22.Nov.2010 Q & A with a Stanford Blogger

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A Stanford blogger, Hank Waddles, wrote me over the weekend asking to do a Q & A about the Beavers. If anyone cares to read my response to him, it can be found here.

Below he fields some of my questions. This was pretty fun, and hope to do it more in the future with fellow Pac-10 bloggers.

Does Luck run any read/option? This play kills the Beavs.

Recently there have been a lot of comparisons between Andrew Luck and Peyton Manning, mainly because there might not be another quarterback in college football who’s better at making adjustments at the line of scrimmage.  You can probably expect three or four designed runs from him a game, but it’s usually some type of a bootleg.  Maybe once a game there might be a more typical read option play, but those are rare.  I’m guessing you’ve seen the 58-yard rumble from the Cal game.  That’s what defenses really have to watch for, when he’s checked all three or four of his reads and takes off.  He never makes the wrong decision in those situations, and he’s fast enough to outrun lineman and linebackers but big enough to run over defensive backs.  Just ask Cal’s Sean Cattouse.

What's Stanford's mindset right now? Over-confident? Focused? Etc. 

There’s only been one game all year when Stanford looked disinterested, and it almost cost them two weeks ago at Arizona State.  I have to believe that that comes from Jim Harbaugh.  The intensity you see from him on the sidelines bleeds into his team, and they never seem to take any team lightly, nor do they relax when a game starts going in their direction.  One of the mantras this season has been the need to win with “character and cruelty,” and the team has bought into that completely.  This team will never be over-confident because we’re still talking about Stanford University, but they will certainly be focused.  Big things are at stake for them, and if they’re beaten it won’t be because they didn’t come to play.

Do Stanford fans respect the Beavers (be honest)?

Stanford fans are certainly reveling in the glory of this season, but there’s also a sense of wonder that goes along with it.  Each game makes us nervous, and each win brings with it a sense of relief.  We’re not Red Sox fans, assuming that disaster awaits around the corner, or Cub fans, convinced that we’ll never win, but nothing is expected.  With that mind, I honestly think we respect every team on the schedule.  As for Oregon State, I still have painful memories of last year’s loss, a game that I’m convinced would have gone differently had Chris Owusu been able to hang to that touchdown pass on the opening play of the game.  I still remember Jacquizz Rodgers and I wonder how the defense will ever be able to stop him.  So yes, we respect the Beavers.

Rate each unit–special teams, offense, defense–and note any players to watch.

Last year the offense’s success was a complete revelation.  Andrew Luck came in as a highly-touted recruit, but I don’t think anyone expected that he would be so efficient as a redshirt freshman.  And Toby Gerhart?  I’d have bet my house against anyone who would have tried to tell me he’d be a Heisman finalist.  This year, though, even without Gerhart, I knew the offense would be even better.  Andrew Luck gets all the love, but everything begins with the offensive line.  Even without Gerhart, the team is on pace to top last year’s points and total offense figures.  Sophomore running back Stepfan Taylor is approaching the 1,000 yard mark, but true freshman Anthony Wilkerson is probably even better and has quietly been stealing carries from Taylor.  The receiving corps has been something of a M*A*S*H unit all season long, which makes Luck’s accomplishments all the more impressive.  Starting wide receiver Chris Owusu has missed five games and likely won’t play this weekend, but senior Doug Baldwin has emerged to become the team’s leading receiver (and Go Mighty Card’s favorite player).  When Owusu is healthy, this is the best offense in college football; even without him it’s still pretty impressive.

The big story surrounding this team during the summer was defensive coordinator Vic Fangio and the switch to a 3-4 scheme.  Last year the defense was absolutely awful, but this year they’ve made the leap to above average, as evidenced by road shutouts of UCLA and Washington.  They’ve only allowed Oregon and USC to score more than 30 points, and over the past four games they’ve yielded an average of just eleven points a contest.  The 3-4 scheme has something to do with it, but I think the main thing is that some of Harbaugh’s recruits are beginning to make an impact on that side of the ball.  Sophomore linebacker Shayne Skov is clearly the most talented player on defense, and lately he’s emerged as the emotional center of the team.  Junior safeties Michael Thomas and Delano Howell have played well all season, and Howell has earned a reputation as a heavy hitter.  Linebackers Thomas Keiser and Chase Thomas are athletic enough on the outside to contain the run and rush the quarterback when asked, and Owen Marecic patrols the middle effectively.  For the first time since the mid 90s, the Stanford defense is aggressive, confident, and dependable.  Not dominant, but good enough, especially when the offense jumps out to a lead and simplifies the opponent’s offense.  

