It's time to talk about something. As we sit here on November 7th of 2010, the Stanford Cardinal is one of the best teams in the country. In what was supposed to be the Mighty Card's toughest test of the season, Andrew Luck and company sliced through the Arizona Wildcat defense like dozens of knives through hot butter, rolling to a dominant 42-17 victory.
Led by the best front four in the conference, this was the defense that many thought could stifle the Cardinal offense by shutting down the running game and pressuring Andrew Luck into making mistakes with the football. It became clear fairly early on that that wouldn't be the case. Luck, you see, has the luxury of playing behind the best offensive line in the conference, and they served him well on Saturday night.
The Stanford offense has been a juggernaut all season long, but this was really the first time we've seen them firing on all cylinders. The usual balance was there with 217 yards rushing and 293 yards passing, but against the best defense the conference has to offer, a team that had been yielding only sixteen points a game in league play, the Cardinal was explosive. It was surprising when a possession ended without points, and each time they broke the huddle and jogged to the line of scrimmage they were a threat to score -- thanks mainly to Owusu.
Owusu's season has been marred by various injuries, and even though he's been playing through them, it wasn't until Saturday night that seemed like the receiver he was supposed to be this year. Arizona's Juron Criner entered the game touted as the best receiver in the conference, but Chris Owusu was the best player on the field. He caught nine passes for 165 yards and that early touchdown, and was absolutely electric all night.
Stepfan Taylor's string of five consecutive 100-yard games came to an end as he rushed for only 82 yards, but he was still able to score a career-high four touchdowns, so I'm guessing he doesn't mind. Anthony Wilkerson -- and by the way, I love Anthony Wilkerson more each time I see him -- was the leading rusher with 84 yards.
The defense, though, was just as impressive as the offense. The box score will tell you that Arizona piled up more than four hundred yards of total offense, but that's misleading. Almost half of their yardage came late in the game when the game was essentially out of reach and they turned in desperation to a hurry-up offense. Early on quarterback Nick Foles and the Arizona offensive line looked flustered by the Cardinal's constantly shifting defensive schemes. On one critical third down in the first quarter, the Stanford linebackers jumped up to the line, showing blitz as they jockeyed back and forth as Foles tried to direct his blitz pickups. At the snap, however, the linebackers and one of the linemen fell back into coverage, leaving only three players to rush Foles. No problem, though, because one of the three was safety Michael Thomas who came on a blitz from the left side of the line. He sprinted in untouched and belted Foles as his pass fell harmlessly to the turf.
After the game Thomas would sum things up for ESPN.com, discussing how the team gained motivation from last year's loss to Arizona in Tucson: "Every day, every moment, that's all you remember. Even at halftime, guys were like, 'Remember what happened last year. Go out there, make sure nobody is smiling, nobody is thinking we won the game. We haven't done anything yet.' Last year, that sat in us, that burned in us for all offseason, all this week, and throughout the whole day."
So take a look at your Stanford Cardinal. One of the best teams in the country.
[Photo Credit: Paul Sakuma/Associated Press]