Stanford's standing improves in BCS chaos

Stanford's standing improves in BCS chaos
November 11, 2012, 1:25 am
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David Shaw called Stanfords 27-23 win over Oregon State Shakespearean, and in doing so laughed and said, Just trying to hide my Stanford education.

RECAP: Stanford tops OSU 27-23

But to be fair, at the time he said that, he was (a) focused on his own teams harrowing escape over the Beavers, (b) the redemptive efforts of running back, Stepfan Taylor, tight end Zach Ertz and quarterback Kevin Hogan, and (c) unaware that Deshazor Everett had actually thrown the BCS picture in a much less lyrical direction.

Hogan is the first-time starter at quarterback who became a veteran in four easy steps. Ertz is the senior tight end who fumbled early and scored late to put the Cardinals on their heels and then back on their toes. Taylor is the top-five running back who got stripped in the second quarter and then left Oregon State naked at the end of the third.

And Everett is the Texas A&M cornerback who intercepted the last pass of Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron to preserve the Aggiess stunning 29-24 upset of the top-ranked Crimson Tide, and turn the entire BCSRose Bowl picture into a delicious and messy soup.

RECAP: No. 15 Texas A&M stun No. 1 Bama

And therein lies the true beauty of Stanfords resurgence into a national player. What they do is not merely a matter of entertaining the locals and warming the hearts of the parents. Their games create ripples that touch other teams, and other teams create ripples that touch them.

In this case, the Cardinal beat Oregon State, which moves them further toward the BCS conversation, which for them means a Rose Bowl berth. And Alabamas loss enhances Oregons chances of playing in the BCS title game. And if Notre Dame wins out, that makes it easier for Stanford to go to the Rose Bowl, even if it loses in Eugene next week.

Got it? Of course you dont. Nobody does. Stepfan Taylor, the hyper-elite Stanford running back, didnt even know that if the Cardinal beat Oregon next week and UCLA in two weeks that it could host the Pac-12 title game. He thought his 154 total yards and two touchdowns -- including his electrifying 40-yard catchrunevadestraight-armevade some morerun some more touchdown at the end of the third quarter -- were his last stand at Stanford Stadium.

Shakespeare? Shakespeare never got drunk enough to write this synopsis.

Shaw didnt even try to sort out the national ramifications. He was exchanging pleasantries with former coach Ted Tollner, now working for the Holiday Bowl, while hoping all along not to have to talk to him again until next year at the earliest.

That was when he wasnt praising Hogan, the sophomore quarterback who has in no time flat earned enough confidence that Shaw said he changed about 40 percent of the plays at the line, which is a remarkable number, against Oregon State.

Hes earned our trust, Shaw said of Hogan. When you start a new guy at quarterback early in the week, we knew he could handle quite a bit, but we didnt know how much. But by the end of the week, we knew we could give him the ability to change protections, change runs to passes, passes to runs.

He changed the play call on the Ertz touchdown at the line, and improvised the flip to Taylor. He looked like he should have been honored as a senior on their final regular season home game.

But it was also a game that showed Stanford at its worst, turning the ball over four times and taking eight penalties. In some ways, they were lucky to win the game at all, and had OSU quarterback Cody Vaz not actually stripped himself with 8:34 to play, Stanford might not have had the chance to win the game on Hogans 13-yard pass to Ertz.

In other words, the Cardinal were lucky to overcome themselves and the Beavers to escape a fate they had set for themselves by blowing an early two-touchdown lead.

But luck works in all directions, as the Giants can attest, and Stanford didnt let their misfortunes trump their ability to take advantage of Oregon States misfortunes, and in the narrow window the squeeze through to become a national college football factor, thats as good as being out-and-out lucky.

So it goes. Stanford is in better position to make the Rose Bowl than they were a week ago, much better position. They benefit from their own work and Texas A&Ms, and actually can only be helped by the continued successes of Oregon and Notre Dame, whereas a week ago, they needed just the opposite.

So Billy Don Shakespeare may be able to explain Ertz and Hogan and Taylor and the Cardinal giving up 23 unanswered points in the middle of a game they otherwise won, 27-0. But Shakespeare ends up having less to do with the big picture than J.K. Rowling.

You know. Someone with a much bigger imagination, and the ability to make serious bank on it.

Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com

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