No. 7 Stanford needs more than wins for BCS bid

Stanford ended any debate about which team is second best in the

Pac-10 with a game that coach Jim Harbaugh called his team’s most

complete of the season.

The seventh-ranked Cardinal will need more than performances

like the one in Saturday night’s 42-17 victory over Arizona in

order to give the ending they want to the school’s best season in

decades.

Even if Stanford (8-1, 5-1 Pac-10) manages to win its final

three games for its first 11-win season, the Cardinal could end up

in the Alamo Bowl instead of a more prestigious BCS game.

”We understand this has the opportunity to be a very special

season for Stanford,” quarterback Andrew Luck said. ”I know

there’s many different situations about bowl games and what not.

That all doesn’t really matter unless we win. So we’re taking it

like that.”

Because Stanford lost 52-31 at Oregon, the Cardinal would need

to top-ranked Ducks to lose twice to win the conference. That seems

unlikely. But in a typical year, Stanford would also be in position

to replace Oregon in the Rose Bowl if the Ducks won out and made

the BCS title game.

That’s not so simple this season.

The Rose Bowl is obligated to take a team from a non-automatic

qualifying conference if one earns its way into the BCS but does

not make the title game. So the Cardinal would likely need No. 3

TCU or No. 4 Boise State to lose once down the stretch and miss the

BCS, or for one of those teams to make the title game against

Oregon.

In order for that to happen, No. 2 Auburn would have to lose and

Stanford would have to make sure a one-loss team from another power

conference doesn’t move into the top two in the BCS.

Got all that?

”We’re playing to win, simple as that,” safety Delano Howell

said. ”At the end of the day, whichever bowl we end up in, we just

want to make sure we win as many games as possible. As far as what

happens in the Pac-10 and what Oregon does, we can’t control

that.”

If Stanford goes 11-1 and does not make the Rose Bowl, the

Cardinal would still be eligible for another BCS game. But with

Stanford not having a big national following and lacking a large

alumni base that would travel to a bowl game, the Cardinal could

have a hard time getting an at-large spots in the Fiesta, Sugar or

Orange bowls.

That would leave Stanford in the Alamo Bowl against the third

choice from the Big 12.

”The BCS, we can’t control it,” defensive back Michael Thomas

said. ”If we take care of our business and win the rest of our

games and go 11-1, we’ll end up in a better bowl. We’re just doing

the best we can.”

That was clearly the case Saturday.

Led by another masterful performance from Luck, Stanford put up

six touchdowns and 516 yards against the stingiest defense in the

Pac-10. Luck threw for 293 yards and two touchdowns, Chris Owusu

caught nine passes for 165 yards and a score and Stepfan Taylor ran

for four touchdowns. Stanford also allowed no sacks to a team that

led the league with 27 coming into the game.

The defense also did a good job, holding the Wildcats to three

points in the first half and coming up with a couple key stops in

the second half to thwart a potential comeback.

Despite that, the Cardinal still find themselves behind fellow

one-loss teams LSU and Wisconsin in the latest AP rankings.

”I’m not a guy who concerns himself with the polls and things

like that,” Harbaugh said. ”Speaking on behalf of my guys and

Stanford football, this is a one-loss team that only lost to the

No. 1-ranked team in the country. Probably about time they get

recognition.”