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Taylor: Fearing a Stanford football letdown

I have to admit it’s been a good week. I also have to hold up my hands and be honest that sports hasn’t really been on my radar for the last few days, so I hope you’ll forgive me for straying a little bit from the subject.

On Friday I faced one of the hardest challenges of my time here at Stanford, something that would decide whether or not I’d leave this place with another handful of letters to my name — my Ph.D. defense.

Logically, I should have walked into that room calm as can be. My academic advisor wouldn’t have even let me think about defending if I wasn’t guaranteed to walk out victorious. But faced with a panel of six professors about to unleash all manner of hellishly technical questions, I defy anyone not to feel at least a little bit anxious.

Fortunately, though, it all went more or less to plan. A couple of hours later, after being temporarily ushered out of the room while a decision was made, my advisor happily informed me that I’d passed.

I should have been elated, ecstatic, running crazily around campus in celebration, but my overriding emotion was just relief. I was happy, sure, but mostly just relieved.

Because the expectation of success was so high, passing didn’t seem like anything out of the ordinary — though failure, of course, would have been catastrophic. That is not to say that I was guaranteed to pass — people do fail — but the deck was heavily stacked in my favor. Not only did I get to schedule the defense only once I felt ready, but I also got to pick the panel that would judge me.

Turning my attention back to sports, all reports so far seem to suggest that next year Stanford football could be similarly favored. Ranked perhaps as highly as No. 2 in the preseason, the Cardinal could be in a position to make a serious run for the national title, while a worst-case-scenario consolation Rose Bowl trophy should be guaranteed. Right?

I can’t be the only ex-student — or soon-to-be ex-student — who has already thought about this, who has at least tentatively ensured that they have no major conflicts scheduled for early next January and perhaps has mentioned to friends who will still be students to keep them in mind for any spare tickets.

How quickly we’ve moved on. Just a few short years ago, even the thought of BCS bowl defeat would have been a dream. Now, at or near the height of its powers, we fans demand far more of Stanford football. Anything less than an appearance in Pasadena next January — the site of both the Rose Bowl Game and BCS National Championship Game next year — would be a gut-wrenching failure.

The expectation for success is now so high, not just because the football program in general has raised its stature and ability to recruit new talent, but because it is also returning so many key players from last year’s defensive line. It also faces an impressive end-of-season run-in that, should the Cardinal go undefeated, will guarantee the sort of national respect usually reserved exclusively for SEC teams. Perhaps rising junior Kevin Hogan isn’t Andrew Luck ’12, perhaps head coach David Shaw isn’t Jim Harbaugh; perhaps none of that matters. The deck is stacked, or at least as stacked as it’s ever going to be for this little non-football school.

But knowing all of that, how on earth are we expected to enjoy next year?

One day soon — probably far sooner than we’d like — the tables will be turned. Our nemesis from across the Bay will get some payback, those schools down in SoCal will eventually break their curse, and then there is that burning yellow-on-green Eye of Sauron glaring menacingly down at us from the North.

The aim for next year isn’t to go out and surprise people by winning contests. Stanford isn’t expected to win but to find some way not to lose a single one — the Cardinal is expected to win them all, at least until the end of the regular season. It will be a game of survival as all the many Davids try and take down this Goliath.

And if it escapes to the National Championship Game unscathed, my overriding emotion will be relief.

Stanford football has survived the loss of Toby Gerhart, Jim Harbaugh and Andrew Luck, but can it survive the departure of Tom Taylor? Try to convince Tom to stay at tom.taylor ‘at’ stanford.edu and follow him on Twitter @DailyTomTaylor.

  • epistaxis

    Seeing how it was an absolute fluke Stanford beat Oregon last year, you guys should be resigned to returning to runner-up status…

  • bittergradguy

    Congrats on defending!!!!

  • Imakeducksauce

    It was a fluke we scored so few points – the pass to Hewitt on 4th down comes to mind. What wasn’t a fluke was our stout defense keeping the Duck offense to a season low 2 TDs.

  • Aaron Freeman

    Give it up, duckling… Your time in the sun may be over! With the departure of Kelly, your vaunted Ducks may just get glazed with orange sauce at the Farm this year! Plus, our secondary is returning… Remember how abused your offence was at Autzen last season? Look for more of that this season! I look forward to Duck a l’orange that night! Yum!

  • Candid One

    You’re harboring that quacky amnesia, huh? You should realize that Stanford and the Ducks have split the last four meetings, 2-2. Each has won 1 game on the road and each has won i game at home during those four years that began with Toby Gerhart carrying Andrew Luck, who was 1-2 against the Ducks. In 2009, Oregon couldn’t stop Gerhart and Luck, the game manager, won time of possession by 15 minutes, and 51-42 was the outcome. So soon you forget.

  • Scott Lohmann

    HELL YEAH! Stanford beat Oregon’s offense all over the field at Autzen last season! The other thing no one talks about is the fact that Oregon’s second TD came after a turnover. They had a short field. They really only had one long drive to the endzone. The first one got stuffed by Josh Mauro and Shane Skov!

  • JGG

    A Stanford PhD and incorrect grammar is surprising. You said David will try “AND” bring down Goliath, which states that it will happen. I hope you meant that David will try “TO” bring down Goliath, which means that they may fail.

  • @jgg

    In addition to being a world-class super sleuth, you seem like you’d be a blast at parties!

  • Ben Shields

    Okay, your article sucks. You talk like a loser. Spreading around this kind of weak-sauce kerfuffle is not how teams and schools win championships. Teams and schools become champions because they are Champions and they act like it. What I sense in this writer is truly weakness of will. Wake up Stanford and believe in the dominance that Stanford Cardinal Red is truly meant to represent. We ought to spread the words of champions. “Stanford, Home of the Champions” it says on the athletic website. I would rather believe in the heart of a championship team. Teams win when the school and its students are behind them 100%. The will and boss-power of the students of Stanford and the supporters of its football team is and must be a reflection of the team’s performance. Stanford’s students and fans must have the same boss-power that our football team does, and act like it. Funny, because Stanford students actually do: we are the fucking greatest at the fucking greatest school in this country. Wise up bro. You’ll feel relief? What about something real, Real feeling: the assumption of destiny, the arrival of a powerhouse, the glory and epiphany of the Champion.

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