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Better Know a 2017 Opponent: Stanford

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Hope springs eternal forever.

NCAA Football: Stanford at UCLA Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

You all know the story of Moby Dick, right? The story of a sea captain who is hell bent on conquering his nemesis, to the detriment of everyone around him?

Yeah, sounds a bit like Jim Mora’s relationship with Stanford.

Stanford is Jim Mora’s white whale; in 5 years, Mora has gone 0-6 against the Cardinal. Year after year, Jim rows his boat out in pursuit of that whale, and every year David Shaw leaves the football field with another scalp. It’s getting exhausting.

Hope springs eternal, I guess?

LAST YEAR

Did you know Stanford somehow went 10-3 last year? That was maybe the most surprising thing for me to learn. They did play USC last year when they were still pretending Max Browne was a better quarterback than Sam Darnold, needed a last minute drive to beat us on the road, and got absolutely smoked by both Washington teams. Oh yeah, and they scored only 5 points at home against Colorado. That happened.

Still, this also happened last year:

One of the things I believe in is that, for any emotional healing to occur, you have to come to terms with your past. In this case, that last-second loss was so traumatizing that the only thing you can really do is recognize that it happened and move on. And maybe send a blitz or two on the final drive. That might help also.

THE FANS

Thank god Stanford fans don’t exist on the internet. Otherwise they might read this and send me a grammatically-correct letter outlining all the faults in it.

Actually, that’s all the jokes I have here, since Stanford fans don’t actually exist. Don’t believe me? Watch a Stanford home game against a team that isn’t UCLA or USC, and marvel at how all the Stanford fans managed to dress up as empty bleachers. At least UCLA has the excuse of playing in a stadium that seats 100,000.

Although, I guess you should know that I am 100% ride or die for the Leland Stanford Junior University Marching Band. Don’t @ me.

THE COACHES

The absolutely 100% most infuriating thing about losing to Stanford all these years is that David Shaw has been the winning coach every single time. David Shaw sucks as a coach.

David Shaw declines free samples at Costco because he believes they’re too risky.

David Shaw’s favorite activity is watching paint dry.

David Shaw just likes to live life 3 yards and a punt at a time.

David Shaw got to punt from his opponents 35 yard line, and it was the happiest moment of his life.

Seriously, though, David Shaw is so conservative he makes Jim Mora look like a riverboat gambler, and yet THIS ASSHOLE KEEPS BEATING US. It’s like entering an art contest, and no matter how good or bad your painting is, you still end up losing to the kid who splattered some paint on a piece of paper and called it a day.

Wait, I take that back. Paint splatter is too avant-garde for David Shaw. Let’s revise that to be losing to the kid who painted a single black line down the middle of the page. It’s technically art, but good lord it’s so boring.

Oh, before we move on, you know how Stanford has actually endowed some of their coaching positions, like the Andrew Luck Director of Offense? Yeah, that’s not dumb in the slightest, though at this point I have to imagine there is some poor coaching intern with the official title of Director of Making Jim Mora Look Dumb on a Yearly Basis.

THE PLAYERS

People who aren’t here anymore: Christian McCaffrey, Solomon Thomas.

On the one hand, this is probably good news for UCLA overall, considering McCaffrey put up 369 all-purpose yards against UCLA in 2015, and Thomas was the defensive stalwart that essentially lived in the UCLA backfield.

On the other hand, that’s literally all Stanford lost from last year. So that’s cool.

Keller Chryst was not the Stanford quarterback who beat UCLA last year, but he was the Stanford quarterback who righted the ship in the second half of last season, and he gets the returning services of 4 of 5 offensive linemen along with a host of top receiving options.

Now that Thomas is gone, there isn’t a superstar name on the defense. Give it a few weeks and there’ll be one. There always is one.

FEARLESS PREDICTION

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me 9 times in a row, shame on me.

I will continue to pick Stanford to win this game until UCLA proves they can actually win it. Or the heat death of the universe occurs. Whichever comes first.

(PS - want a potentially sobering possibility? UCLA could very easily come out of this game 1-3, which might cause Dan Guerrero to actually pay attention to the football program. That’s either a good or a bad thing, depending on your perspective.)