Stanford coach David Shaw was just a kid when he started hearing about West Point and the mystique of its campus.
His family isn't short on military connections -- his father served in the Air Force, his grandfather in the Navy, and several aunts and uncles were spread between the various branches of the U.S. military. As result, Shaw's level of respect for Saturday's opponent, Army, couldn't be any higher.
"We're playing against young men that are willing to do some of the things that we're not willing to do down the road," Shaw said. "Our freedom is in their hands. We love them, we appreciate them."
East Coast trips aren't rare for Stanford. In odd-numbered years, when the team doesn't travel to Notre Dame, the program has made three-time-zone trips a priority. With a national recruiting base due to strict academic restrictions, the travel allows coaches to spend a few days recruiting an important area of the country and brings the team closer to family and friends (25 players are from the Eastern Time Zone).
This one, however, promises to be a unique experience.
"I'm looking forward to seeing [the campus]," Shaw said. "I'm going to take pictures, I'm going to be a tourist for a little bit."
The team will arrive in West Point late Thursday night and take a bus tour of campus at some point Friday. Its Stanford's first trip to the military academy since 1976, the first game between the teams since 1979 and 11th meeting all time.
"I have the utmost respect for our servicemen," Stanford running back Tyler Gaffney said. "They are all about details. Their details when it comes to their official job will cost them their life if they make a mistake. So I can imagine how detailed they are going into a football game."
Admiration aside, Saturday's noon ET game between No. 5 Stanford (1-0) and Army (1-1) doesn't figure to stay competitive for long. The Cardinal own the nation's second-longest winning streak (eight games), while Army is coming off a 40-14 loss to Ball State. Most Vegas oddsmakers have Stanford at least a four-touchdown favorite.
Army coach Rich Ellerson has a realistic viewpoint headed in.
"We don't have to try to win the game," he said. "We need to win the next snap, the next situation, the next opportunity. Don't believe what the scoreboard says, good, bad or indifferent."
Army's triple-option offense, which produced the nation's No. 1 rushing attack a year ago, will be an interesting challenge for the Stanford defense, the nation's No. 5 rushing defense last season. The Black Knights have averaged 329 yards per game on the ground through their first two contests, while Stanford allowed San Jose State just 35 yards on the ground in its season-opening 34-13 win.
Despite the early start for Saturday's game, Stanford didn't veer from its usual game-week schedule immediately following last week's win. Shaw said he wasn't worried about the players' body clocks not being ready by 9 a.m. PT.
“We have to remember, these kids are 18, 19 years old," he said. "They’re a lot more resilient than we are. We’re more worried about the coaches than the players.
“If you don’t make a big deal about it, they won’t make a big deal about it. You tell them when to get ready, and they’ll get ready.”