Stanford's No. 3 football ranking is one for the ages


The ugly loss to Northwestern to start the season is all but forgotten by the Stanford football team, which climbed to No. 3 in the final Associated Press Top 25 Poll on Monday night.

It was the Cardinal's highest finish since the poll has been conducting post-bowls (1968) and the second-highest in program history to the No. 2 mark achieved in 1940 by Clark Shaughnessy's 10-0 squad.

While Jim Harbaugh's 2010 Stanford team finished 12-1 for the best 12-win season in program history, the Cardinal finished No. 4 in the final AP Top 25 that year. Thus, this season's 12-2 finish and No. 3 national ranking is the perhaps the third best only to the national titles won in 1926 and 1940 when Stanford went 10-0-1 under Pop Warner and 10-0 under Shaughnessy.

There was no AP rankings in 1926, though, and Minnesota was named No. 1 in 1940 by AP while Stanford was regarded as No. 1 by three other polls.

Bottom line, 2015 was historic for Stanford football as head coach David Shaw guided the Cardinal to its third 12-win season, the second time he has done so. He also was 12-2 in 2012 when Stanford finished No. 7 according to AP.

Shaw now ranks ahead of such coaches as Harbaugh, Chuck Taylor (No. 7 in 1951), John Ralston (No. 8 in 1970) and Bill Walsh (No. 9 in 1992).

The only thing missing from Shaw's resume is an undefeated season and a national championship.

Alabama, meanwhile, has won four national crowns in the past seven years after defeating Clemson, 45-40, in Monday's national championship game. The Crimson Tide (14-1) vaulted from No. 2 to No. 1 while knocking previous No. 1 Clemson (14-1) to No. 3.

Following Stanford at No. 3 is Ohio State (12-1) and Oklahoma (11-2) to round out the top five.

This is the 10th time Alabama has finished the year ranked No. 1 in the AP top 25 Poll. The Crimson Tide started the year at No. 3 in the preseason poll and were never ranked higher than No. 2 before ending the year at No. 1. They have finished the year in the AP Top 10 in eight straight seasons.

Clemson's No. 2 ranking is the highest the Tigers have finished in the final AP Poll since they finished No. 1 in 1981. The Tigers spent much of the season ranked No. 1 and finished the regular season undefeated. Although they were runners-up this season, they will be a popular pick to be No. 1 in the preseason poll next season.

Stanford jumped up from No. 5 after an impressive showing in the Rose Bowl. Ohio State finishes the year at No. 4 after opening as the preseason No. 1. TCU at No. 7, Houston at No. 8 and Ole Miss at No. 10 all jumped into the Top 10 after bowl wins.

Meanwhile, the final pass of Kevin Hogan's Stanford career -- a 42-yarder to Michael Rector to cap a 45-16 win over Iowa in the Rose Bowl Game, was Hogan's 75th career TD pass. That moved him ahead of Steve Stenstrom as third-best in Stanford history. Hogan also finished with 9,385 career passing yards to move ahead of John Elway for third place. Hogan's 171.0 passing efficiency this season was also a Stanford record, surpassing Andrew Luck's 2010 season (170.2).

— Palo Alto Online Sports

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5 people like this
Posted by Bill Walsh
a resident of Stanford
on Jan 13, 2016 at 6:53 am

Stanford had a good team this year, but with their two losses they should have been ranked behind Ohio State in the final AP poll. Plus, the Buckeyes smashed Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl, while Stanford barely managed a two-point home-field win against the Irish.

It's unfortunate that the Rose Bowl Committee didn't pit the Cardinal against the Buckeyes in that game. If they had, it would've been more competitive and certainly not the ratings bomb it turned out to be.

9 people like this
Posted by KJ
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jan 13, 2016 at 8:51 am

@Bill Walsh, you are forgetting that Stanford was missing both of its starting cornerbacks in the Notre Dame game. It is impressive that the Stanford backups did well enough against the speedy Irish to keep the game close enough to win.

While Ohio State only had one loss, their schedule was significantly easier than Stanford's. Stanford had the 13th-toughest Strength of Schedule, while Ohio State ranked 57th. Four of Ohio State's victories came against weak non-conference opponents.

