It’s always hard to swallow the ups and downs of a football season until it’s over. It took until after the 2011 Orange Bowl for us to understand just how good Stanford was; it took until after the 2012 Fiesta Bowl for us to realize just how much we would miss Andrew Luck and the rest of his class.
But something about this 2013 Cardinal season feels weirder — spookier? — than normal, and I’m having trouble imagining how it’s going to all make sense in a few months’ time.
On its face, Stanford is exactly where we expected it to be at this point of the season: in control of its own Pac-12 destiny and hurtling toward a likely top-five clash with Oregon next Thursday. But in getting there, Stanford has almost never done what we expected it to do.
The Cardinal escaped its road trip to unheralded, undersized Army with just a two-touchdown win. Seven days later, Stanford took out Kevin Hogan after jumping out to a 39-7 lead against No. 23 Arizona State; minutes after that, it gave up three touchdowns in quick succession and had to put Hogan back in the game.
Just when the Cardinal looked at its most disoriented, it traveled to the one of the most hostile environments in American sports and managed to steamroll Washington State 55-17.
Could Stanford play a 60-minute game again at home against No. 15 Washington the next week? Nope; it played another nail-biting fourth quarter instead. That fight, of course, was followed by the head-scratching loss at Utah and the head-scratching 3-0 first half against UCLA.
It’s not just game results. Consider this:
In eight games, Stanford tight ends have caught only six passes — as many as Zach Ertz alone caught in 30 minutes against Oregon last year…
Despite that, the Cardinal’s top tight end, Luke Kaumatule (three catches), has been converted to defensive end in light of the injuries to linemen Ben Gardner, Henry Anderson and Ikenna Nwafor…
Counting nose tackle David Parry, who played with a lingering abdominal strain earlier in the year, four of Stanford’s six defensive linemen on the preseason two-deep have been injured. Only two of the 22 players on the entire offensive two-deep have been injured…
Did you forget about Stanford’s second-leading tight end, Charlie Hopkins (two catches)? For his entire collegiate career, all the way up to this offseason, Hopkins had played — you guessed it — defensive end.
Crazy? That’s not even mentioning the inability of Stanford’s power running game, one of the most feared in the nation, to convert on third-and-short, or the fact that defensive end Josh Mauro has picked off as many passes as ballhawking safety Ed Reynolds has — for 25 more return yards. Or, for that matter, Kodi Whitfield’s inexplicable one-handed catch.
So here we are, kicking off that long-awaited first week of November, staring into the Eye of Sauron that is the Oregon ‘O.’ This season, the Ducks have yet to put up fewer than 42 points or win by fewer than three touchdowns.
Should Stanford win next Thursday’s game? Probably not. Could it?
Well, weirder things have happened.
Joseph Beyda thinks a San Jose Sharks jersey is an acceptable costume for The Stanford Daily’s Halloween party. Let him know if you agree — or tell him what you wore last night — at jbeyda ‘at’ stanford.edu.