No. 5 Stanford awaits bowl fate
If Stanford's regular-season finale against Oregon State was its closing argument for earning a spot in the Bowl Championship Series, it sure was an effective one.
Andrew Luck threw four touchdown passes to show off the skills that make him one of the top pro prospects in the country, the defense delivered its third shutout and the Cardinal completed the stunning turnaround from a one-win to a one-loss team with a 38-0 victory over the Beavers.
Now all No. 5 Stanford (11-1, 8-1 Pac-10) can do is wait and see if all that will be enough to get the Cardinal into the BCS when bids are announced next week.
''I think our guys have stated the case on the field,'' coach Jim Harbaugh said. ''We're not lobbyists, we're not campaigners. We've impressed the heck out of 11 other teams we've played this year and the voters should be impressed. This is one heck of a college football team.''
The Cardinal are in a strong position, having moved up to fourth in the latest BCS standings with a comfortable lead over fifth-place Wisconsin. With the top four teams assured bids into the BCS, and Stanford, Wisconsin and sixth-place Ohio State done for the regular season, the Cardinal look to be in good shape for an at-large bid.
''It doesn't really matter what I think,'' receiver Doug Baldwin said. ''The BCS, they have to decide that for themselves.''
The Cardinal players said they would be anxiously awaiting the release of the standings Sunday evening and were trying to figure out what factors could alter the rankings in the final week.
''It would be hard not to,'' Thomas said. ''Everyone will tell us don't worry about it and you can't control what you can't control. A couple of guys checked their phones at halftime and saw LSU lost. It's definitely in the back of our minds. We'll be watching the BCS standings come out and it will be real exciting to us.''
Even Harbaugh will turn his focus to the BCS now that he doesn't have to prepare for an upcoming game. He said he plans to sit down with athletic director Bob Bowlsby to get educated on all the factors that go into the BCS standings.
''I'm going to learn about it and research it and find out the ins and outs of it,'' he said.
If the Cardinal remain in the top four in the final standings, they would likely play in either the Fiesta or Orange bowls unless No. 2 Auburn loses to No. 18 South Carolina in the SEC championship game Saturday to open a spot for No. 3 TCU in the BCS title game.
In that scenario, Stanford would likely play in the Rose Bowl, which would like to maintain its traditional Pac-10-Big Ten matchup. But under BCS rules, the Rose Bowl is obligated to take a team from a non-automatic qualifying conference if one is available.
If the Cardinal somehow slipped, they would likely be competing with a Big 12 team for the final at-large spot, with TCU, Arkansas and the No. 2 team from the Big Ten having the inside track at the other three at-large bids.
With a smaller fan base and fewer fans willing to travel, Stanford could have been bypassed by a team with lesser credentials.
Those deficiencies were evident in the stands on Saturday. The Cardinal drew an announced crowd of 38,775, including some giveaways, and there were even fewer fans on hand on a rainy night when students were away for Thanksgiving break.
The Cardinal have sold out only one game all season, thanks to USC's large traveling contingent, as they have had a hard time filling 50,000-seat Stanford Stadium despite fielding one of the top teams in the country.
''I don't see why we shouldn't get to a BCS game,'' linebacker Chase Thomas said. ''We have a nationwide fan base. I think they'll come to the game. That shouldn't be a problem.''