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September 4, 2008
Winning streaks at Stanford have been about as common as junior college transfers.
Three years have passed since the Cardinal has put together back-to-back victories. Yet after last week's 36-28 upset of Oregon State, Stanford is tantalizingly close and extremely excited.
"I don't think any of our players or coaches have a good chance on the World Poker Tour," coach Jim Harbaugh said this week. "They let their emotion out. They're as transparent as a baggie."
But starting that elusive winning streak will require upsetting Arizona State, which ? by the way ? lists 17 junior college transfers on its roster.
Before last week's upset, few would have given Stanford much of a chance to avenge a 41-3 spanking received from the Sun Devils a year ago. But now? Surely, doubters still exists, but they're not on the Stanford roster.
"Everybody has been on board and really believing we are a better football team," Harbaugh said. "We just felt it all through spring ball, through the summer and through training camp. We know we are a much better football team, and you hope that transpires into more wins. To get a win in the opener was significant for our ballclub to see the rewards of their hard work.
"They've been working hard, staying loose and staying focused."
They need to stay focused on pass defense. Stanford allowed 404 passing yards and three touchdowns to Oregon State, which doesn't bode well. Arizona State quarterback Rudy Carpenter passed for 388 yards against Northern Arizona a week ago.
Still, Stanford might have karma on its side. The last time the Cardinal posted a season-opening victory was in 2005, when it defeated Navy. That also was the last season it beat Oregon State. That season, Stanford posted its last winning streak, with three in a row. The final win in that streak? It was against Arizona State.
Stanford rush offense vs. Arizona State rush defense. Seven starters are back from an Arizona State defense that ranked No. 21 in the nation in rush defense last season. In last week's opener, the Sun Devils allowed Division I-AA Northern Arizona to run for 139 yards. But ASU surrendered just 11 in the first half, which ended with the Sun Devils leading 27-0. The Sun Devils face a greater challenge against Stanford junior running back Toby Gerhart, who rushed for a career-high 147 yards and two touchdowns in a 36-28 season-opening victory over Oregon State. That included a 46-yard scoring run. The Cardinal rushed for 210 yards against the Beavers and need to be successful on the ground to have a chance to upset the Sun Devils.
California TB Jahvid Best. He made a brilliant debut as a starter last week. Well, he didn't actually start ? the Bears had Shane Vereen attempt a halfback pass on the first play ? but Best came on immediately afterward and rushed for 111 yards against Michigan State. He could be in for an even bigger output this week against Washington State. The Cougars surrendered 174 rushing yards in last week's loss to Oklahoma State, and Cowboys running back Kendall Hunter ran for 107 yards and two touchdowns. Best is one of the fastest running backs in the country and the Bears' offensive line ranks among the best.
Temperatures and quarterbacks in Arizona. In throwing for three touchdowns in last week's 70-0 annihilation of Idaho, Arizona QB Willie Tuitama increased his career touchdown pass total to 47, which established a school record. The previous record of 46 was set by Tom Tunnicliffe from 1980-83. Tuitama didn't play in the second half. Meanwhile, Carpenter tied a Sun Devils record with 13 consecutive completions in the first half the victory over Northern Arizona. Carpenter finished 22 of 28 for 388 yards.
Washington's defense was is midseason form last week. But that's not a good thing because the Huskies allowed at least 44 points in the sixth, seventh and eighth games of last season. Washington surrendered 496 yards and six touchdowns ? three on plays that covered between 25 and 60 yards ? in a season-opening 44-10 loss to Oregon. That's bad enough, but remember that Oregon played much of the game with third-string QB Jeremiah Masoli, who came in during the second quarter after starter Justin Roper was injured. Roper was elevated to the starting role when Nathan Costa suffered a season-ending injury near the end of August..
? "I would have sworn we got it. Man, that stinks." ? Arizona OT Eben Britton on the Wildcats' falling four points short of setting a school scoring record in a 70-0 win over Idaho.
? "When he sees a hole, he's gone. He's up in it and he's running. It doesn't take him a long time to get to full speed. He has those instincts you come out of the crib with." ? Harbaugh on Gerhart
? "That's what we came here for, to be ready and get that scrutiny. It doesn't mean anything new." ? USC QB Mark Sanchez on the Trojans' ascension to No. 1 in both polls.
? "It's our last year, our first home game of the season. This is a big one for us, and being the O-line that we are, we expect to dominate any team we come up against." ? Washington guard Jordan White-Frisbee, one of three senior linemen, about Saturday's BYU game, to the Seattle Times
Washington TE Michael Gottlieb is expected to play against BYU after sitting out the opener with a sore hamstring. ? Arizona State allowed just one sack in its opener. Last season, Sun Devils quarterbacks were sacked 55 times. ? Arizona's 70-0 victory over Idaho was the Wildcats' first shutout since blanking Illinois 41-0 on Sept. 14, 1996. ? Arizona freshman CB Trevin Wade started his career with two interceptions. ? Another freshman who got off to a good start was California punter Bryan Anger, whose first two attempts covered 59 and 56 yards. He had three punts killed inside the 20, but also had a punt blocked after mishandling the snap from center. ? Oregon State, which travels to face No. 19 Penn State on Saturday, has won three of its past four road games against ranked opponents. ? Washington State receiver Brandon Gibson has caught a pass in 24 consecutive games, the second-longest streak in the Pac-10 behind Arizona's Mike Thomas (25 in a row).
Olin Buchanan is the senior college football writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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