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Go ahead and crown Andrew Luck, he deserves it

by | National Columnist

MIAMI -- The Coronation of Andrew Luck started in the second half. In an otherwise meaningless bowl game, his coach with one foot out the door, his Virginia Tech opponent one step behind, Luck demonstrated why no quarterback in college football is more NFL ready, and why no player will go higher in the draft.

If he enters the draft -- and it's almost certain he will barring a moment of insanity or an eternal lockout -- Luck's the lock to be the first pick. What he did was use his Orange Bowl MVP performance and Stanford's 40-12 victory to erase any lingering doubts. This was a clinic. A gun show. At one point, Luck was just showing off.

"I can't answer if he should come back or not," Virginia Tech running back David Wilson said, "but he's done so much. There's not much left. He's great. Can he get better? It's scary to think that could happen but why would anyone blame him for leaving?"

"I think there are a lot worse decisions you might have to make in life," Luck said. "I don't mean to be rude but I'd rather not address that subject anymore. I'd like to enjoy the night."

He enjoyed the night, alright. He enjoyed the hell out of it.

John Elway was in attendance, and while Luck doesn't possess the breathtaking athleticism of Elway (that's blasphemous) there are some remarkable similarities. They may not be twins but they are close cousins.

One of Luck's signature plays came later in the game. Luck scrambled to the outside just as 6-4, 250-pound defensive end Steven Friday started to drape himself around Luck's waist. No matter.

Luck tossed the ball deep to tight end Coby Fleener for a 41-yard touchdown. It was the kind of play that breaks backs and causes the hearts of NFL personnel men to skip a beat.

One Orange Bowl quarterback, Virginia Tech's Tyrod Taylor -- the nickname T-Mobile fits -- was electric. The other, Luck, was more traditionally pocketed, but in some ways more fascinating to watch. In the second half alone Luck was 9-of-10 for 201 yards and three touchdowns.

These were two good quarterbacks making an otherwise boring game with the monotonous Jim Harbaugh subplot much more palatable.

The future of Harbaugh has quickly gotten old. Forty-eight hours from now Harbaugh might be at a San Francisco 49ers press conference. Or maybe he'll be in Ann Arbor. Or modeling underwear. Who knows?

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For the moment, who cares? The Taylor-Luck show was far more interesting than the Harbaugh guessing game.

Taylor actually outplayed Luck in the first half and had maybe the play of the year in college football. Taylor dropped back to pass and was forced left out of the pocket by linebacker Thomas Keiser. Suddenly, linebacker Owen Marecic rushed into Taylor's face forcing Taylor to either run out of bounds or stop on a dime inches from the sideline in front of the Stanford bench.

He did the latter.

And then, with the sideline pinning him down, and having no choice, Taylor threw into the end zone. Taylor was actually aiming for wide receiver Jarrett Boykin but Wilson jumped in front and made a tip toe diving catch for the score.

Taylor and Harbaugh actually had a brief conversation seconds after the play's conclusion. Taylor turned to Harbaugh: Was I in, he asked? You were, Harbaugh said.

But after that play, for the most part, Stanford's defense would drain the life out of Taylor's legs while Virginia Tech could do little to slow Luck's arm. In the first half, Luck looked like Kruk, throwing for only 86 yards. In the second, he was brilliant.

Luck completed passes of 41, 58 and 38 yards, all to Fleener. The four total scores by Luck set a Stanford bowl record. This after Luck had already broken Elway's single-season record for touchdowns. Luck finished with 32 while Elway (1980) and Steve Stenstrom (1993) both had 27.

Luck is also clearly not just a stat machine. He's a winner. This was Stanford's first bowl win since 1996. He led the Cardinal to a school-record 12 wins and their eight-game winning streak is the third longest in school history.

Sure, Luck spent much of the season playing against Pac-10 defenses that couldn't stop a group of nuns on tricycles, but the hype about him is clearly warranted.

"I can tell you he's the real deal," Virginia Tech's John Graves said.

The Andrew Luck Coronation ended with him standing on a stage, celebrating, and tossing oranges to his teammates. Yes, the coronation is over.

The career might be just beginning.


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