With Jeremiah Masoli Out, Stanford Cardinal Is New Team To Beat in the Pac-10

Joey GrissoContributor IMarch 18, 2010

PALO ALTO, CA - NOVEMBER 21:  Andrew Luck #12 of the Stanford Cardinal in action during their game against the California Bears at Stanford Stadium on November 21, 2009 in Palo Alto, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

In 1999, Sega released the Dreamcast, Bill Clinton was President of the United States, and Lance Armstrong captured his first Tour de France title.

1999 was also the last time the Stanford Cardinal finished atop the Pacific Ten Conference.

Well, don't look now, but football on the Farm may be headed for its best year this millennium.

Despite losing top offensive weapon Toby Gerhart, most of the pieces from last year's run, which saw them play in their first bowl game since 2001, are still there.

Quarterback Andrew Luck will be back just as explosive as he was last year, only minus the mistakes any freshman is bound to make.

And he is going to have some considerable help around him as well. Ten of the top 12 receivers on the team will be donning Cardinal red again this fall, with Gerhart and tight end Jim Dray being the only exceptions. These two are also the only players who scored touchdowns last season and will not be returning this year.

Rushing stats tell a similar story—aside from you know who, all players who rushed for positive yardage in 2009 will return in 2010.

While Stanford will retain many of its play makers, the same cannot be said for many of the rest of the Pac-10 elite.

Last Friday, Oregon lost two of its most important players on offense, one for the entire year. Quarterback Jeremiah Masoli, who many feel is the reason the Ducks rose to the top of the conference without RB LeGarrette Blount, was suspended the entire season in exchange for a guilty plea to second degree burglary.

In addition, Blount's replacement, 2009 Pac-10 Freshman of the Year LaMichael James, was suspended for at least opening day and quite possibly more of the season after pleading guilty to physically harassing his girlfriend.

Down south, things don't look too much better.

Rival Cal, who is already coming off of one its biggest flops in program history, will fall even harder due to the absence of top play maker Jahvid Best.

USC will be missing the genius of Pete Carrol on the sidelines, as well as six of its starters on offense and four on defense.

Arizona will be fielding only nine of its 22 starters from last season, and one of those nine isn't Rob Gronkowski, a pivotal part of the Wildcat's offense.

This leaves Oregon State as the only real challenge to Stanford's Pac-10 dominance, and without solid quarterbacking I have a feeling it will not happen.

Bottom line: Although Stanford is losing one its greatest players in school history on offense in Toby Gerhart and a key player on defense in Bo McNally, it still retains enough of its talent to win a conference that is experiencing similar talent loss across the board.

Meaning you can bet the farm on the Farm to smell the roses in Pasadena for the first time since the end of the dot-com bubble.