Orange Bowl: Luck's skill drives Stanford

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Orange Bowl: Luck's skill drives Stanford

Jan 3, 2011NO. 5 STANFORD (11-1) vs.NO. 12 VIRGINIA TECH (11-2)
RATTO: HARBAUGH BLESSED WITH LEVERAGE

2010-11 BOWL SCHEDULERESULTS

MIAMI (AP) -- Andrew Luck threw seven interceptions and 97 incompletions during the regular season. His knowledge of the NFL is less than encyclopedic -- more on that shortly -- and he settled for a B in the most difficult class he has taken at Stanford, a course on mechanics called Engineering 14.

Yet coach Jim Harbaugh is disinclined to find fault.

"Andrew is the real deal," Harbaugh says. "He is the best player I've ever been around, and he's even a finer young man. There's nothing about him where I say I wish he could do this, or I wish he didn't do this. He is just like my wife: He is perfect. You wouldn't change a thing about him."

ROSTERS: Stanford Virginia Tech

Stanford's passing paragon will take the national stage Monday night in the Orange Bowl, when No. 5 Stanford (11-1) faces No. 12 Virginia Tech (11-2). It could be Luck's final college game -- although only a sophomore, he's touted as the likely No. 1 overall draft pick in April if he turns pro.

The BCS game matches two teams climbing in the polls since early in the season. Virginia Tech opened with losses to Boise State and lower-tier James Madison, then regrouped and went undefeated in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Stanford lost in October to Oregon, then swept its final seven regular-season games, the latest surge in a remarkable turnaround under Harbaugh after going 1-11 in 2006.

Luck was a high school junior in Houston when Stanford hired Harbaugh, who spent 15 seasons as an NFL quarterback.

"I did not really know his name, to be honest," Luck says with a sheepish laugh. "Don't tell him I said that."

Soon enough, Luck accepted a scholarship offer from Harbaugh, and now the coach and quarterback have led the Cardinal to their first January bowl since 2000. Like Luck, Harbaugh might be bound for the NFL this year.

PREVIEW: Stanford, VaTech on historic runs

"He's got to do what's best for him," Luck says, "and I've got to do what's best for me."

First there's the matter of beating Virginia Tech, which happens to have a pretty good QB, too. Senior Tyrod Taylor was chosen ACC player of the year, and he's often compared with one of his predecessors at Tech, Michael Vick.

Taylor seeks his third bowl win in his final college game.

"He's a stud," Luck says. "When the play breaks down, he's making guys miss and making things happen. You hate to go against guys like that, because you've always got to be on your toes. You never know when they're going to score."

While Taylor's mobility makes him dangerous, he needs to prove himself as a pocket passer to succeed in the NFL, and he's confident he can do it.

"I believe I can play in any offense," Taylor says. "Early in my career I was more of a runner. As I got older, I think I proved I can be a dropback passer. I can also use my feet, but I always keep my eyes downfield looking for a receiver."

RELATED: Harbaugh, Beamer differ on playoff

Taylor will leave Blacksburg as the school's career leader in passing yards, rushing yards by a quarterback and total offense. He's 34-7 as a starter, and like Luck, he wins raves for his leadership.

When the Hokies were 0-2, Taylor led a seniors-only meeting that stabilized the situation.

"His legacy is that we'll always be talking about Tyrod Taylor," offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring says. "That's probably the best compliment I can give somebody."

Luck reaps similar praise, although it's possible he won't leave in 2011. The son of former West Virginia and Houston Oilers quarterback Oliver Luck says he's trying not to think a lot about his future until after the Orange Bowl, but no one seems to doubt he's ready for the NFL.

"It's a tough decision for Andrew, I'm sure," says Stanford defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, who coached in the NFL for 24 years. "But when he does come out, I'll be shocked if he's not a very good NFL quarterback."

STATS: Andrew Luck Tyrod Taylor

Luck will face a Tech defense ranked second in the nation with 22 interceptions. But in two years as a starter, Luck has been intercepted only 11 times while throwing 41 touchdown passes. He threw for 3,051 yards this year, completing 70 percent of his passes, and finished second to Auburn's Cam Newton in the Heisman Trophy race.

Luck is 6-foot-4 and 235 pounds but mobile enough to run for 438 yards this season. And he's tough: Scrambling against California, he threw a forearm into the chin of a safety and knocked him head over heels.

