Clardy's Corner: The Case of the Missing "O"

OL Cameron Fleming

Based on what I've seen from Stanford's defense and cal's offense, I am making the following prediction for this weekend's 115th Big Game: Stanford's defense will allow only six points. Question is, will it be enough?

Twice this season, Stanford has taken plane rides to play opponents on the road. Both times, they've forgotten to pack their offense. In two road games, Stanford's defense has scored two touchdowns. Their offense has scored none.

Well, actually, the offense did score a touchdown last week at Notre Dame, but the replay officials ruled otherwise. So, depending upon whom you ask, Stanford's offense still has yet to punch it in on the road.

No such problem for the Treefense, as that unit has come to play on the road. In South Bend last weekend, they were in full command through three quarters. Chase Thomas lived in Notre Dame's backfield through the entire game. Trent Murphy was everywhere. Ben Gardner, Terrence Stephens, and Henry Anderson owned the Notre Dame offensive line. It was amazing to watch those guys work. It was also pretty quiet in Notre Dame Stadium most times when those guys left the field.

But as well as the defense played, it couldn't beat Notre Dame by itself. Certainly not with the offense and the officiating both conspiring against them.

I didn't agree with the unnecessary roughness and the pass interference penalties on Notre Dame's game-tying drive at the end of regulation, but I can see why those calls were made. If a referee is in doubt, he is going to throw the flag to protect the quarterback, as Shaun Hochuli did when Usua Amanam knocked Everett Golson out of the game. I didn't agree with that flag one bit, but that's how it works.

Meanwhile, we all know Stepfan Taylor scored on that final fourth-down play. And probably on the second-down play, too. I'm sure there have been a few phone calls from the Stanford athletic department to the Pac-12's officiating department this week emphasizing those facts.

But the bottom line is this: when you put the game in the officials' hands, you can expect to be disappointed nine times out of ten. And quite frankly, if the offense had done its job, if they had gained at least one first down in the third quarter, if Josh Nunes hadn't gotten off to a slow start, if his receivers would have caught the ball, and if the offensive line had fared better in goal line situations, things never would have reached the point where the game's outcome rested solely on the replay booth.

(Quick story: I actually saw Shaun Hochuli and the officials hustling out of Notre Dame Stadium afterwards. I started to shoot them funny looks until I noticed who was leading the entourage: Ed Houchuli. Shaun's dad. The NFL referee. The most famous referee in the country. Too bad it was raining and he was wearing a jacket, otherwise the guns would have been on full display. I didn't want to meet my doom at the hands of Ed Hercules, so I kept my funny looks to myself as they brushed past. Back to the Corner…)

I'm not going to predict how the officiating will be in Berkeley this week, and I feel confident that Stanford's defense will be on point once more against the Bears. That means the Big Game's biggest subplot will be what happens when the Cardinal have the ball in a road setting. Even though no airplanes are involved in this week's road trip, the Card will be playing in the most hostile and unfriendly environment they can possibly face: Berkeley.

In an affront to Big Game tradition, the Cardinal and the Bears are squaring off one month too early. But cal, looking to avenge their total beatdown in 2010 and their 2011 loss in which Zach Maynard probably outplayed Andrew Luck, will be ready. And you know the Weenies will be ready.

When it comes to hostility, anger, and amimosity towards Stanford Football, Seattle and South Bend have nothing on Berkeley. Actually, the only place that may be able to match the amount of anger and hostility towards Stanford Football than Berkeley these days is probably the BootBoard Plus.

Oh sure, Memorial Stadium just underwent a major facelift, so it looks much prettier than it used to. But make no mistake, for any good Stanford fan, it's still a hellhole. I have yet to hear an explanation for how a $321 million renovation still doesn't pay for getting rid of those embarrassing port-a-potties, by the way.

The site, the subplots, and the stakes all combine to make this game Stanford's biggest test yet. And appropriately, it comes in Big Game. It may be a joke that these two teams are playing in October, but Big Game is once again serious business for the Cardinal.

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RANDOM PAC-12 THOUGHTS

Spent some time before the game hanging out in the College GameDay crowd outside Notre Dame Stadium. Some moron in the crowd decided to climb a nearby tree, but fell. I thought it was a good sign. After all, even before kickoff the score was already Trees 1, Irish 0…

Saturday's unsung hero: fullback Ryan Hewitt. That young man blocked his tail off. It almost looked like Owen Marecic was back out there…

Random stat: in the Pac-12, Stanford currently ranks seventh in total defense. Take away that 617-yard day against Arizona, and the Card would be ranked second…

Well, what do you know…Arizona State's special teams actually made a positive impact for a change. Rashad Ross' 100-yard kick return to open the second half broke open a close game in Boulder last week. Now, if their kicking game can only follow suit…

Not a Pac-12 thought, but… I thought West Virginia would be walking into a trap in Lubbock. I didn't think they would get rickrolled right from the start and lose by 35 points…

Not a Pac-12 thought, but… according to a prominent college football insider I chatted with on Saturday, here's a name that Texas may be looking at if Mack Brown "retires" at the end of the season: Boise State's Chris Petersen

Not a Pac-12 thought, but… I am proud to say that one of the people I got a chance to know well during my time at ESPN was the one and only Beano Cook. Beano passed away in his sleep last Thursday morning at age 81. I always enjoyed my conversations with him, and was surprised one day when he greeted me with a rousing rendition of the "Dirty Golden Bear." He also told me this bit of wisdom that rings oh so true: "Troy, there's too many lawyers and not enough quarterbacks!" Rest in peace, Beano. You were truly one of a kind…

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PAC-12 PICKS

Oregon @ Arizona State (Thursday). This is the game the Sun Devils have had circled on the calendar for quite a while, and there is enough to think ASU may be able to pull the upset here. But why do I get the feeling that the Sun Devils will be caught off-guard by Oregon's ungodly speed? I like Oregon by 14.

Colorado @ U$C. Matt Barkley has 96 career touchdown passes. Matt Leinart has the Pac-12 record with 99. Leinart won't have that record by halftime. I like U$C by 27.

Washington @ Arizona. First one to 40 wins. I like Arizona by 8.

Utah @ Oregon State. What's not to like about Oregon State these days? They get big plays from their quarterback and their receivers, and their defense comes up big when needed most. That recipe should continue again this week. I like Oregon State by 13.

Last week: 3-1 (straight-up), 2-2 (ATS). This year: 13-4 (straight-up), 8-9 (ATS). Last year: 27-19 (straight-up), 28-18 (ATS).

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Troy Clardy is in his 20th year of following the Cardinal as a columnist, broadcaster, and announcer. In its 11th season of Cardinal commentary, Clardy's Corner appears Wednesdays during the college football regular season on TheBootleg.com. You can also check him out online at TroyClardy.com, hear him on Pittsburgh's Sportsradio 93-7 The Fan, or e-mail him at troyc@thebootleg.com.


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