OK, the biggest game in the history of Stanford sports (we’re big on hyperbole, so forgive the overstatement) did not go the Cardinal’s way. Worse yet, No. 9 Stanford let a 21-3 lead get away and did not score a single point in the second half of a 52-31 loss to No. 4 Oregon on Saturday.
So where does this leave the Cardinal?
– A new BCS rule this season could ruin the Cardinal’s chance of getting to the Rose Bowl. If Oregon wins the rest of its games, the Ducks might get into the national championship game. And in past seasons that would put the Pac-10 runnerup into the Rose Bowl. But a rule in effect for the first time this season changes that. If a Pac-10 team reaches the national title game this season, a team from a conference that does not get an automatic BCS game berth (such as TCU or Boise State) would get the Rose Bowl berth instead of the Pac-10 runnerup.
– The Rose Bowl is not out of the picture for Stanford, but the Cardinal needs quite a bit of help and has to rebound to beat a shaken USC team next week at Stanford. The Trojans aren’t feeling so hot either after losing to Washington at home, and there is no reason Stanford should lose to USC even after the disappointment in Eugene. The Ducks would have to lose at least one conference game for the Cardinal to have any shot at the Rose Bowl, and that probably would not do it either, because Oregon would win a two-team tiebreaker with Stanford based on the head-to-head result. A three-way tie for first could go Stanford’s way depending on how the other tie-breakers shake out. Oregon is not likely to lose at home, and Arizona must play at Eugene. Road games against USC and Oregon State seem like the only possible losses for the Ducks. It does not look good for the Cardinal and the Rose Bowl.
– So long, national championship talk. So long, top-10 ranking. So long, Heisman talk for Andrew Luck, who looked every bit like a pro quarterback but threw two interceptions and did nothing in the second half when it mattered most.
– The Cardinal may be without its two topflight wide receivers when it plays USC. Ryan Whalen, the team’s best receiver, has missed the past two games and probably will be out against USC with an elbow injury. And Chris Owusu was knocked out the game against Oregon with a wicked hit, and with the precaution regarding head injuries these days, it seems unlikely he will play against the Trojans.
– The Cardinal has now lost five straight games when ranked in the top 10 dating back to the 1970 season, but the Cardinal should still be ranked in the top 20 come Sunday afternoon.
– Losing at Eugene is no embarrassment. The Ducks have scored more than 30 points in 18 straight home games, and this may be their best team since the Oregon squad that clobbered Colorado in the Fiesta Bowl following the 2001 season. The Ducks ended up No. 2 in the country that season, and felt they got screwed out of playing in the national title game. This Oregon team may be as good; it’s certainly more explosive offensively. The loss of Jeremiah Masoli has not hurt the Ducks a bit. You could make a pretty good argument that they are better off with Darron Thomas, although that is a bit of a tough sell.
– Oregon coach Chip Kelly came up with the candid quote of the day following the game. When asked what he told his team’s defense at halftime that enabled it to shut out the Cardinal in the second half, he said, “I have no idea. I don’t talk to them. I coach the offense.”