The Basics: Tuesday, January 2, 2012, 8:30 PM EST on ESPN, from Glendale. Oklahoma State (11-1, 8-1 Big Integer) and Stanford (11-1, 8-1 PAC12).
Steve, our regular season picks champion, just happens to also be a Stanford season ticket holder, and gives us his rationale for the Cardinal’s sure victory. Be sure to check out the counterpoint!
At the beginning of the season I posted the following to poke a little fun at my Ohio State family:
To my Buckeye friends, Last year I wished I could afford tickets to see a BCS bowl champion, with a returning Heisman candidate QB, playing for a highly successful coach with experience in 2 levels of college football, playing in a recently renovated state of the art stadium. Sadly that coach is no longer with the team, but today my dream came true. I bought season tickets to watch Andrew Luck play for Stanford and they only cost me $240 … for 6 games … for all 4 members of my family. “All … Right … Now!”
It has truly been a magical year on The Farm and since all Stanford football conversations start with Andrew Luck let’s get that out of the way early. He’s good, seriously he makes playing QB look easy, his tears have the ability to grow hair on bald men and he makes a mean western omelet.
I would love to tell you that it’s not just him, that there are all kinds of offensive threats around him. The 3-headed TE corps of Fleener, Toilolo and Ertz, the 1,100 yard back Stepfan Taylor, the strong ground game of Gafney, Wilkerson and Stewart, and the speedy sure-handed receivers Griff Whelan, Chris Owusu and Ty Montgomery. But from where I sat this year, it was pretty easy to see how it is Luck that makes them all better.
When the Cardinal has the ball, look for Luck to exploit any TE mismatches. 19 of his 35 touchdowns have gone to one of the big 3. With Ertz out and Toilolo around 70% for Oregon much of the gameplan was gone and offensive output suffered. Watching one of the 3 go down field and take on a much shorter/smaller DB is excruciatingly fun. Sadly Owusu’s concussion against Oregon State probably sealed a once promising career but, Luck’s roommate Whelan and Freshman Ty Montgomery have filled in well. The hidden gem of the Cardinal attack is the running game. 2nd in the Pac 12 (passing was 6th btw) in yards per game, the running game owes much to the attention opposing defenses pay to Luck. All of this behind a front line with 2 2-time all Pac 12 OLs that gives up less than 1 sack per game and against the 83rd ranked rushing and 107th ranked total defense in the country. If I were Luck, I would have stayed in school for that too.
On defense the story is going to be simple, limit the big plays. OSU will be unable to move the ball on the ground. Period. I am sure they could care less. They will throw the ball and to tell you the truth it’s the part of this game that has me the most scared. The secondary has allowed over 250 yards in the air for 6 of the last 7 games with the sole exception being Oregon who didn’t need it. The DBs will need to come up with 1 or 2 stops because conceivably that is all it will take. I fear this mostly because of all the unnecessary big gainers given up to the likes of Washington State, Colorado, Washington, Berkely and Notre Dame not to mention Oregon and USC. A lack of effective running here may allow for extra help in the secondary.
This will be one of those high scoring affairs, but not one of the, “last one with the ball wins” types. This will be more, “he who makes the least number of mistakes wins.” Luck is human and has shown he can make the wrong decision on occasion. He threw 6 of his 9 interceptions in the last 5 games of the season, threw 2 against a much faster Duck D and almost cost the USC game with a late pick-6. Keep the Pokes offense off the field, cause +1 or more in turnover margin, and let Andrew be Andrew and everything will work out fine. As the say in Palo Alto, “Give ‘em the axe!”