As much as I liked it, there's an admitted bias. Further, I will say I kind of agree with this critique of the event. The show got caught up a little too much in the various narratives of the football story (which isn't itself a linear tale with the '89 Orange Bowl loss) and other side arcs, and lost focus on Mac himself. I understand this is ESPN, and the football is the draw, but Mac's the crux of the story, and I don't think they really delved into his deal. You don't have to take a hatchet to the man to tell his story, either - he's a fascinating, influential figure, even beyond just 1989 and 1990 or Promise Keepers. The dichotomy between the man and the town he thrived in, particularly, was something I would've liked to hear more about.
Regardless, good stuff, and worth any CU fan's time. I'll be looking for it when it hits blu-ray shelves for sure.
Hype Music for the Week: "Poison" by Bell Biv Devoe
Fitting with the mood of the 30 for 30 take on the McCartney-era Buffaloes, I'm throwing it back to 1990, and gifting you the splendor that is Bell Biv Devoe. Enjoy!
Kick off from Folsom Field is set for, yeesh, 11am in the damn morning. Get your mimosas and bloody marys ready, 'cause we're back to a breakfast tailgate. Coverage for those not in attendance can be found on Pac-12 Networks, with the radio call on 850 KOA.
Click below for the preview...
When last we met -
I had to dig all the way back to 2012 and the height (depths?) of the Embree era for the last time CU and Stanford met on the gridiron. It'll be a short visit in the WABAC, however, as this game was essentially over before the end of the first 15 minutes. A pair of turnovers in the opening quarter - the first, a 52 yard pick-six tossed by Jordan Webb; the second, a fumble by Nick Kasa - gave Stanford all the opening they would need, as they bull-rushed CU into oblivion. A 48-0 de-pantsing was the final result, but it was over long before it ever got to that point.
|Ralphie ran... and that was pretty much it. From: the BDC|
Luckily, CU is leaps about bounds ahead of where they were three years ago. Gone are the days of the helpless struggle, the geeky swings at an upperclassman holding the team at arms length. The Cardinal, in back-to-back seasons, beat down Colorado 97-7, which appropriately displays the gap between the two programs at the time. Now, however, the Buffs are better at almost every facet. No, they aren't 'good' yet (or even really all that average), but neither are they 48-0 or 96-7 bad. We'll see a different exhibition of this series this weekend, and we're all better off for it.
The Cardinal in 2015 -
Their NCAA statistical profile is here.
What do you think of when you hear the name 'Stanford Football?' For me, it's powerful, tactical, old-school football played at an elite level. In an age of cutesy schemes and spreads and read-options, the Cardinal stands alone as a unique variant on pro-style football at the collegiate level. They play right at you, win the battle in the trenches, and execute you into dust. They use positions like a fullback and blocking tight end like they were meant to be, and generally look, at all times, like they're playing football, rather than some video game monstrosity. They're righteously vanilla, against the grain in every way... and I love them for it.
|RUN THE BALL! From: SportsOnEarth.com|
It's a little surprising, then, considering their continuing and immediate success, to see them all the way down at 11th in the initial rankings released by the College Football Playoff selection committee. Sure, the Cardinal struggled last week against Washington State in a rain-soaked 30-28 slobberknocker, but I find it really hard to hold it against them considering their overall body of work. Solid wins against USC, Arizona, UCLA and UW should have them higher than they are, and that WSU team is a lot better than most easterners give them credit for being. I'll admit that Stanford should not be in anyone's top-four right now, but I think a solid argument could made for their position on the doorstep; certainly something more than 11th. Realistically, the committee is snubbing them because the rest of the Pac-12 is fighting a losing battle with expectations, which is lame. Stanford deserves their respect.
|It wasn't pretty, but the Cardinal survived in Pullman. From: wsbtv.com|
On defense, a lot of the narrative is in the backfield where they're replacing five starters from last season. Luckily, a creative approach to blitz packages out of a front-six and aggressive situational adjustments has kept them viable, and they come in 26th nationally against teams in passing situations. An inability to really generate turnovers (less than one per game) or pressure the quarterback (90th in total sacks), however, holds them back a bit. As a result, the team has an overall turnover margin issue, one that could keep them from fully capitalizing on their strong start to the year. Still, a very good defense - top-35 in most major categories - and one that is more than capable of keeping the Buffs in check this weekend.
