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CHRIS DUFRESNE / ON COLLEGE FOOTBALL

Stanford is the best team no one seems to care about

The Cardinal has the longest winning streak in major-college football (12) and the nation's best player (Andrew Luck), yet it keeps dropping in the polls.

October 02, 2011|Chris Dufresne
  • Stanford Coach David Shaw shouts instructions to his team during a 45-19 victory over UCLA on Saturday at Stanford Stadium.
Stanford Coach David Shaw shouts instructions to his team during a 45-19… (Ezra Shaw / Getty Images )

Imagine Stanford playing in the Southeastern Conference, in the daytime, on CBS.

Picture Verne Lundquist and Gary Danielson gushing about Cardinal quarterback Andrew Luck.

"He's a composite of Archie Manning [Mississippi] and Tim Tebow [Florida]," Lundquist might say.

"I actually see an amalgam of Joe Namath [Alabama], Fran Tarkenton [Georgia], George Blanda [Kentucky] and Peyton Manning [Tennessee]," Danielson might counter.

Stanford has to be the quietest greatest team out there — and it has to be someone's fault. The school has played its last two games, against Arizona and UCLA, in the dead of the East Coast night.

People who say "don't sleep on Stanford" don't understand how hard it is stay awake that late.

Luck is going to be the No. 1 pick in next year's NFL draft, yet you hear more about other quarterbacks.

Baylor's Robert Griffin III has been the early-season darling. He entered Saturday's game against Kansas State with more touchdown passes than incomplete passes. Even though Baylor lost, Griffin still leads the nation with a staggering 230.33 efficiency rating. Griffin is completing 82% of his passes, with 18 touchdowns and one interception.

Griffin has the cool, Space Age nickname RGIII.

Wisconsin quarterback Russell Wilson is charging up Heisman Trophy watch lists after leading the Badgers to a prime-time win over Nebraska on Saturday night. Having Brent Musburger on the ABC microphone is a key to any "how-to-win-a-Heisman" kit.

People in Tennessee still think Musburger's "victors valiant" call of Michigan-Ohio State in 1997 tilted the Heisman to Charles Woodson over their beloved Manning.

Wisconsin is Heisman-savvy, having fairly recently produced 1999 winner Ron Dayne, and has come up with a killer social network Twitter tag for this year's candidate:

@RussellManiaXVI. (Wilson wears uniform No. 16.)

Stanford's only Heisman winner was Jim Plunkett … in 1970.

John Elway finished second in 1982 behind Georgia's Herschel Walker.

It didn't matter which one turned out better — Walker played in the SEC.

There does, however, seem to be a late-night lag time between dispatches on Stanford.

Is Luck having a so-so year? Did shaving his beard in the summer camp zap him from some power?

Well, no. He's completing 71% of his passes, with 11 touchdowns and only one interception.

In Saturday's win over UCLA, he methodically and manically dissected the Bruins' defense. Luck completed 23 of 27 passes for 227 yards for three touchdowns and no interceptions. It paled with numbers being tossed about farther south at the Coliseum, where USC's Matt Barkley and Arizona's Nick Foles combined for 893 passing yards in a terrific intramural flag-football game.

Later that night, about 11 Eastern time, Luck made an incredible one-handed circus catch on a trick play while keeping his foot inbounds.

"There's about five positions the guy can play," Stanford Coach David Shaw said afterward. "Receiver, tight end, outside linebacker. We kind of like what he does at quarterback."

It was also revealed afterward that Luck, a la Peyton Manning, called his own plays on five possessions — two of which led to touchdowns.

"I have never seen someone with that much football intelligence," UCLA safety Tony Dye said afterward.

Maybe people just take Stanford for granted, maybe they just don't care. Maybe they don't think Stanford cares.

The Cardinal, though, with 12 straight wins, has the longest winning streak in major-college football.

The team has not been challenged by an opponent since a 17-13 win at Arizona State last Nov. 13.

Stanford has won seven games since by 48-14, 38-0, 40-12, 57-3, 44-14, 37-10 and 45-19.

If there was a playoff at the end of last season, the Cardinal was probably the team you wanted to play least.

Stanford finished No. 4 in the final Associated Press poll and was returning the nation's top player in Luck. Just because Jim Harbaugh left, apparently, Stanford opened this year at No. 7.

Stanford worked all the way up to No. 5 two weeks ago but slipped one spot during its week off and dropped another after beating UCLA.

Clemson moved up five positions this week, to No. 8, after a 20-point win at Virginia Tech.

Funny, but Stanford crushed a better Hokies team by 28 points last year in the Orange Bowl.

The voting coaches, for some scary reason, think more highly of Stanford. They have the Cardinal at No. 4.

What do their sports information directors know that the sportswriters don't?

If Stanford keeps winning, you'd think there would be no place else to go but up.

But don't bet the Farm on that.

Weekend wrap

--Sure, you saw this coming: Kansas State (Big 12), Clemson (Atlantic Coast), Rutgers (Big East) and Illinois (Big Ten) are all in first place. Illinois is 5-0 for the first time since 1951. Texas needs one victory to equal last year's total. "I'm not sure a lot of people would have thought five weeks ago we would've been 4-0 right now," Coach Mack Brown said.

--How about them apples? The Washington schools are 7-2. In 2008, Washington finished 0-12 and Washington State finished 2-11, with wins over Portland State and … Washington.

--Mr. Positive says UCLA's three defeats have come against schools that are a combined 13-0 with an average USA Today poll ranking of 13.333.

--Mr. Negative notes the remaining winless schools are Miami of Ohio, Florida Atlantic, Western Kentucky, Oregon State, New Mexico and Alabama Birmingham.

--Don't count them out: Defending national champion Auburn's 16-13 win over South Carolina was the Tigers' third this year by a touchdown or less. "It is a huge landmark victory for us moving forward," Auburn Coach Gene Chizik said of the win at South Carolina. Auburn (4-1, 2-0) moves forward to Arkansas next week.

--Michigan moved up seven spots to No. 12 after its 58-0 win over Minnesota … really? Duke and Ohio State are still receiving votes in the USA Today poll … really?

chris.dufresne@latimes.com

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