The Stanford Cardinal Are No. 1 in the Pac-10…So What?

Jason FigueiredoCorrespondent IOctober 7, 2009

PALO ALTO, CA - SEPTEMBER 26: Head coach Jim Harbaugh of the Stanford Cardinal looks on against the Washington Huskies at Stanford Stadium on September 26, 2009 in Palo Alto, California. (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

If in the preseason I told you that the Stanford Cardinal would be 3-0 in conference five weeks into the season, you probably wouldn’t have batted an eye after a quick glance at the matchups.  With both inept Washington teams and an unproven UCLA squad scheduled, Stanford was perfectly positioned to accomplish this outstanding start. 

The real surprise is that they are on top of the conference all alone.

The Cardinal, unlike some of the preseason conference favorites, are taking care of business when they are the better team. Early losses by Cal and USC have cracked opened the door to the conference throne, and Stanford has nonchalantly propped the door open with its foot.         

But how long can this Cinderella dream last for the Cardinal?

The fan in me wants to say “F-Yeah! This magic will continue all season! We are unstoppable!”

But the realist in me says “all good things eventually come to an end, and unfortunately for Stanford, its final three conference games could be the branches that breaks this tree’s trunk.” 

In Jim Harbaugh’s tenure, Stanford’s record against the Pac-10 “favorites” has been wishy-washy at best. 

Two huge wins against Cal and USC his first season led many to believe that the tides were definitely turning in these rivalries.  But getting their behinds polished last year by both squads creates a little confusion on how this team truly responds in big games.

Harbaugh has also had a tough time containing Oregon, losing to them twice in exciting shoot-outs, in which Stanford’s offense struggled to keep pace.  This is something that will most likely happen again this year if the Cardinal defense can't step it up against faster offenses. 

The idea that the Cardinal can do a complete 180 and run the table this season against these powerhouses is absolutely foolish.  Even hoping that they emerge from this stretch with just one loss could be a little too much to ask for.

Like a seventh grader trying to play ball with high schoolers, Stanford’s aspirations to keep up with the big boys may still be too big for their britches.  It is going to take a tad bit more time for this team to fully blossom. But when they do, it is going to be spectacular. 

The realist in me says “ANY bowl game is going to be a ‘win’ this season for Stanford football.”

But until the Cardinal actually stumbles, I won't hesitate to yell out “Rose Bowl or Bust Baby!”