I'm curious to see what impact, if any, Stanford's soft midseason schedule has on its performance down the stretch.
The Cardinal is coming off three consecutive games against substandard competition: Cal, Washington State and Colorado are a combined 3-16 in league play, with two of the wins coming against each other. They are the three worst teams in the conference.
Now, Stanford's competition ramps up: Oregon State, Oregon and UCLA are a combined 15-3 in league play.
It's difficult to image a greater disparity between what the Cardinal has faced for the past three weeks and what it will face in the next three weeks.
How will it handle the massive jump in class?
Winning week after week without having to play your best, as has been the case since Oct. 20, is dangerous. It can lead to bad habits -- habits you don't even know exist because the opponents aren't good enough to exploit them.
In some respects, this is the most important week of practice of the season.
The offense scored 48 points, was 9 of 15 on third down and didn't commit a turnover.
And yet: I can't give the Cardinal an A+. That wouldn't leave any room for a higher grade against better competition down the stretch.
David Shaw has no choice. After the way Kevin Hogan played Saturday, Shaw cannot start Josh Nunes against the Beavers if for no other reason than he has to be true to the other 100-something players in the locker room.
They need to know Shaw is doing everything possible to win every game; they have to know that the best players will play whether they're longsnappers or quarterbacks, seniors or freshmen.
And right now it's clear that Hogan is playing better than Nunes and gives Stanford a better chance to win.
But the switch is not without risk, and here it is:
Stanford is changing QBs largely because of what happened Saturday. Yes, Hogan had been impressive in limited game action in recent weeks and has, by all accounts, played well in practice, but the impetus for the change was his sizzling performance in Boulder.
And for all intents and purposes, that was NOT a major college football team on the other side of the line of scrimmage.
The Buffs are atrocious. They are one of the two or three worst teams in conference history, right up there with the very worst Washington State and Oregon State have ever produced.
They are no better than the good FCS teams (in fact, they lost, at home, to a good FCS team: Sacramento State).
They are slow, small, young and poorly coached.
I'll say it again: They are atrocious.
To base a quarterback change on success against Colorado is a tad risky, because it doesn't necessarily translate to success against the better teams in the conference.
And what if Hogan struggles against the Beavers and/or Ducks and/or Bruins? The Cardinal might have to stick with Hogan, for better or worse, because Nunes now has a benching on his psyche -- to go along with his 53 percent completion rate.
But at the same time, I'm not sure Shaw and offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton had a choice. Nunes was their best option in Week 1 and their best option in Week 4 and Week 6.
Hogan's command of the playbook -- in particular the protection schemes and check/audibles at the line of scrimmage -- wasn't thorough enough for extensive playing time earlier in the season.
Nunes gave Stanford the best chance to win for two months (and, let's not forget, led them to a 6-2 record).
Frankly, there is only one thing the Cardinal could have done differently with regard to the quarterback situation: Recruit better.
Andrew Luck committed to Stanford in July '07. The coaching staff had several recruiting cycles to prepare for Luck's eventual departure.
When the time arrived to name a successor, in Aug. '12, Stanford's best option was a quarterback who would rank eighth in the conference in efficiency and lose his job.
But that's on Jim Harbaugh, not Shaw.
They're extremely well coached, big and talented on both lines of scrimmage and have a top-tier set of receivers in Markus Wheaton and Brandin Cooks.
Although Mannion's healthy, Cody Vaz is currently running the show. He isn't playing nearly as well now as Mannion was six weeks ago (when he was the best quarterback in the conference).
Stanford is favored by 5.5. Given OSU's injuries and uneven play at quarterback, that seems about right.