Stanford’s Heisman Trophy finalist quarterback surprised a lot of people on Thursday when he announced he will be returning for his senior season. Luck, widely regarded as the top prospect in the draft, was expected to forgo his senior season by most draft experts.
Luck led Stanford to a 12-1 season including an impressive performance in Stanford’s big win over the Irish in Notre Dame Stadium in October. His breakout season included a trip to the Downtown Athletic Club in December and an Orange Bowl MVP performance over Virginia Tech earlier this week.
There was little doubt Luck would have been picked #1 overall had he left. Reports surfaced this week that the Carolina Panthers, owner’s of the top pick in the draft, had already decided they would select Luck if he chose to leave early. Those would be the same Carolina Panthers who used a second round pick on former Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Clausen last year. With Luck returning to Stanford, not only does Clausen get some job security, but he could also get a new weapon to throw to if Carolina opts to select Georgia’s AJ Green.
With Luck returning for another year in Palo Alto, the Notre Dame schedule for 2011 just got a bit more difficult. The Cardinal was going to have a rough time replacing Luck if he left for the NFL. The loss of Luck combined with some key offensive line losses, would have forced Stanford to take a big step backwards offensively no matter who their coach is in 2011.
Speaking of Stanford’s head coach, for now Jim Harbaugh is still the head coach at Stanford and one of his potential NFL suitors, the Miami Dolphins, have decided to keep their current head coach Tony Sparano. The Denver Broncos and San Francisco 49ers, however, are still reportedly very interested in Harbaugh’s services.
Regardless of who is coaching Stanford next year, Luck returning potentially sets up a great Thanksgiving weekend match-up between the Irish and Cardinal. After Notre Dame finished the season 4-0, expectations will be raised for 2011 – especially if Michael Floyd decides he wants to return for his senior season like Luck.
It has been normal for Notre Dame-USC games on Thanksgiving weekends to be marquee match-ups, but this year it looks like the Stanford game could fill that void. That is of course, if Notre Dame plays like they did over the final four games of 2010 throughout the 2011 season.