Not as much to say about special teams.  When Owusu was healthy last year he was one of the best kick returners in the country, and even made several preseason All-America lists this fall.  Without him, there's nothing special about the Cardinal special teams.  Kicker Nate Whitaker will likely top his own single-season record for extra points this Saturday, but that obviously says a lot more about the offense than it does about him.

Why does the home crowd seem to be so quiet?

The home crowd seems quiet for two reasons: one, it’s small; and two, they simply don’t know how to be loud.  Jim Harbaugh has succeeded in changing the culture of the football team, now either he or the marketing department has to change the culture of the fan base.  If you attend a USC game at the Coliseum, it’s an event.  Stanford Stadium?  Not so much.  But if the team continues to win, I think the community will embrace the team and fill the stadium.  Right now, there isn’t much of a home field advantage, but hopefully that will change.

What's your prediction for the game?

I tend to look at the world through Cardinal colored glasses, and I’ve predicted victory every week this season.  It’s no different this week.  I can’t imagine that there’s a defense in the country that can slow the Stanford offense, so I’d expect them to score at least 35 points.  If the defense can somehow contain Mr. Rodgers, I expect things to go well.  Stanford 38, Oregon State 17.

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  • Beavocalypse says:
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    That was a pretty cool article and I loved the concept. I think you were spot on Angry, and I commented with my pessimistic prediction of how I thought the game would go.

    However, considering how my hope= a loss and my pessimism= a win…maybe this was a good thing.

    Can’t wait to see your analysis of the game.

    • angry angry says:
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      Yeah, it was fun. At least he admits to having Card-colored glasses.

      For me this game is simple: if the Beavs come out with intensity, their team speed (especially on the edge) will win them the game. If they come out at all flat, they’ll be crushed.

      Months ago when I saw this game on the schedule it stood out to me as a win. I still feel the same way because of match ups that favor the Beavs, and their focus should be sharp since a bowl game is at stake–keep in mind, the Beavers can still mathematically go to the Holiday or Alamo Bowl.

  • ean says:
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    Cliff said your boy Pankey is doubtful for the game. I hope Cam Collins is ready.

    • Beavocalypse says:
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      Thank God.

      Collins will be ready, I’m sure of it. Even if he’s out of position, he’ll have the speed to make up for it- unlike Pankey.

      This is the best news our team could have gotten.

  • Max says:
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    I know people here are not the biggest fans of Wilder McAndrews, but could Michael Phillip sitting this game out be the worst thing for the Beavers? He has been horrible this season, drawing numerous holding penalties and letting rushers fly by him. I think he is a big reason Katz has regressed since the Arizona game. On the last sack Katz took against UCLA, Phillip let not one but two guys go right by him unblocked, they went right around either side of him. He still has a lot of development yet to do so it’s not quite a Pankey situation but I still think our best players should be playing the majority of the game.

    • ean says:
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      Phillip may be a 4-star recruit but he looks the same as the walk-ons do… if not worse at times. I wonder if it was a mistake not to redshirt him? If we get that Darryl Jackson kid in school and he is as good as advertised I wonder if it doesn’t make sense to bring Phillip in to OG. That is his position in the NFL (should he improve and add strength) and he is really slow out of his stance at tackle, it might help to be closer to the ball.

      • VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
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        Bingo! There was some talk in the preseason about moving Phillip to OG, and I for one was hoping it might happen. I think Phillip would be excellent at OG, given his natural strength, speed, and athleticism. Imagine Phillip as a pulling guard on traps and sweeps — could do some real damage. If Darryl Jackson can make the grade academically and if he is as good as advertised, it’s exciting to think about adding Jackson as an OT and moving MP to guard…..

        • ean says:
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          I was saying they should move Phillip in to OG at the beginning of the season too. Although Ellis and Johnson have been decent at times. I think McAndrews is pretty solid at LT and like him there as much if not more than Phillip. I just think the tie has got to go to the guy with more upside, which is Phillip. I guess it will be sorted out in spring or fall. I think if Jackson is less than advertised or doesn’t make it to school you got to stick with Phillip at LT.

      • angry says:
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        I concur. Phillipp should be a guard. Problem is there are no good tackles. Enger will be good next year, but that still leaves them one short. Maybe Darryl Jackson if he’s as good as scouting services think.

        • ean says:
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          Then there is the issue of replacing Remmer’s the year after. What about the kid that just got back from the mission? Is he an OG or OT? I like the idea of a O-lineman in his mid 20’s.

          • VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
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            I think you’re talking about Geoff Garner (6-5, 300), pretty sure he was Remmers backup last spring. Heard he’s decent and Cav likes him.