Star Players -
Woah, let me tell you about Christian McCaffrey. The son of Broncos legend Ed McCaffrey, Christian is a product of local high school juggernaut Valor Christian, and is putting together a sophomore campaign worthy of a trip to New York for the Heisman Trophy presentation. 1,954 all-purpose yards, over 244 per game, and eight scores through two-thirds of a season is a ridiculous pace. That he's nearing a record set by the great Barry Sanders only further underscores his prolific talents. He is the real deal, a true difference maker on offense and special teams, and a one-of-a-kind talent. Almost all of the success Stanford has had with the ball this season is built around his skills, and they should be able to ride to a conference title on his back.
|Christian McCaffrey is one of the best, most versatile offensive players in the country. From: the Post.|
As if that wasn't enough, Stanford also has a fifth year senior, Kevin Hogan, handing McCaffrey the ball and finding him the passing game. Maybe Hogan isn't as special as Christian (who is), but he's a solid Pac-12 QB, and one that can hurt you with both his arm and his legs (leading rusher last week against WSU, 112 net yards and two scores). What's more, Kevin is a winner, and looks to set a program record for all-time wins with 32 on Saturday. It's kind of coincidental (note: not ironic) that he would be on the verge of doing so against CU, the very team he beat in his first extended action as a freshman in 2012. You can't beat having experience under center, and the Cardinal has it in spades. Luckily, when not using McCaffrey, Hogan doesn't have much else to throw to; although, this being Stanford, there is a good tight end in Austin Hooper looming large on the line.
|Martinez usually finds himself around the ball. From: Pac-12.com|
Elsewhere, fifth year senior Ronnie Harris has already broken up 10 passes on the season, and is one of the better cover corners in the Pac-12. He pairs well with sophomore Alijah Holder, who seems to have a very high ceiling. Up front, the team is anchored by Aziz Shittu who plays all over the line and has six and a half tackles for loss.
Bradford M. Freeman Director of Football-ing -
Gotta love Stanford and their penchant for endowing their coaching positions. It's haughty and cumbersome, but it pays the bills. David Shaw currently carries the mantle of the longest title in the profession, and has done so with flying colors for four and a half seasons now. 49-13 overall (34-8 in conference) and a pair of conference titles is a hell of a start to a career, regardless of circumstance. While Coach Shaw inherited a gold mine from the Michigan-bound Jim Harbaugh, he's done a great job keeping the shop in tip-top shape, even improving it in a number of ways.
|Shaw has continued the run of success in Palo Alto. From: the Rule of Tree|
My 2015 record: 8-1. Against the spread: 5-3. Optimistic/pessimistic: CU -1.75 pts/gm
Line as of Wednesday @ 7pm - CU +16, O/U 56
It's an odd start time for the Cardinal, who will view this kickoff as a 10am PT start. They've been playing nothing but night games since an early kickoff with Northwestern saw them turn in their worst performance of the season - that 16-6 loss on opening weekend. That game kicked off at 9am PT, and many have noted how lazily the Cardinal attacked that one. Maybe, given the early wake-up call, the usually nocturnal Stanford Cardinal will struggle out of the gate...
Nah. The Buffs are in for a rough game, playing against a team that can run the ball so well against them. McCaffrey should have an especially good homecoming to keep his Heisman fires burning, more than likely putting up his averages. I'll say CU covers, though, thanks to a strong third quarter. A letdown once the clock ticks over to the fourth (what new) seals it. Not nearly as bad as three years ago, but still a loss.
Stanford 37 - CU 23
GO BUFFS! PROVE ME WRONG, AND BEAT THE CARDINAL!