If Stanford’s regular-season finale against Oregon State was its closing argument for earning a spot in the Bowl Championship Series, it sure was an effective one.
Andrew Luck threw four touchdown passes to show off the skills that make him one of the top pro prospects in the country, the defense delivered its third shutout and the Cardinal completed the stunning turnaround from a one-win to a one-loss team with a 38-0 victory over the Beavers.
Now all No. 5 Stanford (11-1, 8-1 Pac-10) can do is wait and see if all that will be enough to get the Cardinal into the BCS when bids are announced next week.
“I think our guys have stated the case on the field,” coach Jim Harbaugh said. “We’ve impressed the heck out of 11 other teams we’ve played this year and the voters should be impressed. This is one heck of a college football team.”
The Cardinal are in a strong position, having moved up to fourth in the latest BCS standings with a comfortable lead over fifth-place Wisconsin. With the top four teams assured bids into the BCS, and Stanford, Wisconsin and sixth-place Ohio State done for the regular season, the Cardinal look to be in good shape for an at-large bid.
If the Cardinal remain in the top four in the final standings, they would likely play in either the Fiesta or Orange bowls unless No. 2 Auburn loses to No. 18 South Carolina in the SEC championship game Saturday to open a spot for No. 3 TCU in the BCS title game.
In that scenario, Stanford would likely play in the Rose Bowl, which would like to maintain its traditional Pac-10-Big Ten matchup. But under BCS rules, the Rose Bowl is obligated to take a team from a non-automatic qualifying conference if one is available.
If the Cardinal somehow slipped, they would likely be competing with a Big 12 team for the final at-large spot, with TCU, Arkansas and the No. 2 team from the Big Ten having the inside track at the other three at-large bids.
With a smaller fan base and fewer fans willing to travel, Stanford could have been bypassed by a team with lesser credentials.
Those deficiencies were evident in the stands on Saturday. The Cardinal drew an announced crowd of 38,775, including some giveaways, and there were even fewer fans on hand on a rainy night when students were away for Thanksgiving break.
The Cardinal have sold out only one game all season, thanks to USC’s large traveling contingent, as they have had a hard time filling 50,000-seat Stanford Stadium.
Three coaches fired
Coaches Bill Lynch of Indiana, Rickey Bustle of Louisiana-Lafayette and Randy Shannon of Miami were fired Sunday.
Lynch was let go after three straight losing seasons, including a 5-7 (1-7 Big Ten) record this year. He was 19-30 overall.
Lynch took over as interim coach in 2007 after coach Terry Hoeppner died from complications of a brain tumor.
An announcement on Bustle’s firing is expected today. He has coached the Cajuns since 2002, posting a 41-65 record with no bowl appearances.
Shannon’s firing was widely reported Saturday after the Hurricanes lost to South Florida and finished the regular season with a 7-5 record.
Miami athletic director Kirby Hocutt made the official announcement on Sunday. Offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland is the interim head coach. No assistant coaches were fired and Hocutt says all have committed to stay through the Hurricanes’ bowl game.