Power trumped speed.
Who understands economics better than Stanford minds do? When everyone around you is investing in one thing, you should probably invest in something else.
As most of the Pac-12 continues to go all in on tempo, speed, and the air game, Stanford exploits the market, stockpiling huge offensive linemen, tight ends, power backs, and front-seven titans. No. 3 Oregon revolutionized West Coast football, but No. 5 Stanford quashed the revolution, winning 26-20 after a brief Ducks comeback.
Not to make everything about the SEC, but we're learning the Pac-12's greatest long-term threat to SEC dominance is a program that can meet the Southerners on their own battlefield. The Cardinal defense, which has held the Ducks' offense to 13 and 14 offensive points in the last two seasons, could stand up to any offense in the country, including the ground games of Alabama and Auburn or the aerial attacks of LSU or Texas A&M. The behemoth Stanford offensive line -- the one that runs the monster formation until it stops working and uses a blocking H-back who weighs 316 pounds and wears No. 98 -- would be a handful for Alabama, LSU, or South Carolina.
And, yeah, this team lost to Utah. So did Alabama once. I don't know what to tell you about that, and neither does anybody else.
Progressive Stanford bowling teams over with its conservative offense doesn't make sense, but when you cast it against the rest of the Pac-12's follow-the-leader mentality, it's hard to imagine the Cardinal doing anything else.
Both programs are considered nouveau riche in the longview, and both have carved out idiosyncratic philosophies on recruiting personnel and scheme. An outsider might easily want to swap their styles of play on cultural grounds -- surely the cutting edge of Silicon Valley would champion a system nicknamed "Blur" that reevaluates the scoring potential of everything, and if any kind of football would personify the survivalist ethos of Ken Kesey's rainy Oregon logging culture, it would be the power running game.
Alas, the Stanford monster run formation served to be a more fearsome troll of Oregon than anything the band ever did. The Cardinal's out-and-out domination of Oregon through three quarters of a 26-20 win on Thursday came from the repeated bludgeoning of 66 total runs and 157 yards from Tyler Gaffney, built by gaping rush lanes. And Stanford's defense flushed the idea that their 2012 win in Eugene was any kind of fluke, showing an even more refined ability to blow up screens and perimeter runs with aggression while maintaining disciplined downfield coverage.
Baylor moved its goalposts.
The nation's best offense -- and potentially the ultimate college football offense -- met the challenge that had been established for it. Baylor overproduced, in fact. The Bears opened as 12-point favorites over Oklahoma. That line rose as high as 16.5 at some books. Baylor won by 29.
So now the remaining skeptics adjust the standard for Baylor; it's time to come up with reasons why Oklahoma wasn't a sufficient challenge in the first place. Oklahoma lost to Texas (but not as badly as it lost to Baylor). Oklahoma had key injuries (but Baylor lost Tevin Reese, Glasco Martin, and temporarily Lache Seastrunk during the game). Oklahoma's offensive play-calling was horrible (but Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty was off his game for most of the first half). And so on and so forth.
Next up for Baylor is No. 25 Texas Tech. Texas Tech is probably overrated, so I'll give the skeptics that one ahead of time. After that is a trip to No. 14 Oklahoma State, long circled as the toughest game on the Bears' schedule. If Baylor survives that likely shootout, we'll then be reminded that the Cowboys lost to West Virginia. TCU and Texas follow, both of whom also have built-in reasons we should discount potential Bears wins.
All Baylor can do is keep blowing teams off the field. I'm not arguing for Art Briles and company to overtake other unbeaten teams in the rankings at this point, but I am arguing that if you're still not taking Baylor seriously, you need to catch up. And that's fine, because lots of people are trying to catch up to Baylor.
(And it should be noted: Baylor's lines wouldn't get demolished by a team like Stanford's to the same degree that Oregon's did. Depending on the arrangement, Baylor's starting five offensive linemen outweigh Oregon's by something like 20 pounds per man.)
Florida State is in line for the BCS National Championship Game.
That anticipated full month of yelling between Oregon and Florida State fans and everyone else about which team deserves to be No. 2? It's off the schedule now. FSU is the clear, undeniable No. 2 in the BCS now and will remain so until either (a) it loses or (b) it pulls out multiple tough wins as Ohio State and Baylor continue to light planets aflame.
Before the game, Bill Connelly calculated the following based on win projections:
Odds of ranking in the BCS top two heading into Week 15 if ... Baylor and Stanford win Thursday
Florida State 89%
So basically, if you believe that a one-loss Alabama team would rank ahead of Baylor and Ohio State, an Oregon loss tonight would all but solidify the odds of a Bama-FSU title game. If you don't believe that, then it becomes a ridiculously tight race between a potential 11-1 Alabama team, Stanford, Ohio State, and Baylor.
Jimbo Fisher vs. his former boss. Jameis Winston vs. his home state. Power vs. power and five-stars vs. five-stars. And, for '80s and '90s babies, an even bigger clash of name brands than Alabama vs. Notre Dame was. Don't carve it in stone yet, but the game sells itself.
How excited were Noles fans about the outcome? Tomahawk Nation published this seconds before the final whistle:
Florida State, if it stays undefeated, will keep its No. 2 ranking in the BCS and play for the BCS title against an opponent that will be determined as the season goes on.
Quarterback Jameis Winston also moves to the front of the Heisman race, as Oregon's Marcus Mariota, perhaps battling an existing knee injury, was brutal, producing by far the worst performance of either quarterback on the year.
And, yeah, the Heisman as well. We can debate how Winston would've looked on the road against Stanford's defense and with a knee that was reportedly dinged up before the game -- remember, he threw two picks against Miami's less-than-Stanford defense. But the fact that he hasn't been shut out for three quarters on national television changes the Heisman race, possibly for good.
Baylor, Ohio State, and Stanford are next in line.
If FSU slips, either at Florida or against Virginia Tech or Miami or whoever in the ACC Championship, or if Alabama falls to Auburn, LSU, or Missouri, we have a new three-way brawl for the other title spot. I don't know how to rank those three teams right now, but there are lots of opinions!
The whole ACC won.
Not only did Stanford's win make FSU a heavy favorite to reach Pasadena, it also opened up a spot in the rest of the BCS. The Noles were in line to take the ACC's automatic bid in the Orange Bowl, likely against a Big Ten or Big 12 team. Since the Orange surrenders FSU to the title game in this scenario, it gets to make two of the first three at-large selections (as it also has the first non-replacement pick).
The Orange's ACC ties will only strengthen after this season, when the bowl becomes a virtual ACC property. There's almost no way the Orange won't pick an 11-1 or 10-2 Clemson team. And the Orange would likely get to pick up Oregon as well (assuming the Sugar takes an SEC team, as it's almost certain to do), creating what should be bowl season's biggest offensive showcase.
Two teams in BCS bowls means double the windfall for all ACC schools (last year, each BCS team earned $18 million for its conference, meaning each ACC school could land about $3 million if both FSU and Clemson make it in) and a chance to completely change the conference's national perception in a single January.
But for now, the perceptions being changed are Baylor's and Stanford's.
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