Let’s start with the good: For the fourth straight year, Stanford and Oregon will square off in a November matchup that’s likely to decide the Pac-12 North title. Besides that, well …
It’s hard not to cringe looking at the Cardinal’s 2014 football schedule, which includes two Friday games — three if you count the Pac-12 Championship — and has Stanford playing half of its home contests before the students arrive on campus. That’s not to mention the relative weakness of the Cardinal’s 2014 home slate, which only includes one team that finished the 2013 season ranked in the AP top 25. Five of Stanford’s home opponents from this past season appear in that same poll.
Scheduling is no easy business, and there’s usually a glitch or two; neither the Cardinal’s season-opening bye in 2013 nor its October showdown with Cal in 2012 went over well with fans (or the team). But this year’s schedule sees those two unsatisfying agendas and raises them a hearty dose of disappointment.
The most eye-popping scheduling decision is Stanford’s Sept. 6 game against USC in week two. Maybe the Cardinal is lucky to catch the potential top-10 Trojans early, before they truly adjust to new coach Steve Sarkisian’s staff and system. But what of the atmosphere at Stanford Stadium 16 days before the start of fall classes? A favorable crowd can mean a whole lot in a tight game, and unlike in 2012, when the Red Zone was full for the pre-NSO matchup, few non-local students will be in town for what has become arguably the Cardinal’s biggest rivalry.
Take those extra student seats and add to them the ones that newly minted Stanford season ticket holders in the East Lansing area will likely be hawking on StubHub, and our sea of Cardinal is bound to take on a few yellow blotches.
It won’t be as bad as the Trojan invasion of 2006, when a hoard of USC fans dominated Stanford Stadium against fans of the struggling Cardinal. But in another flashback to the dark days, Stanford opens the season by welcoming UC-Davis, which became the only non-Division I-A team to beat the Cardinal back in 2005. Even if you don’t care about that little piece of unfortunate history, it’s hard to be enthusiastic about playing the Aggies, who are fresh off a 5-7 record, including a 0-4 mark outside of the Big Sky Conference.
After another unbalanced tilt with Army and a bye week, the Cardinal will then prepare to face Washington and Notre Dame on the road in consecutive weeks. The last time Stanford had to make those two trips (2012), it didn’t win either game.
The Cardinal will then return to the Farm for the Class of 2018’s first home game, but hold the face paint and tailgating. Assuming this one gets the same 6 p.m. slot that the Pac-12’s midseason Friday night games did last year, those festivities will give way to a collective race to the stadium from Thinking Matters sections — and, for students of old, from corner offices across the Bay Area.
The Cougars didn’t give the Cardinal any trouble in 2013, but they nearly pulled off the upset at Stanford Stadium just two years ago and are well on their way to respectability after their first bowl berth in 10 years. Again, having a full stadium would be nice.
Big Game in Berkeley and then another Friday night contest at UCLA will close out the regular season. Normally, I’d say there’s no way the Cardinal looks past archrival Cal, but given the Bears’ recent struggles, the Bruins’ recent resurgence and the shortened week between those two games in 2014, Stanford’s mental focus will have to be at its best if it wants to end its year with two wins.
The only other irregularity of note is the Pac-12 Championship Game’s return to Friday night — which led to infamously poor attendance when Stanford hosted the event in 2012 — after a one-year (and highly successful) switch to Saturday.
Of course, if the Pac-12 schedulers had their way, the Cardinal wouldn’t have to worry about that game regardless.
Regardless of what Joseph Beyda says, he is more excited for the UC-Davis game than he has been for any home game in Stanford football history. Seeing as how the entire Beyda clan will be in attendance, suggest big, family-friendly reunion locations to Joey at jbeyda ‘at’ stanford.edu.