Stanford Head coach Jim Harbaugh is not taking the opening game against Sacramento State lightly. In college football you can't afford to take any team lightly, especially when a heavy burden like the expectations for the Stanford Cardinal this year rest firmly on your shoulders. Sacramento State aren't just underdogs, they are non-contenders according to many sports writers. Unlike sports writers, Coach Harbaugh doesn't have the luxury of sitting on his laurels and dismissing the visiting Hornets.
"I know quite a bit about them." Coach Harbaugh said during an interview this week. "This is an aggressive, athletic football team. I think they're really aggressive on the defensive side of the ball, and they want to be. Many of their starters on defense are converted offensive players, bringing speed to that side of the ball. Their defensive coordinator is from the Boise State program, so they run a very similar system."
Most of the student body, alumni, fans, and sports writers are dismissing this game. And although a nice warm up before a vengeance game against Wake Forest at home, Coach Harbaugh is ensuring preparedness from the first snap of the ball.
Many expect Quarterback Andrew Luck to carve up the Sacramento State defense, set a few single game records, and prepare his Heisman acceptance speech at half time. And this possibly could happen. But Coach Harbaugh is not taking any chances. The Stanford squad is well prepared. They are highly aware that they are contending for the Rose Bowl this year, but not looking towards New Years day just yet.
The first goal is to keep Andrew Luck healthy and standing upright in the pocket through the game. If that happens, Coach Harbaugh feels the win will come. No matter the team or competition.
It is no coincidence that Coach Harbaugh and the Stanford Football program chose Sacramento State as the opening game this year. It is common place for a high profile program to pick an inferior opponent for the opening game to hone their skills in real time football verse a scrimmage. And while Stanford has not broken the mold in choosing Sacramento State as their week one opponent, they have chosen a team that will test their weaknesses on offense.
Normally a week one game is a tune up. Taken by everyone involved as a lark. There is always lofty talk by the coach of how he is "not overlooking our opponent", but it is always said with a glaze over the coaches eyes as he daydreams about the next NFL opportunity.
Coach Harbaugh this week didn't say the right things. He said what needed to be said. He was blunt, addressing the teams' strengths and weaknesses with equal decorum. His glare was in mid-season form. Steely eyed and intense, eager and ready for helmets to crack, and to allow the revelry to begin.
Stanford will be ready. And week one should expose to us all the strengths and weaknesses of the Stanford Cardinal. You can be sure that Stanford will not take Sacramento State lightly. They are a team molded in their coaches' image. Steely eyed and intense, eager and ready to crack helmets, and to allow their fans to begin the revelry.
Final Score: Stanford Cardinal 35 - Sacramento State 10