Eleven months ago, it was easy to doubt Stanford. Despite obvious improvement under coach Jim Harbaugh and a 5-3 record, many unanswered questions remained. The biggest worries stemmed from late game losses at Wake Forest and Arizona, bringing up questions about the team’s fitness and ability to close out games. For a program that hadn’t been to a bowl game since 2001, six wins would be a huge accomplishment. But, Oregon and USC loomed on the schedule in November.
All doubts were eliminated when Stanford beat eventual conference champion Oregon before thrashing perennial power USC 55-21 on the road. Stanford football was back. After a disappointing loss to Oklahoma in the Sun Bowl, the Cardinal has charged out of the gate this season with lopsided victories over UCLA (+35), Wake Forest (+44) and Notre Dame (+23), earning the top spot in the Power Rank. The media has presented two way star Owen Marecic, who plays both fullback and middle linbacker for the Cardinal, as the essence of this team. On Saturday in South Bend, he scored a touchdown on offense and defense within a span of 13 seconds. But what happened before those touchdowns truly epitomizes this Stanford team. With the ball on the Notre Dame 23 yard line, Stanford ran the ball eight straight times. On many of these run plays, there was an extra tackle and no receivers, the jumbo package. The last of these eight runs was Marecic’s touchdown.
And no, these rankings are not fixed. Yes, I did get my Ph.D. from Stanford. Yes, my advisor Hans Andersen (yes, my advisor’s name really is Hans C. Andersen) taught me all the math and physics I needed to develop this ranking system. Yes, I did meet my beautiful wife, a rabid Cardinal fan, there. But, no, the rankings are not fixed. Stanford has earned the number one rank on the field. Enjoy the first college football rankings, but don’t take the point spreads too seriously. It’s very early in the season, and there should be lots of movement in the next few weeks. Moreover, the records are against Football Bowl Subdivision opponents only. In the meantime, start following these teams.
3. Nevada (3-0), 30.99. The Wolfpack have racked up huge wins against Colorado State (+45), Cal (+21) and at BYU (+14). The last win in Provo is particularly impressive since BYU has won 43 games over the last 4 years. The Nevada versus Boise St. game in late November just gets more and more interesting.
12. San Diego St. (2-1), 18.37. The Aztecs have climbed high based on a big win over Utah St. (+34) and a close loss to 16th ranked Missouri (-3). Not bad for a team that finished 4-8 last year and 98th in the Power Rank. The Aztecs will get tested on the road in Provo against an angry BYU team that has started 1-3.
20. Virginia Tech (2-1), 15.19. At this point, it’s hard to truly gauge the Hokies since the Power Rank does not account for their dramatic home loss to James Madison, a Football Championship Subdivision team and supposedly inferior opponent. And since we can’t really evaluate Virigina Tech, we can’t determine the true value of Boise St., a team that beat the Hokies to begin the season.
24. Air Force (2-1) 11.91. With a big win over BYU (+21) and a close loss to Oklahoma (-3) in Norman, the Falcons are flying high again this season. Air Force can make life really difficult for Mountain West foes TCU and Utah to go undefeated this season.
120. (out of 120) New Mexico (0-4), -47.11. With a point value so low, the Lobos make me wait double the time for my code that generates these rankings to converge. Coach Mike Lockley is 1-15 with the Lobos and is luckly to still have a job after hitting an assitant coach last year. Can you guys try not to be 19 points worse than the next worst team?