Boring entry about Stanford football.
I’ve read a fair bit about how Stanford is overrated. And we are, but we aren’t. In sports, there’s a difference between ability and performance. I feel like this is relevant when people call Stanford’s football team “overrated” based on being 4th in the polls. If rankings were based purely in terms of talent, yeah, Stanford is overrated. They’re not the 4th best team in the country. Probably half the SEC is better. Oregon is better. I think USC is more talented. I don’t really watch Big 12 football at all so I have no idea how good they are, but Oklahoma is probably better. No one in the Big 10 though. Big 10 sucks.
The thing is, postseason rewards aren’t based on how good you are, but on how well you perform, and I do think Stanford “deserves” its position because it’s maximized its potential. Its taken care of every team it should have and lost to a better team. That’s more than can be said for any team but LSU and ‘Bama.
There was this lame debate that popped up on Quora after the Oregon game about whether Shaw should be fired. The guy who asked that is an idiot. Stanford really has maximized its potential. The team has a number of handicaps because it isn’t super-talented; I think we’re almost certainly less talented than last year’s team. It amazes me that the team has done as well as it has. Our receivers are just not that good. Last year we had Baldwin and Ryan Whalen. This year we have Owusu, who’s been injured and not fantastic when on the field. Our secondary last year was better with Sherman. Everywhere, we’re slow. And losing our kicker had a surprisingly big effect, and not just for field goals – I want to say USC’s average starting field position against us was the 40 yard line. Huge disadvantage.
It’s been interesting how we’ve accommodated the lack of talent at skill positions. Predictably, we started the season mostly running, since our line is good and our opponents sucked. But even against them, when we passed, we seemed off. I think I’ve said after almost every game this season, Luck seems off compared to last year. I realize now it’s because our receivers this season are just too slow; they can’t get any separation. So after a few games, Shaw switched up strategy and started going with 3 TE sets. Since we didn’t have speed, he went with our other advantage – height. And to my eyes, it worked. So Ertz going down was a huge blow; it left us with no advantage for our receivers, primarily because Toilolo has hands of stone.
So I wasn’t that upset about the Oregon loss. They’re just a better team, and there’s not much we could do strategically to counteract that, especially with the horrid turf conditions (which, for some reason, seemed to affect us more than Oregon. I blame Nike). I will say I disappointed by how poorly the OL dealt with Oregon’s twists and stunts. USC did the same thing and it gave them trouble, but they seemed to deal with it better as the game went on, and I was pleased, thinking it would be good practice for Oregon. But for whatever reason, they just could not deal with Oregon’s stunts, and it consistently generated pressure. So subpar line play, no receiver separation, TEs that don’t catch well – pretty big handicap.
It was interesting again to see how Shaw decided to deal with that against Cal. Sloppy field continued to give our line trouble, so he went with the TE height advantage, throwing a ton to our TEs (and Hewitt) even though they kept dropping balls early on. No choice. In any case, I feel like Shaw’s strategic moves on offensive have been right on, and we should be over the moon with our record.
There’s been some Luck backlash also, about how he’s overrated. Honestly? I have no way of knowing. I do know he was better last year – some games last year he was sublime and I totally understand how he got so much hype. But he hasn’t been at the same level this year. Objectively speaking, I don’t think he deserves the Heisman based on this season alone. But how do you evaluate a quarterback with sucky receivers? I have no clue. I do think he’s a great quarterback. I don’t have the football knowledge to assess that he’s the best prospect in the country.
I’m still worried about the Notre Dame game. They’re a talented (though young) team that’s made some stupid mistakes this season. We could totally lose this game.
Maybe I’m just a pessimist, or it’s the natural result of being a Niners fan for the last 10 years, but I’m not that confident about the 49ers either and aren’t ready to call them a top-5 team in the NFL just yet. Like Stanford, I think they’ve maximized their potential through good coaching. They’ll almost certainly lose to the Ravens on Thursday. I honestly don’t feel like they’ve played a top-tier team yet, and so haven’t proven that they’re great.
The only team I feel super confident about is my high school alma mater, Bellarmine. They’ve dominated every game this season save nationally-ranked De La Salle, and they took them to overtime. Ridiculously, they were seeded 2nd in the CCS playoffs. Their league (West Catholic, although it includes one Evangelical Christian school) is basically the SEC of NorCal sports. So them going undefeated makes them the equivalent of LSU. Them being seeded 2nd is a joke. The 1 seed (Oak Grove) ended up losing to the 5th place team (out of 8) in the WCAL. 2 seed. Absurd.