            I’m thinking Remmers will be our RT. I’d like to see Enger, Garner and Jackson get a shot at the other side and move Phillipp inside but that probably won’t happen.

          • angry says:
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            I think he means mau nomani, who projected at tackle before leaving. He could be great if he’s in shape.

          • VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
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            Ahh, of course he meant Nomani. doh’

          • ean says:
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            Sounds like there is going to be a lot more competition on the O-line next year which is great. Wouldn’t it be funny if Phillip gets straight up beat out for the job?

        • ean says:
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          Another problem is I have a sneaking suspicion we landed Phillip by promising we would play him at tackle. Mos the big schools were looking at him as an OG. Not sure if that would be an issue though.

  • VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
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    Here’s where I differ with angry. I don’t think this game will be about the Beavers. They can come out as focused as they want, but I don’t see how they’ll stop the Cardinal offense. The Oregon offense — with all the speed and deception and pace — is easily feared, if that makes sense. Basically, you know what you’re gonna get. The Stanford offense is more conventional, so people have the idea that they’ll be able to line up and stop it, but it rarely works that way. Andrew Luck is too good, and he has too many weapons. If he plays well, Stanford will control the ball and win.

    • angry says:
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      The Cardinal offense doesn’t have much speed. The Beavers are going to start Cam Collins at LB, so they essentially have three safeties (i.e. good speed) on the field. Now, the Cardinal might be able to just overpower a DT like Frahm and run it up the gut. In that case, the Beavers are doomed. We’ll know three (running) plays into the game. If the Stanford OL is getting a five yard push the game is over.

      I think Wheaton’s speed is a huge question for which the Cardinal has no answer. He could be the difference. Who on that defense is going to tackle Wheaton on a fly sweep or in space?

      Unless I’m underestimating Stanford’s speed. I guess that’s possible.

      • OneEyedKing says:
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        No, I agree. The one thing that has stood out to me about Stanford is how slow they look at times. It doesn’t help lining up against UO, but even against ASU they look slow on offense and defense. If we can stop the power game, and get a few good plays out of our secondary, I think Wheaton and Quizz will be able to put enough points on the board to win the game.

        Also, I’m curious to see if Katz has another 40 yard rushing, 3 3rd-down conversions running game. If he does, it would be against a slower defense like Stanford.

  • VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
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    @Hank: I really hate when any player, from either team, gets badly hurt in a game. I want to see each team at its best. But I have to ask the question — what if Andrew Luck gets hurt this Saturday? How good would the Stanford offense be without Luck at QB?

    This is far from an academic question. The Beavs lead the PAC-10 in QB sacks, and have KO’d Matt Barkley and Kevin Riley in the past month. Luck is a great player, but he runs the ball a bit, and also takes hits in the pocket. What happens if he twists an ankle (like Barkley) or a knee (like Kevin Riley)? Does Stanford have a good backup QB?

    Again, I hasten to emphasize that I don’t want this to happen, but what if it does?

    • OneEyedKing says:
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      Injuries to QBs don’t happen on runs (unless you’re Mike Vick), they happen on sacks where the QB lands badly. So if Luck goes down (I hope not, but it could happen) it’ll be because Paea got to him on the backside, or his leg plants wrong.

    • Stanford Fan says:
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      @silverstream:

      Great question, and I don’t think anyone outside the coaching staff knows the answer. It looks like our #2 QB, Alex Loukas (a running quarterback) is out of the game with an injury. Our #3, redshirt freshman Josh Nunes, has only thrown three passes all year in garbage time (one OK pass, one good pass, and one bad pass). He was a four-star recruit, that’s all we know.

      On the positive side, it’s unlikely (although of course possible) that Luck will be injured. We have only given up five sacks all year, and Luck’s only injury in two years was a broken finger. He’s taken his share of hits and has never been taken out of a game. Again, it’s always possible.

  • VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
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    That would be a HUGE problem for the Cardinal. It’s never a good thing to have to go to your back-up quarterback, especially when the starter is as good as Luck, but Luck’s back-up — Alex Loukas — was injured last week. It apparently isn’t serious, but the latest word is that he’ll be available for a bowl game, but not this week. (Harbaugh typically brings him for three or four plays a game, splitting Luck out wide and putting Loukas in the wildcat; he almost always runs some type of draw or bootleg.) So if Luck goes down, that would leave things to the third stringer, Josh Nunes. He isn’t good enough to ever start for Stanford, even in years to come, so this would be a bad thing.

    • VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
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      Hmm, this could actually be important.

