By Rick Eymer
Palo Alto Online Sports
It becomes a waiting game for Stanford football. The fourth-ranked Cardinal has done everything it could to reach one of the top four coveted slots in the BCS standings. It's up to the voters and computers now.
Stanford finished its regular season the same way it did last year, with one loss in 12 games (both to Oregon). Last year the Ducks reached the national championship game. This year they will play in the Rose Bowl (most likely) as the overall Pac-12 champion.
That leaves Stanford is somewhat of a quandary. The Cardinal beat Notre Dame, 28-14, on Saturday night and will now bide its time until after next weekend's conference championship games to claim a berth in a high-paying bowl game.
There are too many scenarios to wade through to say with any degree of certainty where the Cardinal will be heacded. Suffice it to say Stanford will play in a bowl game and probably a BCS bowl game. Nothing, however, has been etched into wet cement just yet. And if it has, it will get smoothed over before the end of next weekend.
Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck finished with 233 passing yards and four touchdowns and it wasn't nearly his best game. There's been some talk around the nation that he has hurt his chances for the Heisman Trophy because of it. He was the runnerup to Cam Newton last year.
"There's no player in America like Andrew Luck," Stanford coach David Shaw said. "Forget the stats, forget comparisons to other guys. It doesn't matter. What he does at the line of scrimmage, what he does with the ball, you know, and the kid is completely unselfish. He doesn't care about stats or trying to get bigger stats just to win an award. The kid is the definition of what you would want at the quarterback position in all facets."
Former Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh was fond of saying the only stat that counts for quarterbacks is winning. If that's the criteria, Luck has it all over any other serious candidate.
Luck has won 24 of the last 26 games he has started for Stanford and 31 of 37 overall. No other Cardinal quarterback comes close, not John Brodie, Jim Plunkett, John Elway, Steve Stenstrom or John Paye.
Stanford was 10-26 in the three years immediately preceding Luck's three-year reign as starter.
"I think we're all proud to be part of this program," Luck said. "To be a part of this turnaround gives you a lot more satisfaction than coming in and having everything be a cake walk. I couldn't be happier."
Luck topped Elway's record of 77 touchdown passes and helped the Cardinal (11-1) build a 21-0 halftime lead. He has thrown for 80 touchdowns in three years and 35 this season.
Luck connected with Coby Fleener for a 55-yard TD pass to extend Stanford's lead to 28-7 with 5:40 remaining to put the game out of reach. Fleener also caught a 28-yard TD in the first half that gave Luck every major school touchdown record.
"I think it's something I'll be able to tell my kids and grandkids when I watch Andrew on TV someday," Fleener said. "Andrew made a great throw."
Fleener has 18 touchdown receptions in his career, fifth all-time.
Luck lobbed a fade to the short corner of the end zone to complete a 3-yard score to Levine Toilolo, giving Stanford a 7-0 lead in the first quarter. Even he had to hold back a smile running to the sideline to a swarm of well-wishes from teammates for the records-tying toss.
Ty Montgomery, who has six catches for 77 yards, also caught a touchdown pass.
Michael Thomas, who competed against Luck in high school in Houston, and once said knowing Luck was committed to Stanford made him commit, said no one was more deserving as being recognized as the nation's top player than Luck.
"I think he's the best player in college football, hands down," Thomas said. "He continues to make plays for us and he manages this offense the way that nobody else in the NCAA does. To me, that's the characteristic of the best player and he puts us in position to win games. That's what we do, win games."
Luck also set the school-record for total offense (10,218 yards), breaking Stenstrom's total of 9,825 yards. He has thrown four touchdowns in a game on seven occasions.
Stepfan Taylor rushed for 118 yards, his 12th 100-plus yard rushing game, including five this season.