Like this comment
Posted by Alphonso
a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Jan 13, 2016 at 12:31 pm

Yes, Ohio St versus Stanford might have been a very good game. I must admit I was completely wrong about the 2015 Stanford team - after the loss to Northwestern which featured the "normal" very conservative play calling plan I was ready to write off the team. However, the team and the coaching evolved dramatically very quickly. The first play of the Rose Bowl demonstrated how far the play calling has come - several years ago (and in the Northwestern game) the game started with three power runs to the left and most likely a punt, but in the Rose Bowl it was a play action resulting in an immediate TD and set Iowa on its heels

4 people like this
Posted by CFP Committee blew it
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 13, 2016 at 7:32 pm

The mistake was not putting Stanford in at #4 in the CFP instead of Oklahoma as Pac-12 Champion, with strong resume and McCaffrey, setting up potential dream match-up with Alabama and Henry. In retrospect it is obvious the Committee blew it big time. That move also would have wiped out the ugly memory of the ridiculous offside call against North Carolina in the final minute against Clemson
which if UNC had won would have most likely put Stanford into the playoffs. Huge mistake by the

3 people like this
Posted by Bill Walsh
a resident of Stanford
on Jan 13, 2016 at 8:58 pm

CFP: yes, it would've been nice if the selection committee had selected Stanford as #4. Unfortunately, Stanford lost TWO games.

I put the season opening loss to Northwestern on Coach David Shaw. He knew that away game in Evanston started at 11am local time (9am Pacific time), and he should have prepared them in the week leading up to the game to be up early and to get their body clocks adjusted. Stanford played that game as though they were half asleep.

2 people like this
Posted by Pretense
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 13, 2016 at 10:05 pm

The poster masquerading as Bill Walsh should honor coach Walsh by not pretending to have football knowledge nor the grace of Bill Walsh.
Coach Walsh would have been prowd and immensely pleased with the historic achiements of Coach Shaw, his staff and their team of student athletes. They are the highest ranked Stanford team in nearly 50 years, yet this wannabe who posted under Bill's name thinks he is qualified to criticize those achievements.

4 people like this
Posted by Andre
a resident of Stanford
on Jan 14, 2016 at 9:29 am

Are two losses and a conference championship really worse than one loss and two intentional patsy games scheduled? The repeated mantra of every regular season game meaning something in college football is so patently untrue. Do those early and late season games against Podunk State really mean something? If we continue to reward teams who play 2 fake games over teams that play a full schedule we will continue to have fake national championships and poorer post season ratings than necessary. Let's make all the games mean something and have a way for every conference to earn their way into the playoff so we aren't stuck in the supremely Not entertaining world of 1980's figure skating politics. Make a real postseason and college football will overtake the cracking NFL. Keep up the BS politics and continue to fail, relatively speaking, compared to the NFL.

1 person likes this
Posted by Bob
a resident of another community
on Jan 14, 2016 at 1:10 pm

Andre, excellent comment. I want a note, a team like Alabama played 3 fake games, one more then you listed, Middle Tennessee, Charleston Southern and Louisiana Monroe. By the way, the same discussion you write about in regards to the level of play and that a team like Stanford absolutely deserved to be in the 'final playoffs', also we can include the level of play for the Heisman trophy. McCafrey should of received it over Henry. Rushing yards were within 150 yards, McCafrey had 6 times as much yards in regards to receiving. McCafrey threw two touchdowns, and his return on punts/kick-offs was great compared to non-existence for Henry in these three categories.
The voting process is way too low for the West coast, 25% of college football and they get only 14% of voting. The Southeast(68 of them) did not even vote for McCafrey 1st 2nd or 3rd. What a joke !

Like this comment
Posted by macbaldy
a resident of Stanford
on Jan 19, 2016 at 1:09 pm

Stanford football has a recent, post-Andrew Luck, penchant for languid early season performances. Add David Shaw's intended vanilla game planning and a first game's outcome has typically turned on player performance. "Communication" has been the common issue described among the offensive line and with the sidelines. Stanford has to live with that "eyesore" in their stats and season records.

That Northwestern loss wasn't merely a coaching/planning issue...more critically, it was an offensive line SNAFU. Everyone on that line got beat multiple times throughout that game--everyone. Add penalties--and bounced shotgun snaps, the best laid plans were being sabotaged. Against a decent P5 defense (NW finished #13 in total defense, LSJU was #43), bungled execution gets amplified. Adjustments by the coaches were being nullified by the player mistakes. I've never seen David Shaw as visibly frustrated as during that game. After that game, those players "owned-up" to their poor-to-lousy execution...although the first half of the UCF game was too much deja vu. Still, the Cardinal carried that albatross into the now-typical, all-guns-blazing finish that had so many fans bemoaning their non-selection by the CFP committee. It was what it was...not all of it was pretty, but #3--on the basis of finish--"ain't chopped liver".

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