Tag Archives: Stanford

Matt’s All-Time Pac 12 Skill Position Team: Are You Not Entertained?

For each conference, we’re picking our all-time favorite set of skill position players (1 QB. 1 RB, 2 WR, 1 TE). The purpose of this isn’t to pick the best players of all time, but just to pick and write about our favorites or throw together an interesting group of players and imagine what they would’ve been like on the field together.

If the Pac 12 has had nothing else, it’s had a bunch of colorful characters over the past couple decades, and those guys are the focus of my team. These guys (with one exception) would dominate the headlines for their antics, and they’d also be a pretty damn good team on the field. Here goes.

Quarterback: Ryan Leaf (Washington State)

leafRyan Leaf has become such a caricature that people forget he was actually a great college quarterback: in 1998, he finished third in Heisman voting and led WSU to a Pac-10 championship. But the real reason I picked Ryan Leaf (other than the fact that he, Marshawn Lynch, Keyshawn Johnson, and Gronks would form the Most Interesting Team in the World) is that he’s the most fun Pac 10/12 quarterback to Google. Here are some results on the first few pages of a simple search: “Are the Ryan Leaf Comparisons Fair for Johnny Manziel?”(Bleacher Report), “Why Jimmy Clausen is the Second Coming of Ryan Leaf” (Bleacher Report… Ryan Leaf is basically the human version of Bleacher Report, or vice versa, I think), a few dozen “turning over a new Leaf” puns, and this picture.

Running Back: Marshawn Lynch (Cal)

Beast Mode. Skittles. Grills. It’s only a matter of time before Marshawn Lynch becomes Cal-Berkeley’s 72nd Nobel laureate.

Wide Receiver: Keyshawn Johnson (USC)

C’MON, MAN! After all the USC hating in this blog over the past couple days, I’m picking a USC player? Yep. I actually don’t mind Keyshawn, though that’s probably because I’m too young to remember him playing for USC (though his numbers were ridiculous). He’s a pretty entertaining guy, and he’d fit in perfectly with Leaf, Lynch, and Gronks (though probably not with Mark Bradford: see below) to help make this Pac 12 ensemble one of the most brash and talented groups you could put together.

Wide Receiver: Mark Bradford (Stanford)

Who is Mark Bradford? Yeah, I didn’t know either, until I Googled “guy who scored the game-winning touchdown in Stanford’s huge upset of USC”. Mark Bradford is that guy. If you don’t remember this specific game, it was in 2007, USC was #1 in the Coaches’ Poll, and Stanford was 1-3 and a 41-point underdog. Long story short, Stanford mounted a fourth-quarter comeback that culminated in a game-winning touchdown reception by none other than Mark Bradford. He’s a bit of a misfit on this team of otherwise notably insane individuals, but he’s earned his spot. Though I forgot his name for a while (if I ever knew it), Mark Bradford will always live on as a legend in my books. 

Tight End: Rob Gronkowski (Arizona)

Actually, it might not be a good idea to put Gronks and Ryan Leaf on the same team. I doubt they’d last a full season without at least one of them ending up seriously injured, incarcerated, or both. But Gronks is both a beast (obviously) and just the right amount of crazy to fit into this team. To be honest, I don’t remember him playing in college at all, but that’s on me because his stats are pretty impressive. The combination of talent and entertainment value is too much to pass up here.

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Matt’s Favorite of the Pac 12: Stanford

Andrew LuckI hate you, Stanford, but goddammit do I respect you. Yesterday I picked Stanford as my least favorite team in the conference, and today I’m picking them as my favorite*. Basically, I hate Stanford when they’re playing against my favorite team, and I pull for them against everyone else. As I discussed yesterday, the overemphasis on toughness can get annoying, but maybe that’s just because I’m jealous. You can’t help but respect them.

As far as we can tell, Stanford has achieved their recent success the right way. Elite academics. Not much drama and no significant scandals that I can recall. They were led to success on the shoulders of a smart, likable guy who apparently can’t get enough of architecture. They’ve made BCS bowl appearances each of the past three seasons and won two of them. Sure, Harbaugh was/is kind of an asshole, but it was in a goofy, entertaining way (again, unless your favorite team was playing against him). Since Harbaugh has left, David Shaw has become one of the most respectable coaches in the sport, and it looks like the program is here to stay.

Okay, really. The real reason I like Stanford? Clearly, it’s because Stanford spawned Ty Willingham**, my favorite women’s golf coach of all time. Just kidding. The real reason is that Stanford now regularly beats USC, and that’s something we can all rally around.

So today we salute you, Stanford, goofy tree and all.


*Am I covering my bases because the odds are that one day I’ll have a boss who’s a Stanford grad? No way. Okay, maybe.

**A sign of how far Stanford football has to go? Ty Willingham is second in career coaching victories with 55.

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Matt’s Least Favorite of the Pac 12: Stanford

Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of posts about the five major college football conferences, focusing on one conference per week over the next five weeks. We introduced the concept of the series in this post last Friday. Each Monday, our writers will discuss their least favorite teams in each conference, and today we begin with the Pac 12. Also, due to our extreme bias as irrational fans of Notre Dame, we decided that for our least favorite teams in the Pac 12, we had to choose a school other than USC, which would have been the unanimous choice.


Aside from USC, I don’t really harbor strong feelings–good or bad–for any Pac 12 program. I’ve only been to the west coast one time in my life, and it was an overall pleasant experience. I don’t know anyone who went to a Pac 12 school, and I’ve never been to any games on a Pac 12 campus. That being said, this pick is based solely on the fact that a certain Pac 12 school has become a huge pain in my favorite team’s ass. Plus, the tree. No one likes the tree.

From 2002 through the 2008 season, Notre Dame beat Stanford seven straight times. Then, in 2009 Stanford broke the streak by beating ND on the way to an 8-5 season, its first winning season in several years. We know the rest of the story: from 2010 on, Stanford has been really, really good and has become (arguably) the toughest, most hard-nosed team outside of the SEC. What was once a guaranteed win has become one of the toughest games on the ND schedule year in and year out.

Has head coach David Shaw taken the “tough” identity a little too far? Maybe, if this tweet from Paul Myerberg is accurate. Will too much toughness be the end of Stanford’s excellent recent run (yeah, I’m reaching…)?

Only recruiting the “toughest guy on the team” has some interesting implications:

  • Shaw can never recruit two guys who played together in high school — only one can be the toughest!

  • Stanford is going to have the toughest punters and kickers in football history… but will they be able to kick?

As a Notre Dame fan, I can only hope that musclebound, inaccurate kickers lead Stanford’s descent back to the ranks of the cellar dwellers.

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