Timing is everything. For Stanford, timing of the Bowl Championship Series revolution stinks.
If this were next year, the revolution would be under way. In 2014, there will be a four-team college playoff with two semifinal games and a championship extravaganzapalooza.
And if 2013 were magically transformed into 2014, guess which team could be in the mix for that playoff?
That’s right. Your friendly local Cardinal Nerd Nation Of Excellence.
Stanford is No. 4 in the BCS standings, behind Alabama, Florida State and Ohio State. Let’s pretend Stanford is anointed one of the top four teams at the conclusion of the post-revolution 2014 season. You could then have Stanford facing off against Alabama in one playoff semifinal and Florida State meeting Ohio State in the other. Winners play for the national title.
All right, snap back to reality.
“We obviously can’t control that,” said Stanford defensive end Henry Anderson, when presented with the above what-if scenario. “And that’s all next year. So I don’t think we ever give much thought to it.”
Notice he said “much thought.” He didn’t say “no thought.”
How can you be around Stanford football and not be at least a smidgen bemused and/or vexed by the situation? This season’s team might be as good or better than any in the recent blitz of Cardinal distinction, which began in 2010. Since then, Stanford has regularly cranked out 11 or 12 victories. This year’s group has eight, with USC up next Saturday and four other potential games after that. The Cardinal should easily get to 11 or 12.
–Mark Purdy, San Jose Mercury News
Stephen Curry asks me the same question nearly every time we chat.
“How’s Darin doing?”
Darin is Darin Johnson, a college freshman on the Washington Huskies basketball team this season. Four years ago, he was a 14-year-old freshman at Franklin High School, outside Sacramento. He was as stubborn as he was lanky, giving his JV coach headaches at a supreme rate that matched only his talent.
I know, because I was his head coach.
I witnessed a kid who could already dunk in transition and easily slice through defenses with natural footwork. I marveled at a young teen who was blessed with a complete gift for the game.
I also saw the other side: a poor work ethic, an embattled attitude and a frustration for all things difficult. Johnson, despite his self-confidence, was at risk of peaking as a high school underclassman.
“Back then, I didn’t think work ethic was that important because I relied on my talent,” said Johnson, now 18. “If I wanted to get to the hoop, I’d just get there because I had more talent than the other kid. But as time went on, and I began seeing other kids were getting better, I realized I was falling behind.”
–Jimmy Spencer, FOXSports.com
Subject is a 24-year-old starting quarterback for the Oakland Raiders currently in his third year in the National Football League. Subject is known throughout his profession for extraordinary athletic ability. He presents with symptoms common among inexperienced NFL quarterbacks: inaccuracy, unsteadiness and inability to deal with the pressure that comes with the game’s larger moments. He shows occasional difficulty identifying defensive schemes, primarily blitzes, and struggles to make precise decisions in the fractions of seconds allotted for them. Subject admits he spent his first two seasons with the Raiders with no earthly idea how to play quarterback in the NFL. Purpose of this study is to observe and report on subject’s quest to make the most of his prodigious physical gifts, for possible application by similarly endowed future NFL quarterbacks (Jameis Winston, Teddy Bridgewater, Johnny Manziel, Marcus Mariota, Braxton Miller) and teams that might employ them.
Subject has started eight games in his professional career, and he admits that his athletic ability — he is 6’4″, 233 pounds and once ran a 4.36 40 — lends itself to feelings of grandiosity. Before his professional career, he was consistently able to outperform opponents solely on the basis of talent. In interviews, he fondly remembers the days at Jeannette (Pa.) Senior High School and Ohio State University when he knew nobody on the field could stop him. This feeling carried over to the NFL, and it manifests itself through a desire to make big plays when the situation calls for small ones.
Subject exhibits a rare level of self-awareness for someone his age and in his station in life. His demeanor is expressive and joyful. He is remarkably open about the gaps in his knowledge and remarkably fierce about his determination to close them. His desire is raw and stark, his ambition an open wound.
Perhaps because of his high expectations, subject tends to let the hot blame of defeat wash over him. He reports that his girlfriend “says I act like I’ve lost every game,” even those his team has won. His well-developed sense of personal responsibility is best exemplified by his reaction to the Raiders’ loss at Kansas City in Week 6. In that game, subject was sacked nine times and threw three interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown. Afterward, he said he — and he alone — lost the game.
In a subsequent interview, subject said: “I turned the ball over and gave them plus-territory three times, and one was a pick six. I lost the game. Period.”
Subject’s complicated past is vital to the overall assessment. He was the top high school player in the country coming out of Jeannette, and he chose Ohio State after a protracted cross-country recruiting battle that assumed the narrative form of an episode of Judge Judy.
Subject’s matriculation at Ohio State ended after three years, when the university barred him from any contact with the athletic program for five years in the aftermath of his role in NCAA violations that included trading memorabilia for tattoos. When he entered the NFL’s 2011 supplemental draft — and before the Raiders took him in the third round — the NFL made the unprecedented decision to uphold a suspension by the NCAA that forced him to sit out the first five games of his pro career.
–Tim Keown, ESPN The Magazine