Here is Stanford, once again, in November a Heisman Trophy contender.
Bryce Love is gaining yards at an unprecedented rate, and yet his fate looks inevitable and familiar:
New York City, the second Saturday of December, smiles, gratitude ... and second place.
Unless the trajectory changes, Love, fast as he is, won't catch the Oklahoma quarterback and Stanford will finish second for the sixth time overall and the fifth time in nine years:
John Elway in 1982 (lost to Georgia's Herschel Walker).
Toby Gerhart in 2009 (Alabama's Mark Ingram).
Andrew Luck in 2010 (Cam Newton) and 2011 (Baylor's Robert Griffin III).
Christian McCaffrey in 2015 (Alabama's Derrick Henry).
Perhaps most frustrating for the Stanford football community is this: A strong case could be made that in '09, '11 and '15, the Cardinal had the better player.
Is Love better than Mayfield? That's a delicious debate at the moment:
Love leads the nation in rushing at 180.22 yards per game, averages an astounding 8.96 yards per carry and has 10 runs of at least 50 yards.
Mayfield's 202.1 efficiency rating is No. 1 by a considerable margin, and his play in big games is off the charts: a phenomenal 216.3 rating against ranked opponents.
But at this point, it's Mayfield's trophy to lose, not Love's to win ... unless the dynamic changes.
Stanford could continue to promote Love as it has, with a cool website and timely emails and sweeping words from coach David Shaw -- all the same components it has used in prior Heisman campaigns.
It could attempt to direct attention to Love's character, to his academic excellence, to his plans to become a doctor.
Or the Cardinal could flip the process on its head.
It could go rogue.
If Stanford was willing to do anything necessary to give Love the best chance to win -- performance alone isn't enough, as we saw with McCaffrey -- the school would make its own Heisman frustrations the centerpiece of Love's campaign.
It would mock all the runner-up finishes.
It would stiffarm the stiffarm stiffarms.
Imagine the website loading and Love highlights on the screen ...
I'm Bryce Love, a running back for the Stanford Cardinal, the voiceover begins. I'm looking forward to following in the footsteps of Stanford legends John Elway, Toby Gerhart, Andrew Luck and Christian McCaffrey and finishing second in the Heisman Trophy race.
I cannot wait to applaud the deserving winner for his incredible play on the field and his high character off it ...
Or what about ...
Stanford dresses Love up in a doctor's outfit, adds flecks of gray to his hair and casts the video a quarter century forward in time.
I'm Dr. Bryce Love, from the Lucile Packard Children's Hospital at Stanford, Love says in doctor's outfit and bifocals, his hair dotted gray. And I'd like to tell you about the moment that changed my life.
If I hadn't joined the long list of Stanford football players that finished second in the Heisman Trophy, I don't know what would have become of me ...
Obviously, the Love anti-campaign would require nuance:
Poke fun at the process, avoid disparaging other candidates, keep the attention on Stanford's Heisman history.
All those voters in New England and Florida, in Minnesota and Maryland, who haven't seen Love play and only catch the occasional highlight ... it would get their attention like nothing else.
Add the attention to his 2,000 yards, and Love just might have to give an acceptance speech.
My guess: Stanford will never do it.
It's too risky ... too risque ... too much, frankly, like the Stanford band.
For one thing, the Cardinal will be wary of offending the Heisman Trust and the 900-something voters -- except if the right tone is struck, the campaign would force the electorate to think twice before not voting for Love.
What's more, Stanford would fret about the anti-campaign calling attention to its past runners up. My guess: Instead of recoiling, Gerhart, Luck and McCaffrey would love the approach.
After all, who better understands that (barring an unforeseen on-field development) more of the same won't work.
Who knows better the challenges lined up to corral Love, from the time zones to the geographical breakdown of the voters -- the vast majority are east of the Mississippi -- to the brand bias that undoubtedly exists with a segment of the electorate. (Oklahoma: seven national championships, five Heisman winners.)
And who knows better that, after all the second places, Stanford and Love have absolutely nothing to lose by going rogue.
That would leave them, it seems, with everything to gain.
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