six computers used in the Bowl Championship Series formula are currently publishing, and the SEC is ranked first in four indexes: Sagarin, Anderson & Hester, Billingsley and Colley. The Pac-10 is ranked second in four and No. 1 in Massey.

Problem: Stanford is leading the Pac-10 with a 3-0 record, yet is not ranked in the top 25 in the three polls that elicit weekly assessments from humans: Associated Press media, USA Today coaches and Harris.

USC is No. 7 in every poll but lost to the team, Washington, that Stanford beat by 20 points.

Stanford's only loss came in the final two seconds at Wake Forest, not Lake Forest, and last weekend the Cardinal handed a first defeat to UCLA, the Pac-10's last remaining unbeaten team.

OK, it must have been the old time-zone issue -- you know, East Coast voters falling asleep and not seeing the final score.

Actually, UCLA-Stanford was a day game in the West.

What gives? Well, no one's sure.

Coach Jim Harbaugh, in the spontaneity of victory, suggested after the UCLA game that, to many players and coaches, Stanford is "maybe not the preferred BCS-type football school that they think of."

What in Silicon Valley did he mean?

"The perception," Harbaugh said on Tuesday's Pac-10 coaches' conference call. "The respect, that has to be earned."

Beyond that, Harbaugh backed away from suggesting anything more sinister.

"We're taking a very humble approach," he said of being 4-1 and not ranked. "And our eyes are on Oregon State. . . . As far as anything else, that's irrelevant to us. We're a blue-collar team. Blue-collar teams don't need to be ranked right now. If we deserve that, we'll muscle our way in."

If Harbaugh wished to pursue a favoritism/conspiracy theory, he could have noted that another 4-1 school, USC, is No. 1 in the same Sagarin ratings that have Stanford at No. 30.

"They should be ranked," Oregon State Coach Mike Riley said of the Cardinal.

UCLA Coach Rick Neuheisel, a voter in the USA Today poll, said he put Stanford in his top 25. That would be reflected in the Cardinal's receiving 43 points in the category of "others receiving votes."

The Stanford snub probably has something to do with a conference that, outside of USC, still lacks respect on a national scale.

As Neuheisel noted, though, it more likely has to do with voters not paying attention -- now there's a shock.

"I think it really has to do with people not studying," Neuheisel said.

Perhaps Stanford could garner more respect if it could someday defeat a major power such as a USC. Wait, that happened two years ago.

Or, maybe there is just no explaining it.

Stanford, the "blue collar" school that produces all those bus drivers and assembly line workers, may just have to keep punching the clock.

"It will all shake out in the end," Neuheisel promised.

In the BCS, doesn't it always?

Of note

Twist (the numbers) and shout. File this in the department of lies, damn lies and statistics:

Arizona State quarterback Danny Sullivan was booed by Sun Devils fans after completing 32 of 58 passes for 338 yards in Saturday's 28-17 loss to Oregon State. Sullivan had one touchdown, one interception and was sacked once.

Arizona State Coach Dennis Erickson says he is sticking with Sullivan for this week's game at Washington State despite calls for a change at quarterback.

Meanwhile, USC Coach Pete Carroll continues to marvel at the play of freshman Matt Barkley.

"He is playing as good of football as anybody we have ever had, already," Carroll gushed after Barkley completed 20 of 35 passes for 283 yards, with no touchdowns and one interception, in USC's 30-3 win at Cal.

Sullivan has thrown three touchdown passes, with two interceptions. He ranks 40th in the NCAA passing statistics this week.

Barkley has thrown three touchdown passes, with two interceptions. He ranks 70th in NCAA passing statistics this week.

What did Coach Jeff Tedford think after watching film of Cal's 30-3 loss to USC last weekend? "It kind of looked like what it looked like live."

Mike Stoops is 28-35 since taking over at Arizona but his teams are 7-3 on the road against the four Pacific Northwest schools. Arizona (3-1, 1-0) plays this week at Washington (2-3, 1-1).

--

chris.dufresne@latimes.com

twitter.com/Dufresne

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