Pregame Guesses: Stanford Cardinal Edition

Harry How

The Bruins knocked the Southern Cal monkey off their backs last week and fans should enjoy whatever happens the rest of the season.

Gang of Four - Damaged Goods (live) (via xlsomeonelx)


(This week’s video is Gang of Four performing "Damaged Goods" live on some German television show in 1983. I once saw Gang of Four three times in one week, the third show – of all places – Six Flags Magic Mountain. A great live band with more influence on bands that followed than most people realized. I chose this song because I had the "goodbye" refrain going through my head the last few minutes of last week’s game. If MexiBruin gives me props for this choice I’ll be a happy man.

I need to keep this short this week – too much family stuff to do while I’m trying to get this written.

I know that Jim Mora doesn’t care about USC this week, but I’m looking at the notes I took during the game and before looking ahead to Stanford and the rest of the season I thought I’d share some of the notes I jotted down while watching us beat Southern Cal. (My notes are in italics – what I was thinking at the time follows.)

Great uniforms – I was just thinking how great the game looks when both teams where their home uniforms.

Eric Kendricks – What a great player the unsung Eric Kendricks is. You just don’t hear his name mentioned all that much, except during the games, when you here his name all the time. There are guys from the past that I just remember as damn good players, guys like Marvcus Patton and Jim Wahler, whose exploits I recall to this day. The younger members of this community are going to remember Eric Kendricks the same way.

XSF – Where would we be without the great Xavier Sua-Filo. Best lineman we’ve had in a long time. A beast.

Kiffin – 21, 22 – Did anyone else notice in the post game, Lane Kiffin refuses to call our guys by their names. He refers to Aaron Hester and Sheldon Price as "21 and 22." For some reason that bugs me.

Corners up on the receivers – Price and Hester and the other corners spend all afternoon right up on Marqise Lee and Robert Woods and those guys. This just didn’t happen with our prior DCs. We always gave too much cushion and was burned by it. Metaphorically, we were always backing up, giving ground. I’m so glad Jim Mora is our head coach.

Hester, Price redeemed – If you look at the numbers, they SC receivers had pretty good days. But it wasn’t about the numbers. Hester and Price made Lee and Woods work for it all day long. They held on. They kept them out of the end zone. I thought the two sometimes-maligned seniors kept us in the game. I was really happy for them.

O-line played great – The offensive line that was a weakness against Oregon State and Cal is now a strength. XSF is the rock, but guys like Simon Goines are playing really well. Baca struggled with some penalties, but is the spiritual leader. Jacob Brendel (who is an all academic kid and a math major) has become a top center. (BTW – When Carl Hulick joins the team next year after being a redshirt this year, we’re going to have two young stud centers.) Where have you gone, Robert Chai?

No flat passes to the backs – I thought this was sort of interesting. I can’t recall every play, but I didn’t see those flat passes to the running back that we’ve used all season being thrown. There probably were a few, but it looked to me like we played a little more North-South than East-West. To me, this was a great adjustment by Noel Mazzone.

Mora – calm, what do you want me to say, even keel – After the game Mora was cornered by a sideline reporter who kept trying to get him to make some profound statement. Mora wouldn’t do it. He finally asked "What do you want me to say?" This, by the way, was while the whole team was running around and celebrating. The guy just keeps everything on an even keel.

Barkley – probably overratedMatt Barkley is overrated. He’s slow. Unathletic. Sure, he’ll get drafted. He throws an accurate ball. But any pro team that takes him to be the savior is going to be disappointed.

Lee – not overrated – On the other hand, Marqise Lee is not overrated. Just like I remember a guy from my past like Ronnie Lott and can’t deny the guy was a great player, someday the younger members of this community will tell their kids "Yeah, I hated Marquse Lee, but I had to respect him. The guy was a stud."

Shaq >>> Embree and Rosario – This goes without saying.

Jerry Johnson some nice plays – Good to see the senior have a good day. Did anyone else realize during the game that he and Curtis McNeal were Venice High teammates?

Fauria is a pro – Joe Fauria plays on Sunday next year.

Chris Roberts – so, so, so, terrible – This bears repeating. For reasons not worth going into, I listened to part of the third quarter in the car after running an errand at halftime. Chris Roberts horribleness almost ruined my day. He’s nothing short of unlistenable. He’s so bad I switched over to Pete Arbogast on the other station and listened to his call. Pete is a diehard SC homer – but I’d rather listen to him than Roberts. I’ve since listened to some of the basketball games on the radio due to the early starts on the West Coast and if anything he’s worse on basketball than he is on football. I’m considering making this more of an issue in future posts, so stay tuned – but not to him.

~~~

One of the more interesting aspects of this season is that the toughest games on the schedule were all lined up at the end. Depending on how good you think Nebraska is, it’s arguable that SC is the toughest team we’ve played to date, with Stanford definitely being the best team all year. After Stanford, we’ll either play the Cardinal again or Oregon and despite the Ducks loss to the Cardinal, it’s not hard to make the case that they would be the best team we play. And there is a bowl game to follow.

So, we’re 9-2 and I could see us finishing 12-2. I could also see us finishing 9-5.

Did you know that no UCLA team has ever won 11 games in a season.

Think about that: We’ve never, ever won 11 games. Jim Mora has the opportunity to do something no UCLA coach has ever done in just his first season as head coach. That probably says something about Mora and about UCLA football over the years. I’m just not sure what.

Here is another thought you might not have considered:

No matter what happens in the last three games, we’re a good football team. Remember what the supporters of Karl Dorrell and Rick Neuheisel told us? They told us: "You have to give a new coach time. It takes three years to really know what you’ve got. It takes time."

Well, I’m glad to see we’ve put that to rest. Because in just ten months, Jim Mora has completely changed the product on the field and the perception off the field. On the field we’re – as I keep writing – a good team. Not a great team, not yet, but definitely a good team. Off the field, the national analysts are all saying the same thing, that we’re not a soft program anymore.

Speaking of that, does Sal Alosi get even close to enough credit at our strength and conditioning coach? I don’t think so, because while there doesn’t appear to be much difference between this year’s team and last year’s team to the naked eye, we are much tougher and stronger in the fourth quarter of games. Just take a look at the work of Johnathan Franklin. He’s a whole different player with the way he is finishing runs this season and while I don’t think that Alosi is the only difference – well – it’s obvious that Franklin gets stronger as the game goes on and there must be some connection to the strength and conditioning program.

The question now is whether or not the team will finish the season in the same manner they finish games.

Strong.

I feel they will.

Last week I made the case that an entire season can’t be judged on just one game and I feel the same way now. We could play a great game tomorrow and just not have more points at the end of the game. It happens that way sometimes. Stanford is a very good, sound, fundamental team. They are also another example of what happens when good coaches take over a program.

The next few weeks are going to be fun. Enjoy it. It’s been long, long time.

With that, here are your Pregame Guesses, Stanford Cardinal edition:

  1. Who will rush for more yards, Johnathan Franklin or Stepfan Taylor?
  2. True of False, the announced attendance at the Rose Bowl will exceed 70,000.
  3. Which game will feature more total points, UCLA vs Stanford or Oregon State vs Oregon?
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