A few questions kicking around my head this morning as we look ahead to The Big Game.
Any rebounders on defense? The defense needs to shake off the fact that they got beat. They looked great early, holding Oregon to -1 yard of offense in the first quarter. But the Ducks made adjustments, Delano Howell got hurt and then they got rolled. The offense didn't do them any favors with the short fields and the turnovers -- but that shouldn't be an excuse. We've seen them overcome mistakes by the offense or special teams and stand up and make plays in the past (UCLA and Colorado come to mind immediately). But Saturday night was different. Something happens mentally when another team can dictate exactly what they want to do. That's not always easy to shake off.
Any rebounders on offense? Just as the defense got beat, so did the offense. There were drops -- maybe they were too tight? There were breakdowns on the offensive line -- something we have rarely seen this season. And there were mental mistakes. But, like the defense, Oregon dictated what Stanford had to do. The Cardinal tried to stay balanced, which is when they are at their best, but once they fell behind by 20, they were forced into being a pass-first team. And when that happens, receivers need to catch the ball and run cleaner routes and the quarterback has to deliver.
What will this Big Game bring? In the 113 previous games, we've seen blowouts, surreal comebacks and 11 ties. Some pretty weird stuff. From "The Play" in '82 and "The Revenge" in '90 to Vince Ferragamo's drive in '72 and some pretty good rugby in the early 20th century, The Big Game is one of, if not the most, unique rivalry in all of college football. What will this year bring?
What to make of Luck? Not sure what to make of him during his postgame interviews. He was extremely poised, which I really like and admire. It is never easy for college players to get in front of the cameras after a tough loss. He didn't throw anyone under the bus, he gave the proper credit to Oregon and admitted fault when it was called for. We know he doesn't wear his emotions on his sleeve. He won't even compare this year's team to last year's for fear of offending someone. I wasn't expecting a Tim Tebow-esque apology or declaration. That's not Luck's style. But a little public emotion isn't exactly a terrible thing. After all, this was the biggest game in school history. This was to keep the hopes of an undefeated season and national championship drive alive. If he was ticked off in private, so be it. I'm not exposed to him enough to know what he's like behind closed doors. But if he really is able to "flush" his emotions that quickly and move on to the next game, that's a pretty rare mental ability that I have never seen from a college athlete.
Can this season still be a success? I think so. If they win out. A ton was put on Saturday's game against Oregon. For better or worse, it's over with. The Cardinal still have a very good shot at playing in their second-straight BCS bowl game. I expect them to come out against Cal looking extremely loose -- almost relieved even that Oregon is behind them. While all the build-up ended in a resounding thud for the Cardinal Nation, this still has the makings of one of the greatest seasons in Stanford history.