On nights like Saturday, when Stanfords duties had largely ended by halftime, the real fun began in watching how much head coach David Shaw weighed his teams needs, Andrew Lucks numbers and Heisman candidacy, and the poll and entertainment value of a lopsided win at home against a highly regarded foe.
In, he had to decide, for the seventh time this year, how much to press his luck.
Pun intended, I suppose.
More importantly, though, this 65-21 win over 22nd-ranked (at least for a few more hours) Washington marked the game in which the crowd got fully engaged in the national popularity poll that is the BCS for perhaps the first time ever.
Well get to that momentarily, though. First, the local concern.
In a surprisingly desultory win that gave Stanford its 10th consecutive win of 25 or more points, a college football record, and its best start in 60 years, the Cardinal offense did what it wanted only when it felt like doing it, and Luck did remarkably little statistically.
What he did was fine, dont get us wrong in the half that mattered, he was 11 for 13 for 109 yards with touchdown passes to The Coby Fleener and Drew Terrell for a quarterback rating of 2.5 billion, give or take a decimal point. He finished 16 for 21 for 169 and those two touchdowns before leaving with 9:14 left and with six more scoring drives on his resume.
He was, in short, as he always is lab-coat efficient, and cadaver bloodless. In all, a perfect adjunct to the 100-yard games from Stepfan Taylor and Tyler Gaffney.
But the game didnt really rivet the way one thinks a home rout against a good team would. It ended too quickly, and while it reinforced the notion that Taylor is a superb running back and Gaffney a fascinating alternative, it didnt bring a lot of drama to the sellout crowd.
And it didnt advance Lucks Heismanosity, at least not as much as Wisconsins Russell Wilson losing at Michigan State did.
Saturday was therefore something of a missed opportunity for the Pad-His-Stats brigade, but an important one for thinning out the Heisman herd. It was a night for Taylor and Gaffney and Michael Thomas (62-yard pick-six) and of course, The Fleener of Coby, who caught yet another touchdown to enhance his place as the best Fleener in college football.
It was, though, a great night for watching other scores to see if the Cardinal could insert themselves into a more advantageous BCS position.
And thats where the crowd could have been helped by the public address announcer helped, even to stay in the stadium until the game was over to see how the rest of the Top Seven was doing, and how much it would benefit Stanford.
The fans repeatedly expressed no interest in the USC-Notre Dame game, which normally gets some booing from everyone given the relative popularities of the two schools in these parts. But when Wisconsins struggles at East Lansing were intermittently announced, the crowd behaved like it had been transplanted from Tuscaloosa.
In fact, after Stanfords game had ended and most of the players and civilians had left the field fore their cars and locker rooms, the PA blurted out the news that Michigan State had won, 37-31. Those who stayed roared their best. Hey, it will take time, this national profile thing.
If the crowd had also been told that Badger quarterbackHeisman candidate Russell Wilson had an awful time of it in that game (14222232 TDs2 picks) and did more for Luck than Luck did for himself, it would have broke into paroxysms of uncontrolled golf clapping.
There was never, however, any mention of Oklahomas brutal start against Texas Tech. And since Stanford is no longer a boutique football operation but part of a greater whole at the top end of the food chain, such oversights in this rarefied air are frankly inexcusable.
Oh, theyll have a chance to get it right in two weeks when Oregon comes to town, but by then, the only game that matters will be the one in front of them. Scoreboard watching will be the least of their pastimes, and thats a bit of bad news, because when youre this good, watching your few peers is a lot of the fun.
Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com