      Seems to me that Harbaugh won’t want to risk injury to Luck in this Saturday’s game. That means Luck will (or at least should) be careful about running the ball, and about taking big hits while scrambling to avoid pressure. And that could reduce one of Stanford’s biggest advantages — Luck’s ability to scramble out of trouble against the Beavers.

      All knowledgeable Beaver fans know that running/scrambling QB’s represent the biggest problem for OSU’s defensive schemes and personnel. Running QB’s have killed us all year (e.g., Andy Dalton of TCU, and more recently and notoriously, Jeff Tuel of Washington State). If Luck’s running and scrambling is curtailed (to protect him), that would be very good news for OSU.

      Do you think Harbaugh would try to limit the risk of Luck getting hurt by curtailing Luck’s running/scrambling this Saturday? Or would Harbaugh (tough guy that he is…) just assume the risk and take no particular precautions with his superstar QB?

      • VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
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        That’s an interesting question. I really don’t know how Harbaugh might approach that issue. What I’d guess is that even if Harbaugh doesn’t call designed runs, Luck might check to them at the line on his own. His biggest runs, though, have been scrambles. We’ll see.

      • osbeavs says:
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        You may not see too much zone read from the Cardinal because of injury risk (<4). I do think that Luck is enough of a winner that he will scramble no matter what Harbaugh says. Luck isn't one to slide and fall short of a first down if he can put his shoulder down and get it.

  • ean says:
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    Cliff’s blog shut off the comments… did someone say something or do you think it was proactive because he knew what people would say about Pankey?

    • angry says:
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      Great question: too bad we can’t ask it!

    • mckalk mckalk says:
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      We have given Cliff a little crap about taking so long to criticize the defense, so maybe he decided to be proactive, but I have never seen anything that offensive.

      Angry- Do you think he reads your blog?

      • angry angry says:
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        I really don’t know. Do you think he does?

        • mckalk mckalk says:
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          You have left a link when you post there, so I think he has to be curious. I do not think our opinions have been unreasonable do you? At least he responds to posters sometimes and seems like a good guy, but he really has to follow company line. I know I expect him to be more of an investigative reporter, but I realize that is just not going to happen, nor should it if he wants to keep doing what he is doing.

  • Warren says:
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    I really wish we would play Hardin near the line of scrimmage more on blitzes and in the run game because of physicality and then put Mitchell in coverage more because of the ballhawk he is. What do people think about this?

  • angry says:
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    Hardin is a tweener who should theoretically be a backup. He’s best suited for strong safety. Poyer will start next year, and Reynolds should push Hardin. Hardin as a nickel would be fine.

    • OneEyedKing says:
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      I’d love Hardin as a safety, or some weird hybrid safety-linebacker who blitzes and supports on running downs. But as a pure corner, he’s not ideal.

    • VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
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      I’ve been watching Hardin much of the year. He’s got serious deficiencies as a coverage corner, especially on routes over the middle, where he routinely is a step or two behind his man. Hardin also has bricks for hands.

      Poyer is already a better CB for man coverage schemes, and is also a pick-six threat (which Hardin is not). The starting OSU CBs against Stanford should be Dockery and Poyer.

      As for playing safety, Hardin has the size and speed, but not the smarts. OSU safeties need to identify and call out coverages and responsibilities — Hardin’s football IQ is too low for that.

      Hardin does hit hard, and he has good speed. Hardin should play as a nickel back, as Angry says.. Hardin is also a good special teams player for the punt and kickoff coverage units (where he sometimes makes spectacular plays and hits — but again Hardin is also always a threat to do something dumb…)

    • uncanny says:
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      For next year I think with the personnel we have, the best lineup would be a 4-2-5 with Collins and Doctor as the lb’s and Hardin as the 5th db. Hardin would be a hybrid safety/lb where he could fly around and hit people and not be 1 on 1 with a wr on the outside. I don’t know yet who would play cb on the other side of Poyer but it seems we have some speedy young guys who could step up and win that job. The same goes for the other safety spot next to Mitchell. This would be a much better lineup at stopping a read option offense and qb’s like Tuel and Brehaut would not be able to run around like they did against our current D. Maybe I am wrong but I think the coaching staff could do a lot better job at utilizing the personnel we have and this is one of the ways.

    • Alex says:
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      Hardin reminds me of a puppy. Fast, energetic, hard-hitting, but rarely seems to know what’s going on. He’s never looking where he should be, and unless the route is very simple (straight deep) he always gets left behind. 100% reactive, no ability to see how the play is unfolding or the timing required to disrupt it.

      • VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
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        Agreed. Contrast Hardin in this respect with Poyer, who has an unusually high football IQ (quick to understand what is happening as a play unfolds; able to anticipate when and where a QB is going to throw; rarely makes dumb mistakes). This is a major reason why Poyer is a FAR better choice than Hardin to start at CB…

  • Warren says:
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    With #28 graduating, does Anthony Watkins take his spot?

    • angry angry says:
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      Murphy is making a push. Collins could move back too given that next years LBs should be better than the current batch.

      • Ean says:
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        Don’t forget about the BYU transfer Shiloah Te’o. I don’t know much about him but I imagine he is decent if Riley was willing to take a risk on him. Also if the Beavs land Byron Moore we will be deep at safety as he is a JC transfer.

  • angry says:
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    Do any of you know why Jay Harbaugh decided to attend OSU? Is it because Riley coached the dad at San Diego?

    Maybe this guy will be Riley’s successor ten years down the road.

  • Warren says:
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    If he’s anything like his brothers, I’m all for it.

  • angry says:
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    Ruh roh, LaMichael James…

    http://wweek.com/editorial/3703/14805/

    • mckalk mckalk says:
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      I like that..they believe he has been cleared…not quite the same as he has been cleared and everything is good to go. There is some opinion going around that he is going to enter the draft, right? He could probably care less about NCAA violations at this point.

    • ean says:
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      It will get swept under the rug. The NCAA is not in the business of enforcing rules they are in the business of keeping a good public perception. Unless the story blows up it will makes sense for the NCAA sweep it under the rug.

    • JackBeav says:
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      It’s all good… as long as nobody looks in the glove box.

    • ean says:
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      it also might explain why Chip was visiting with Pete Carrol.

      • mckalk mckalk says:
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        LOL! Trying to get tips from Pete on how to make the investigation last five years?

  • OS_Beaver says:
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    Check out this video by Ryan Welch of the OSU-USC Fan Experience. Very well done and getting rave reviews on pureorange.. GO BEAVS!!

    • JackBeav says:
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      The videography is great.

      The soundtrack is a little strange. I thought an episode of Friends was going to break out at any time.

      I would have overlayed a nice edit of Deodato’s version of Also Sprach Zarathustra. It’s perfect for the “journey” pieces that integrate background noises with the soundtrack.

      But what do I know? I’m a jazz/funk/blues/classical guy.

  • ean says:
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    Could anyone out there hook me up with a live stream of the game tonight. I don’t get FSN?

  • cloudy says:
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    speaking of DBs for next year, what’s the word with Keynan Parker? last i heard of him was when he committed….

  • VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
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    Hello, all. If you’re seeing this twice it’s because I posted it on the wrong thread…
    I asked your man Cliff Kirkpatrick to do a quick preview for me along the same lines as angry’s. Here’s the direct link:
    http://www.gomightycard.com/2010/11/blogging-with-the-enemy-oregon-state-beavers-part-ii.html

  • Stanford Fan says:
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    Just wanted to refute the point that both the Stanford and Oregon State bloggers have made about Stanford’s home field advantage. While we may not be the loudest fans, the advantage is clear. Since the last game of 2007 we are 16-2 at home and 8-10 on the road. One of those home losses was to #6 USC during our 5-7 season in 2008.

    Please remember that noise does not equate to home field advantage. For some reason, we get it done at home.

    I’m worried about the sweeps as well! However, I think we have improved speed that will keep those plays to solid gains rather than 15+ yard runs most of the time. “Angry” mentions that OSU’s defense practically plays 3 safeties. That’s not good when we line up with 8 offensive linemen and a fullback and run “power”. Honesly, I loved hearing that. I think the biggest thing to watch will be Stanford’s O-line against your D-line. If we can get consistent 5-yard runs you’ll find it tough.

    As for a prediction, I think the line of Stanford by 14 is about accurate. But I can definitely see us losing this game if we can’t stop Quizz.

    • angry angry says:
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      Riley is starting Camat, a beefier linebacker, for this game. Collins will probably be in on coverage downs. So, scrap the 3 safety idea.

      Every team has a home field advantage due to not having to be worn down from traveling. Familiarity helps, too.

      I didn’t say they don’t have a home field advantage, I just don’t think the 12th man will be forcing procedural penalties.

      • Stanford Fan says:
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        Angry, I was going off of ” I’ve never been impressed with Stanford’s home field ‘advantage'” from your answers to MightyCard’s questions. I agree that the noise won’t be causing false starts on Saturday. However, I’m comfortable that we’ll win this game only because we’re at home.

        I like Riley’s call going with larger linebackers. It doesn’t matter how well our receivers are covered if our linemen are pushing everybody back five yards.

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