"Andrew looked at him for a second and then kept running," associate head coach Greg Roman says. "It's one of the best moments I've ever had as a coach, to witness that."

How often do Luck's coaches get mad at him? Roman pauses for 10 seconds, trying to recall the last time it happened.

REWIND: Stanford results Virginia Tech season recap

"Hmm. Mad at him? Hmm," Roman says. "It doesn't happen very often."

That's partly because Luck rarely makes mental mistakes. A B-plus student majoring in architecture, Luck is interested in building stadiums when he's done playing in them. He has mastered Stanford's complicated offense -- his wristband supposedly lists 350 plays -- and Harbaugh has talked of letting him call plays next season.

Like Harbaugh, his players make Luck sound too good to be true.

"If there is any pick higher than the first pick, he would go there," cornerback Richard Sherman says. "When he gets to the next level, it will be amazing. I don't think people realize how good he is."

That may be partly Luck's fault; he's hardly one for self-promotion.

Luck's a big reason Stanford has a shot at its first top-five finish since 1940, but teammates say when his image comes on TV, he turns it off or changes the channel.

"He's so humble, sometimes it's really painful to hear him talk," senior Owen Marecic says with a laugh. "It's absolutely genuine. But that's what makes him so great. He has all this talent, but it doesn't satisfy him in the least. He's always trying to get better."

So while Luck's not really perfect, he is a perfectionist, hoping for a win Monday night to complete Stanford's near-perfect season.

Dodgers designate Sergio Romo for assignment

Dodgers designate Sergio Romo for assignment

The Dodgers made a move on Thursday that will certainly interest Giants fans.

Los Angeles designated Sergio Romo for assignment.

Over 30 appearances this season, Romo is 1-1 with a 6.12 ERA.

[PAVLOVIC: Why are the Giants reportedly gambling on a Pablo Sandoval reunion?]

He hasn't taken the mound since July 8.

Against the Giants this year:

- April 24: Allowed one hit and one walk in one inning
- April 25: Allowed two earned runs in 0.1 innings 
- May 2: A perfect 1-2-3 inning
- May 17: Allowed one run in one inning

Romo spent the first nine seasons of his career with the Orange and Black.

From 2008 to 2016, he went 32-26 with a 2.58 ERA and 84 saves over 515 appearances.

He won three World Series rings with the Giants.

Lillard: If Blazers get Carmelo and then run into Warriors during playoffs...

Lillard: If Blazers get Carmelo and then run into Warriors during playoffs...

Who will Carmelo Anthony play for next season?

The Knicks? Rockets? Cavs? Blazers?

Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum are hoping Carmelo ends up in Portland.

"I spoke to him," Lillard told Joe Freeman of The Oregonian. "Because, obviously, he makes us a better team. Obviously with that being out there and that being a real possibility, I don't see why I wouldn't reach out to him and let him know that the interest is mutual if he's interested in us."

[REWIND: McCollum's message to those who think Warriors are bad for the NBA]

What was his reaction?

"I ain't gonna share all that," Lillard said. "We had a conversation about it because it's something that we need to talk about, so he knew that it wasn't just the team -- but it was myself and C.J. -- would love to have him here. So I reached out to him."

How would he help the Blazers?

"He's Carmelo Anthony," Lillard responded. "You add another guy that can go out there and score 50 ... over the last decade, he's been one of the best players in the league. Playing against him, you know he's a cerebral player. He's smart...

"I can only imagine what it would be like having him iso'ing on one side, and C.J. in a corner, and me on the opposite wing and Nurk (Jusuf Nurkic) ... I can only imagine how hard it would be to guard us when it's already hard to guard us.

"We can compete with anybody in the West, but I think when you get to those teams like Golden State, if we happen to run into them in a playoff situation now -- we getting in the paint, and if they want to help off someone like Melo ... good luck."

The Warriors beat the Blazers in five games in the 2016 Western Conference Semifinals and swept them in the opening round of the 2017 playoffs.

According to McCollum, the Blazers would definitely have homecourt in the first round of the playoffs should Carmelo head to the Pacific Northwest.

"Very talented player. And I think if we get him -- when we get him -- speak it into existence ... I think Top 3 in the West, easy," McCollum declared. "I think he's interested."

Carmelo is reportedly pushing for a trade to the Rockets...

Drew Shiller is the co-host of Warriors Outsiders and a Web Producer at NBC Sports Bay Area. Follow him on Twitter @DrewShiller