By Dave Kiefer
Stanford Media Relations
It's time. Stanford against Oregon: The Game of the Century, West Coast version.
Saturday's sold-out game at Stanford Stadium will determine the first champion of the Pac-12 North Division, ensure a berth in the inaugural conference title game and, if Stanford wins, enable the Cardinal to remain in the running for a national championship.
Actually, it's time for just about everybody but Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck.
"Did you circle this game on your calendar?"
"I don't have a calendar," he said.
"Do you use your iPhone?"
"I don't have an iPhone."
"Do you have a watch?"
"I don't have a watch."
So how does Luck keep track of time?
"I read the syllabus," he said.
Luck certainly doesn't need a syllabus to be aware of the stakes.
"When you're thinking about the upcoming football season, you're thinking about Oregon," Luck said. "If you want to do something on the West Coast, you've got to beat Oregon."
Stanford head coach David Shaw said there is a different feel around the undefeated Cardinal team this week.
"They know," he said. "You can tell to a certain degree. I don't know if there's a certain amount of anxiety. It's not about being nervous. It's about saying, Hey, you know what, we've played well this year, but in this game we've got to play better than we've played all year. That's just a fact."
Shaw said energy and attention to detail will not be an issue in practice this week.
"Our guys know they have to play their best game to have a chance to win," he said.
Shaw took exception to a comments made by former NFL quarterback Phil Simms about Luck last week.
Simms said on Sirius NFL Radio, "I just don't see big-time NFL throws. I don't care what anybody says. I've watched a lot of him. He never takes it and rips it in there. And you can say what you want but, man, you've got to be able to crease that ball every once in a while."
"He hasn't been looking closely enough," Shaw said. "No offense to Phil, I loved watching Phil play. He was a heck of a quarterback. But, at the same time, for him to make that comment just means he hasn't watched enough."
Asked to mention a specific play that illustrated Luck's arm strength, Shaw said, "How many do you need?"
Shaw described a play at Arizona State last season when Luck was hit as he threw and, while falling, threw the ball 50 yards in the air to Doug Baldwin on a post pattern.
"To say he can't make NFL throws is comical," Shaw said.
Luck, for his part, stayed away from the controversy.
"Everybody has the right to their opinion," he said. "You understand it comes with the territory of being in the spotlight."
Ducks on the fly
A question on the mind of just about everyone who witnessed Stanford's 52-31 loss at Oregon last year is how can the Cardinal stop, or at least slow, the Ducks' attack. LaMichael James ran for 257 yards as Oregon piled up 626 yards of total offense.
"You can play well against Oregon and give up 35 points," Shaw said. "It's just if one guy's out of position on one play, it's a touchdown. That's just the way it is."
James was a Texas high school state 100-meter champion (10.51 seconds) and placed fifth in the Pac-10 while on the Ducks' powerhouse track team.
De'Anthony Thomas was the 2011 Los Angeles Section 100-meter champ (10.57) while at Crenshaw High and posted the nation's fastest high school time in the 200 (20.61).
And Kenjon Barner also sprinted for the Ducks, placing fourth in the Pac-10 on their 4x100 relay.
Stanford linebacker Jarek Lancaster said: "You think they're running at a good clip and think, I've got 'em. And all of a sudden they turn it on and they're gone."
Lancaster said James is "a lot faster in real life than he is on film."
Keeping it in perspective
There certainly is a buzz around campus for what could be the biggest home football game in school history.
But, it is Stanford, one of the world's great academic institutions.
"This campus does a great job of keeping your perspective," Shaw said.
"I talked to a doctor who's working on campus. He's working on the steps toward curing cancer. Stanford vs. Oregon is not high on his list this week. He's going to be at the game, but he's got a lot of stuff to do between now and then."