When rumors from earlier in the week were confirmed just prior to kickoff Thursday night, the thinking was that Bryce Love missing Stanford’s game against Oregon State because of injury could very well have torpedoed his Heisman Trophy hopes. In the end, his absence may have only bolstered said hopes.
Sans Love, No. 20 Stanford could, embarrassingly, do almost nothing on the offensive side of the ball against a 1-6 Oregon State team that had its head coach quit on it earlier this month, with the Cardinal heading back to The Farm with a 15-14 win. Stanford trailed from the middle of the second quarter until a Kellen Chryst touchdown pass with 20 seconds remaining in the game allowed the Cardinal to steal what most would consider an undeserved road win.
Even in a win, the loss of Love magnified just how important the running back is to a team that has now won five straight after losing two in a row.
Through eight weeks of the 2017 season, Love led the nation in rushing at 198.1 yards per game. His season-low has been 147 yards, and he’s averaged an eye-popping 10.3 yards per carry.
The Beavers came into Thursday night’s game with the 100th-ranked rushing defense in the country, giving up just a shade over 200 yards per game. Against that toothless run defense, the Cardinal managed 81 yards on 27 carries. Based on my math, that would be exactly three yards per carry.
I don’t know if Love is the best player in the country, but I do know that, if there were a Most Valuable Player Award for college football, he would certainly have earned front-runner status based off Thursday night’s results alone. And, if I were a Heisman voter, those same results would significantly strengthen his argument in my eyes.