With the kickoff to the 2013-2014 college football season less than two weeks away, I feel compelled to publicly express the shock and awe that I have for the current state of Stanford football. The past 3 seasons The Cardinal are 35-5. I repeat, 35-5!! The Cardinal have played in 3 straight BCS bowls and came within a make-able missed field goal of winning all 3! To put this in perspective, over the same period Texas has compiled a record of 22-16, Michigan 26-13 and Nebraska 29-12. You may ask yourself, “What about the 2010 & 2012 National Champion Alabama Crimson Tide?” Answer: 35-5!! The same mark as the student-athletes down on “the farm” in Palo Alto. Only the Nike run football academy in Eugene, Oregon has fared better over the same period. And if that’s not enough to boggle the mind, the Cardinal start the upcoming season ranked #4 in the AP poll ahead of football-first universities such as Georgia and LSU. A truly remarkable feat.
How Jim Harbaugh took over a 1-11 squad in ‘07 and departed with a 12-1 record in just 4 years remains one of the great mysteries in all of sports. We are not talking about a turnaround job in Ann Arbor or South Bend, places rich in tradition where the passion for football is passed through the generations. No, Harbaugh was able to unleash his enthusiasm unknown to mankind and sell kids on an elite academic university in the least likely place for a college football powerhouse in all of America. Smack in the heart of Silicon Valley. A campus where a future first round NFL linebacker is just another anonymous future millionaire heading to class. A campus where the average student likely has a better understanding of the laws of physics than the 3-4 defense. A stadium that even when filled to capacity is still 10,000 fewer people than a sub-par Tennessee team draws for their spring scrimmage! There is no 145,000 sq/ft private athletic facility to shelter the gladiators from the masses. No exclusive off campus luxury football housing complex to relax in after practice. No rock star treatment when arriving at a frat party. I would be curious to see if the Sergey Brin jersey would outsell the Kevin Hogan?
It helped that Harbaugh had a once in a generation QB at the helm in Andrew Luck, but keep in mind, the great John Elway was only 20-23 during his Stanford tenure. Somehow Harbaugh was miraculously able to put together a complete 85 man roster with the size, depth and most importantly, the speed to play with the elite.
And then he passed the baton to David Shaw and bolted for the NFL, but Stanford kept on winning. One year later when Andrew Luck moved on to play on Sundays it seemed a foregone conclusion that this amazing little chapter had to come to an end, but Stanford marched on with an 11-2 record and a Rose Bowl victory. Now The Cardinal embark upon another season with the most feared defense in all the land. It defies logic. It’s hard to fathom. Move over Tallahassee, goodbye Tuscaloosa, Lee Corso and the Gameday crew are headed to Palo Alto! It still just sounds weird.