Pac Tracks: Stanford finishes second in Heisman again (preview edition)

If you came to this story to find a temporary diversion to all the madness in the world, well, that’s why I wrote it.


To distract me.

Anyway, here are some arguing points from around the league.

Bye, Byrce Love

It’s happening again. No, seriously. Another Stanford player is going to finish second in the Heisman Trophy balloting.

There’s nothing, short of a miracle, injury or Kirk Herbstreit getting laryngitis, that can stop it.

Saquon Barkley, Penn State’s outstanding tailback, has already been anointed by the media glitterati (ESPN) as this year’s most outstanding player.

Barkley stole Saturday’s headlines with a dressed-up performance in which he ran for less than 60 yards in a win over Indiana. Barkley did return the opening kick for a touchdown, and also contributed a scoring pass, just the sort of all-purpose chicanery people accused Stanford of doing with Christian McCaffrey!

All the talk I saw on the Saturday shows was about Barkley, aka America’s Best Player.

Meanwhile, in Palo Alto, Stanford tailback Bryce Love set the school’s single-game record for rushing yards, with 301, against Arizona State.

Love broke the record previously held by McCaffrey.

Love, by any measure, is off to an incredible start. He leads the nation with 1,088 rushing yards while averaging 11.1 yards per carry.

"The big ones are obvious," Stanford Coach David Shaw said of his latest star. "Everybody can get those, but it's the four-yard runs he makes an 11-yard run."

Barkley has rushed for 574 yards, averaging 6.67 yards per carry.

None of that matters and here's why.[membership level="0"] The rest of this article is available to subscribers only - to become a subscriber click here.[/membership] [membership] Barkley came into the season coming off an incredible Rose Bowl performance. He got huge off-season publicity that included a take-out in Sports Illustrated.

Barkley plays for a better team, Penn State, which is a national title contender.

In other words: Bryce Love has no chance.

In the past, Stanford’s public relations department has been blamed for the failures to push a winner to the finish.

In truth, there is little a sports information director can do to stop this sort of inertia. Call it Cam Newton's Law.

That said, it must be maddening for folks on the Farm.

Since Jim Plunkett won the Heisman in 1970, the school has had five second-place finishes.

It started in 1982 with John Elway losing out to Herschel Walker—hard to argue that one.

Then came the crime of 2009, when Alabama’s Mark Ingram edged out Toby Gerhart in the closest vote in Heisman history.

That was followed by quarterback Andrew Luck finishing second in consecutive years, losing to Cam Newton in 2010 and Robert Griffin III in 2011.

The one that really chafed, though, was McCaffrey losing in 2015 to another Alabama back: Derrick Henry. McCaffrey lost despite breaking Barry Sanders’ NCAA record for all-purpose record.

Of course, just to burn Cardinal fans even more, Bryce Love’s running style has been compared, by some, to Barry Sanders.

Max Gone Mad 

You all know the story: Max Browne was named starting quarterback after fall camp and was benched after three games.

What you may not know: it has now happened to Browne at two Power 5 schools.

Browne, the one-time prep phenom out of Seattle, came to USC as the next-best-thing a few years ago. He waited his turn and was named the Trojans’ starter for the 2016 opener against Alabama.

It did not go well. After a third-game loss at Stanford, Browne was replaced by Sam Darnold, who led USC to a 9-1 finish and a Rose Bowl victory over Penn State.

Browne transferred to Pittsburgh, where he was named the starter out of fall camp but was benched...after three games.

This time, though, there’s a happier postscript.

Browne returned to the starting lineup Saturday, against Rice, and had the game of his career. He completed 28 of 32 passes for 410 yards and four touchdowns in a 42-10 rout.

For his efforts, Browne was named ACC offensive player of the week.

Schadenfreude lovers take note: He had his best collegiate game on the weekend Darnold had his worst.

Did USC make the wrong decision at quarterback last year?

Um, no, but let’s give Browne his due.

He enters Week 6 rated No. 45 in the NCAA’s passer efficiency ratings, well ahead of Sam Darnold at No. 56.

Give Browne kudos for hanging in there. Thank goodness for the fifth-year transfer rule that allowed this. We know, we know, it was R-I-C-E.

But…still. Pitt Coach Pat Narduzzi, taking a page out of Clay Helton’s 2016 playbook, benched Browne after a 1-2 start after three games. Narduzzi turned to Ben DiNucci last week in a loss at Georgia Tech, but switched back this weekend.

To our mind, Browne-Rice made perfect sense.

“I just told Max to just be himself and have some fun,” Narduzzi said. “Go Relax. He did it and I am excited for him.”

Browne said his experience at USC of being benched, after three games, helped him stay focused.

“With the roller coaster ride that it has been, that experience has definitely helped.”

How do you like our Washingtons?

It isn't very often that Washington and Washington State get on the same page, in the same season. At least when it comes to winning.

It wasn't that long ago, though, when our friends to the North met in the Rotten Apple Cup. The match-up of 2008 featured the battle of win-less Washington against one-win Washington State. Crucial caveat: Wazzu's only "win" entering the game that year was against 1-AA Portland State.

Washington State edged Washington, 16-13, and ended the season 2-11. Washington finished 0-12.

That all makes this year's dual-team resurgence more thrilling. Washington and Washington State, this week, are a combined 10-0 and ranked No. 6, and No. 11, nationally.

This sort of excitement harkens to the early 2000s, when Washington's 2000 team won the Rose Bowl. The next year, Washington State finished 10-2 and won the Sun Bowl.

Finally: Huge bounce-back win for UCLA this week against Colorado. The Bruins seemed on the cusp of a coaching crisis after last week's 58-34 loss at Stanford. After that game, UCLA Coach Jim Mora promised the Bruins would "rise up" from the ash-heap. UCLA (2-2) now has a bye before playing at Arizona. Mora said the team must use the bye week for more introspection. "We have to be critical as if we'd just gotten the dog kicked out of us."

If Mora can't do that internally, we're sure there are plenty of UCLA fan forums out there that can keep the Bruins' egos in check.[/membership]