Andrew Luck: Does Extra Year at Stanford Give Them National Championship Hopes?

Chris EggemeyerCorrespondent IJanuary 7, 2011

MIAMI, FL - JANUARY 03: (L-R) Quarterback Andrew Luck and head coach Jim Harbaugh of the Stanford Cardinal celebrate on stage after Stanford won 40-12 against the Virginia Tech Hokies during the 2011 Discover Orange Bowl at Sun Life Stadium on January 3, 2011 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)
Marc Serota/Getty Images

The biggest piece of news this week is that the consensus No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck has decided to stay in Palo Alto for another year.

While speculation still continues on coach Jim Harbaugh, this is nonetheless a big win for the Stanford Cardinal, who stand to lose over 10 starters from both sides of the ball, including everyman Owen Marecic, top wide receiver Doug Baldwin and three of Stanford's five starting offensive linemen.

The return of Andrew Luck promises that the Cardinal have the chance to continue their offensive dominance and thus continue their run as a Top 10, possibly even Top Five, program.

The question is, does the return of Luck give Stanford hope for a run at the BCS national championship next year?

At this point, the answer could be yes, or it could be no.

Ultimately, the hinging point is Jim Harbaugh.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with his time as coach of the Stanford Cardinal, Harbaugh came on after the 2006 season, which saw Stanford go 1-11, finishing off a run as the doormat of the Pac-10.

Now, within the span of four years, Harbaugh has turned the Farm into a place of serious football, leading Stanford to a 12-1 record, which includes a 40-12 blowout win over Virginia Tech in the Discover Orange Bowl.

Should Harbaugh return to coach Stanford, if only for one year, it is quite plausible that Stanford could give Oregon a run for its money to the BCS National Championship Game, especially considering that the game between the two will be played at Stanford.

The crowd at Stanford Stadium isn't huge or loud, but it still has some kind of magical effect, as the Cardinal was able to pull out a victory the last time the two met in Palo Alto (51-42, Nov. 7, 2009).

Should Harbaugh head for greener pastures, though, it's hard to say that Stanford is capable of remaining in the right shape for a national championship run.

In all likelihood, the head coaching job would go to someone in the organization, like offensive coordinator David Shaw, assistant head coach Greg Roman or defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, which means that there would be minimal change and minimal coaching turnover. Nonetheless, it is a coaching change, and there is no telling how either of the three will end up carrying the torch.

Andrew Luck makes a huge impact on the Stanford football team; there's no doubt about that. However, if the Cardinal wants to be in the hunt for a national championship, they're going to need his other half (and by that I, of course, mean Jim Harbaugh) to do it.