Boise State, TCU aren't only teams in line for potential heartbreak
Deserving Andrew Luck and Stanford may be shut out of Heisman and BCS
Wisconsin is dominating thanks to old-school brand of smashmouth football
Black Friday brings a triple-header that could alter the entire BCS landscape
In recent weeks, this column has devoted a whole lot of space to a certain Heisman- and championship-contending quarterback currently under NCAA investigation. All the while, Stanford's Andrew Luck has quietly been building his own case for an invite to New York, a spot in a BCS bowl and consideration as the No. 1 pick in next spring's NFL draft.
Currently, only the latter is considered likely.
On Saturday, Stanford's third-year sophomore exorcised some serious demons in leading a 48-14 rout of rival Cal, avenging the worst performance of his young career, which came in last year's Big Game. He completed 16-of-20 passes for 235 yards and two touchdowns and led No. 7 Stanford (10-1) to scores on all eight of his drives.
We also found out that Newton isn't the only quarterback out there who can run over a defender. In a play that will surely live in YouTube infamy, Luck, who's run for 445 yards this season, broke off a 58-yard gain. During the run, Luck plowed into Bears safety Sean Cattouse with his left shoulder, seemed to stop and stare at Cattouse for a split-second while regaining his bearings, watched Cattouse fall to the ground and then took off again for another 20-plus yards.
"In my head, I was thinking, 'Someone's got to be coming from somewhere.' I'm a slow quarterback and I'd been running for a while," Luck said Sunday. "He came in high on me, and I guess at that point momentum and inertia took over. I don't remember looking at him. I was just stunned I was still on my feet."
NFL scouts are rightfully drooling over the 6-foot-4, 235-pound high school valedictorian and son of former pro Oliver Luck, with his cannon arm, refined mechanics and playbook mastery. The mobility's nice, too. San Jose Mercury News columnist and former NFL beat writer Tim Kawakami recently dubbed Luck the fourth-most "valuable" quarterback prospect of the last decade, behind only Michael Vick, Eli Manning and Philip Rivers.
"I believe he is [NFL-ready]," Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh said recently. "He's physically mature, he's mentally mature. He's got a rare talent."
In terms of college recognition, however, Luck may get overlooked. The Heisman is considered Newton's to lose -- unless the electorate gets queasy about his mounting off-field saga. And it's hard to argue against Boise State's Kellen Moore (the nation's top-rated passer), Oregon's LaMichael James (the nation's leading rusher) or even Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon (who's having a record-breaking receiving season).
There's not much more Luck can do. He's completed 70.2 percent of his passes for 2,746 yards, 24 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Factoring in his rushing, he's averaging 290.1 yards of total offense, just ahead of Moore and 13 less than Newton.
"I'm sort of taking the approach that if I play well enough on the football field to make a statement, I'll get an invite," said Luck. "If I don't, I don't."
And while his team isn't undefeated, it is 10-1 for the first time since 1926 (that team went 10-0-1), with the only loss coming to No. 1 Oregon in a game where Luck threw for a season-high 341 yards but also threw two picks.
It's because of that Oregon loss, and because of a quirky rule, that even if Stanford beats Oregon State next week to finish 11-1, its reward might be a trip to the Alamo Bowl. In any other year, the Cardinal would replace the Ducks in Pasadena, but this year the Granddaddy is obligated to take the highest-ranked non-BCS team, in this case TCU or Boise State.
It is therefore both a jubilant and frustrating time to be a Stanford fan. The school's best team in 80 years might not go to a major bowl game, and its best quarterback since John Elway might not get an invite to New York, as running back Toby Gerhart did last year. And the window of opportunity is closing. Luck may be down to his last two games as an amateur, and many believe Harbaugh will join the pro ranks himself sooner than later.
Stanford's fate may in fact be tied to Newton's. If the Auburn star struggles Friday at Alabama and the second-ranked Tigers go down, it might open the Heisman door slightly for Luck. More likely, it would move Boise or TCU up to the BCS title game and allow the Cardinal to head to Pasadena. It's considered unlikely the Sugar or Orange bowls would take the school due to travel concerns.
Luck admitted the BCS situation "has come up in the locker room," but that "the guys appreciate what's going on here right now. It's a great time for the program. We're just hoping to go out and get that 11th win."
I first met the then 20-year-old at a Pac-10 event in New York last summer. He's basically your typical, goofy college kid, albeit much smarter than I'll ever hope to be. (He apologized Sunday for calling later than expected, saying it was "a major oversight." What college kid says that?) He's an avid follower of the national college scene, thanks in part to his dad, the athletic director at West Virginia, and he can be seen at Stanford volleyball games cheering on his sister, Mary Ellen, a freshman for the Cardinal.
Asked last week about his myriad accomplishments to this point, Luck said: "It's nice. But I wouldn't say it's satisfying quite yet."
Here's hoping he gets some sort of coronation before we lose him to the pros.
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