We’re going to have to wait a little while before we find out whether or not Stanford are once again the best team in the Pac-12, but for now, and the crop of opponents they’re facing, they seem to have an edge in almost every possible aspect, whether it comes to their defense, special teams or the running game led by Tyler Gaffney.
Stanford beat Arizona State 42-28 in a game that wasn’t as close as the scorline suggests. The Cardinal led 29-0 at half time, and finished scoring five touchdowns (two by Gaffney), getting points through a safety, blocking two punts, forcing two interceptions, getting 10 tackles for a loss and sacking Taylor Kelly three times.
The only weakness in the Stanford armor might be Kevin Hogan, who threw an interception and finished with 11-of-17 for 151 yards and a couple of touchdowns, but Hogan is a good runner (45 yards, 6 carries) and Stanford have plenty of costumes in order to mask their relative weakness at quarterback.
We might have made a good statement in the first half, and a terrible statement in the second half. I could care less about style points. I could care less about what it looks like. We played one great half, a solid third quarter and a bad fourth quarter.
David Shaw doesn’t care about how well his players did early on, because they allowed Arizona State an opportunity to mount some sort of comeback, getting out-gained at the end of the game by the Sun Devils 417 to 391. Stanford played very well for 45 minutes, showing a lot of creativity in its formations on both ends of the ball, but it seems that great teams, championship teams, are pushed by a drive to be perfect for an entire game, and with that kind of drive Stanford are on a right path to reach another Rose Bowl or maybe even further if the cards fall right for them, and the right team lose along the way.
Stanford do have one talent that seems to be more than just a strong team all across the board – Tyler Gaffney, who ran for 87 yards and a couple of touchdowns. He might not a Heisman contender, but he gives Stanford someone to pierce defensive lines with, as they establish their very physical style that it seems most of the Pac-12 simply can’t handle at the moment.
They’re a championship caliber team, and we weren’t ready. They are a big, physical team and disciplined. That was the name of the game.
Oregon and Stanford are proving they’re leagues ahead of the rest in the conference, and it’ll be once again a question of blazing fast offense against a more old-school type of team with trick plays and creative formations to take the North division title, and probably the conference championship again. Until the two meet on the field it’s impossible to tell the difference, but going by last year, it’s hard to ignore Stanford or not think they might be the more suitable team to be the first Pac-12 team in the national championship game since the Ducks in 2010.