What if someone told you that this year’s eventual national champion isn’t ranked in the top 10 this week? Or even the top 15?

Well, Tim Brando might be saying that.

“Stanford, that’s a mean, lean machine now,” the FOX Sports college football commentator said on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench. “I’m telling you: I believe they could be this year’s Ohio State. They’ve got really a very favorable schedule. They went on the road to start this season at Northwestern. I think now people know Northwestern is pretty good. They lay an egg. They didn’t play well. They were jet-lagged. It was a 9 a.m. Pacific time start. It was bad. It was very bad.”

Stanford, ranked No. 21 in the preseason, failed to score a touchdown against the Wildcats and lost, 16-6, on Sept. 5.

Now ranked 16th, Stanford has since won four straight games – including wins over then-No. 6 USC, Oregon State and Arizona – by an average of 22.3 points.

“Stanford’s gone on the road and blasted Pac 12 opposition,” Brando said. “Just took USC and manhandled them (41-31). And now if you look at what they’ve got remaining, their road games are not that difficult. They’re really not that difficult. Washington State, Cal – those are games that don’t really scare you much, in my opinion.”

Looking around the Pac-12 – which, like the SEC, will cannibalize itself – who is going to beat Stanford? Oregon? UCLA? Stanford, it is worth noting, wouldn’t face No. 5 Utah (4-0) until the conference championship.

“Utah is sort of Stanford-light anyway,” Brando said. “Stanford’s got better personnel. They’ve got an offensive line that’s got guys that are going to play on Sunday, (Christian) McCaffrey is a stud, and (Kevin) Hogan is probably as efficient a quarterback as you can have, and they’ve got speed on the edge. They’ve got sprinter speed deep.”

McCaffrey leads the team with 105 carries for 601 yards (5.7 yards per carry), while Barry Sanders (four) and Remound Wright (seven) have combined for 11 rushing touchdowns. Hogan, meanwhile, has been as steady as they come, completing 67.5 percent of his passes for 1,155 yards, nine touchdowns and two interceptions.

“I think they have the potential of being the Ohio State this season – a team that could slide in, maybe impress the committee late, win the conference championship impressively and get in with a loss as maybe the third or fourth team,” Brando said. “They could win the whole thing. They’ve got that potential.”

That said, let’s not forget about No. 13 Northwestern (5-0), which Brando has in his personal top 10. The Wildcats have two shutouts this season, are allowing just seven points per game, and wouldn’t face No. 1 Ohio State (5-0) or No. 4 Michigan State (5-0) until the Big Ten Championship.

Until then, the Wildcats’ toughest remaining test is this weekend against No. 18 Michigan (4-1) in Ann Arbor.

“As good as I think Stanford is – every time Stanford manhandles a Pac-12 team, Northwestern continues to ascend,” Brando said. “They continue to ascend. And if they win that game (against Michigan), you’re going to see them really shoot up. It’ll be unbelievable.”


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