San Jose St.-Stanford Preview
By SANTOSH VENKATARAMAN
(AP) -- Heisman Trophy runner-up Andrew Luck opted not to turn pro and returned for his junior season at Stanford. Coach Jim Harbaugh did leave, taking over as coach of the San Francisco 49ers.
Luck's return has buoyed expectations for the seventh-ranked Cardinal, who host local rival San Jose State on Saturday in coach David Shaw's debut as Harbaugh's replacement.
Considered a lock to be the top quarterback selected in the 2011 draft, Luck bypassed the NFL and decided to come back to The Farm. He set school records with 32 TD passes, a 70.7 completion percentage and a 170.2 passing efficiency rating last season to help Stanford go 12-1 and finish fourth in the final AP poll - the school's best ranking since the unbeaten 1940 team finished second.
Luck sought out the advice of Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning before making his decision. Manning surprised many when he chose to return to Tennessee for his senior season.
"Every kid's got to make their own decision, but I do tell kids that if you want to stay ... it's OK to stay. I stayed," Manning said. "So I was proud of Andrew for making that decision."
It has been pointed out to Luck that Manning failed to win a national title after returning and that Tim Tebow was unable to lead Florida to a second straight BCS crown after coming back. In addition, Sam Bradford came back to Oklahoma after winning the Heisman as a sophomore and endured a difficult season due to a shoulder injury.
"Peyton said two things that really struck me. One was, 'Don't look back. Don't regret and don't worry about injuries. You'll get yourself in a world of trouble if you worry about injuries or wonder what could have been, or don't not go hard because you could get injured,'" Luck said. "The second was don't expect teams to lay down because you came back."
The return of Luck, who is drawing comparisons to Stanford greats John Elway and Jim Plunkett, has made Shaw's job easier. Shaw served as Harbaugh's offensive coordinator the previous four seasons.
"With Andrew coming back, it's led to some nights where it felt pretty good going to bed," Shaw said.
Luck lost his top receivers from last season in Doug Baldwin and Ryan Whelan, while three starters from his offensive line are also gone. Stanford's defense, however, brings back its top four tacklers.
Although Stanford will be favored to win its season opener for the fourth straight season, this matchup dubbed the "Bill Walsh Legacy Game" could be intriguing. Walsh was a San Jose State graduate before he became famous for coaching Stanford and the 49ers.
The Spartans upset the Cardinal 35-34 five years ago, and also pulled off a 1982 upset of Stanford in Elway's senior season. They insist they won't be standing around watching Luck.
"I don't think they'll be in as much awe because they're right here in the backyard with him," coach Mike MacIntyre said. "I think they just learned how to handle all the extra activities, the pregame hype. All it is is football. And what happens between the lines is all that matters."
San Jose State went 1-12 in 2010 in MacIntyre's first year. These teams last met Sept. 19, 2009, with Luck completing nine of 12 passes for 170 yards, one touchdown and one interception in a 42-17 victory that was his home debut.
MacIntyre's starting quarterback will be fifth-year senior Matt Faulkner, who played in 10 games last season and threw for 206 yards.
Faulkner and defensive tackle Travis Raciti are the only projected starters for the Spartans who have yet to start in their careers.
Updated August 30, 2011