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Sunday, November 15, 2009

Rocky Wins the Title For Real: Stanford Football

Stanford beat USC yesterday.

In football.



That is not a misprint.

Somewhere, the collective fandom of the Pac-10 is rejoicing. Okay, maybe not Cal fans (who have their own celebrating to do, as their Bears beat #17 Arizona yesterday 24-17), but everyone else. Having lived in California for a time, I recall seeing bumper stickers saying "My favorite team is ______ [the alma mater of the owner of the car] and whoever is playing USC."

Stanford football had fallen on hard times before Jim Harbaugh arrived in Palo Alto. Now, Stanford is a formidable force in the Pac-10. RB Toby Gerhart is a bona fide Heisman candidate, and if he doesn't get serious consideration it's because a) he plays in the wrong time zone or b) Big 12 and SEC beat writers, among others, don't look west of Nebraska most of the time for their football news (heck, they probably don't look much further north of Knoxville or Columbus these days, either). So successful is Stanford (as The Sporting News predicted it would be), that The Sporting News predicted in its pre-season football guide that the Pac-10 coach most likely not to keep his job would be none other than Harbaugh. Most of the time this prediction is predicated on a team's playing poorly enough and its coach's going into the season on the hot seat. This predication, of course, was predicated on the editors' optimism that Jim Harbaugh would continue to demonstrate what an outstanding coach he is.

Which means, of course, that NFL teams and "bigger time" teams (whoever they are, wherever they are, and whatever their (lesser) academic standards are) might come a-calling. Now, the conventional wisdom these days is that college coaches cannot make the transition to the NFL. Dennis Erickson was one of the latest examples of a coach who just didn't get it done. But Harbaugh played in the NFL, is the son of a college coach, the brother of an NFL head coach and has achieved mightily -- think Sisyphus actually getting the rock to the top of the hill. He'll certainly be on the "A" list.

But let's not detract from Stanford's accomplishments and its right to celebrate an all-time victory. They'll be talking about this trouncing of the mighty Trojan empire for decades to come -- both in Palo Alto and in Los Angeles.

Stanford football is the best story of the 2009 college football season.


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