I wrote earlier this year that I would never study abroad during fall quarter because I am a diehard college football fan, and it would kill me to have to watch home games at the crack of dawn via some questionable live-streaming site in some foreign country. And yet, I find myself guilty of not flying back to campus for the Notre Dame game. Trust me, it was painful watching from home, so I got my due punishment.
One thing was clear: The road to the Pac-12 Championship went through Oregon.
No team understood that fact better than Stanford. For two consecutive seasons, the Ducks had denied the Cardinal the conference title and a national championship bid; Andrew Luck ‘12, who only beat the Ducks once in his three-year playing career, had even admitted that Stanford was suffering from an “Oregon problem.” With Luck gone, the Cardinal arrived at Autzen as a 21-point underdog.
There’s just something special about Stanford’s inside linebackers.
For one, a unit that consists of four seniors prides itself on special teams, of all things—and Stanford’s eye-blacked, mohawked Sports Illustrated cover boy is no exception.
When we first heard it, we thought it was just about Kevin Hogan: a unique phrase, for unique circumstances. How often does a redshirt freshman unseat a senior quarterback on a top-15 team, nine games into the season, much less? One week he was a third-stringer, still an afterthought following the preseason competition to replace Andrew Luck; the next week he was tasked with leading Stanford to the Rose Bowl berth Luck never attained. From the outside looking in, at least, there was something uncanny about Hogan’s ascension.
As college football braces itself for the colossal Pac-12 showdown between Stanford and USC tonight, the din of pre-game anticipation has grown to a deafening level. Amidst the noise is the sound of the menacing, steady footsteps of the Men of Troy, gearing for battle and marching their way north to invade the Farm. Make no mistake: The Trojans are coming in full force.
Everybody already knows that you can’t replace Andrew Luck. So how exactly will the 2012 Stanford football team make up for it? With a defense that returns seven starters and its best player.