Some questions kicking around my sugar-spattered brain the day after Halloween:
Can the Cardinal keep their emotions in check? Saturday's win over USC was draining -- in every possible way a game can drain a team. It was physically exhausting, emotionally taxing and in case you haven't heard, the Cardinal are now No. 4 in the BCS standings. Enter 2-6 Oregon State, a team with little to play for but pride. Nothing would be sweeter for the Beavers than to shock the college football world and dash Stanford's hopes of a national championship. With intelligent players, head coach David Shaw shouldn't need to remind them not to look ahead to the Nov. 12 game against No. 8 Oregon. But he should still say it, again and again and again.
Will the tackling issue ever get fixed? It better, and no better time to start than this week. If safety Delano Howell is back from a hand injury, that will help. And the secondary will be tested yet again this week. Oregon State has averaged 47 passes per game over its past five while averaging 289 passing yards per game. But they still have some balance, running about 40 percent of the time. The Cardinal have given up three rushing touchdowns of 45 yards or more over the past two weeks. That blame doesn't just fall on the secondary -- that's up front with the defensive line and linebackers.
How does the offensive line rebound? Pretty good game for the offensive line -- especially in the run game and in the fourth quarter and overtime when the Cardinal rushed for 98 of their 186 yards. They were clearly in better shape and were moving people with more of a purpose late in the game. But the two sacks were an issue. And the fact that both of them came on third down was even more concerning. I'll touch on this later today in my "One Bad Thing" video. Quarterback Andrew Luck has to have complete confidence in his offensive line, particularly on third down, if the Cardinal are going to see this thing through.
Can the pass rush get back on track? Stanford's inability to register a sack had as much to do with Matt Barkley as it did the Cardinal. Barkley was just as impressive, maybe more so, than Luck in terms of showcasing his quick release and ability to move the pocket. And he was tough. The Cardinal pounded him several times and every time he stood in the pocket and took the shots. Still, with the pressure the Cardinal create and the skill players they have on defense, there is no reason they should be blanked again this season.
What will the offense look like without Zach Ertz? I'm really curious, almost excited on some weird level, to see how the Cardinal put this together over the next couple of weeks without Ertz. There is zero doubt in my mind that Shaw and Co. will have an outstanding offensive game plan in place for the next couple of weeks. They haven't lacked for creativity this year averaging almost one non-traditional/gadget play per game.
The Montgomery era begins? Nice to see another wide receiver finally have a big game. And I like the fact that Luck had the confidence to go to Ty Montgomery three straight times to open the final drive in regulation when the Cardinal were trailing 34-27 with 3:03 left in the game. Plus, Luck looked to him twice in overtime. Shows tremendous trust and confidence in the true freshman for him to get that much attention late in a critical game with an undefeated season on the line.