Stanford football team second in more ways than one

Stanford’s inability to get past Oregon last weekend pushed the Cardinal out of the national spotlight. (AP file photo)Stanford’s inability to get past Oregon last weekend pushed the Cardinal out of the national spotlight. (AP file photo)

Tailgating by flashlight and candles are hardly in keeping with the great tradition of the Big Game. But don’t blame ESPN for Saturday’s 7:15 p.m. kickoff at Stanford Stadium.

According to Pac-12 associate commissioner Duane Lindberg, Cal and Stanford both chose the prime-time national TV appearance over a regionally televised 12:30 p.m. start, which would have been seen by only 20 percent of the country.

“We want the best games in the best times to the largest audience,” Lindberg said.

Of course, if Stanford had beaten Oregon last week, the Big Game would have received the more desirable 5 p.m. kickoff slot on ABC, which instead will be airing the Oregon-USC game across the country.

So, as bleary-eyed Cardinal and Bears fans wait until close to midnight to see who takes home the Axe, remember your schools care more about their football program’s exposure than your barbecue and game-day experience.

– Andrew Luck is nobody’s fool. The 22-year-old Heisman Trophy favorite shares a dorm suite with the Cardinal’s leading receiver, Griff Whalen, along with starting offensive linemen David DeCastro and Sam Schwartzstein. Hey hotshot, take out the trash or we might accidentally miss a block or drop a pass. The ever-grounded and self-effacing star quarterback told me, “It’s not hard to be yourself on campus. People are very respectful about your privacy. Besides, a lot of people at Stanford have done a lot more than me, like looking for ways to cure cancer.”

As to his uncanny poise facing the media and blitzing linebackers, Luck credits “Good parenting, emulating my dad (ex-NFL quarterback Oliver), who was often in the spotlight, and watching coach [Jim] Harbaugh and [David] Shaw.”

Although he is a fan of the NFL and tunes in to a lot of games, Luck says he hasn’t thought about the prospect of being drafted first overall by the Indianapolis Colts (0-10).

That becomes ever more intriguing with the uncertain future of Peyton Manning. Luck attended the Manning Passing Academy in Thibodaux, La., this summer and talked with Peyton a couple of times in the offseason. Even though Colts vice chairman Bill Polian said this week he has spoken with Manning about using a high draft pick to select a quarterback and the injured 35-year-old veteran gave the A-OK, I don’t think Luck is eager to hold anybody’s clipboard.

– Cal coach Jeff Tedford says he doesn’t care about being a 20-point underdog in the Big Game and laughed when I asked if he would want Joe Kapp to give his Bears a pregame pep talk. Back in 1986, the Bears (1-9) stunned Stanford (8-2) at Memorial Stadium 17-11 in Kapp’s farewell game as Cal coach. Saturday, Cal fullback Will Kapp looks to replicate his dad’s epic upset in his final Big Game.

KGO (810 AM) Sports Director Rich Walcoff can be heard weekdays from 5 to 9 a.m. on the KGO morning news. He can be reached at RichWalcoff@gmail.com.

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