Can the Cardinal repeat as Pac-12 champs?
Stanford has claimed back-to-back Pac-12 titles, and despite a bevy of personnel departures, the Cardinal should be in good shape to contend once again in 2014.
Coach David Shaw continues to raise the profile of the program with three consecutive double-digit win seasons, and the program simply reloads after losing key players. There’s no more rebuilding under Shaw’s watch.
While Stanford has finished in top 11 of the final Associated Press poll for three consecutive years, that streak could be in jeopardy in 2014.
The Cardinal has several key players to replace on both sides of the ball, and the schedule is one of the toughest in the nation.
Related: 2014 Stanford Team Preview | 2014 Pac-12 Predictions | 2014 All-Pac-12 Team | 2014 Pac-12 Breakout Players
Steven Lassan, (@AthlonSteven), AthlonSports.com
Kyle Kensing, (@kensing45), CFBHuddle.com
David Fox (@DavidFox615), AthlonSports.com
Braden Gall (@BradenGall), AthlonSports.com
Mark Ross (@AthlonMarkR), AthlonSports.com
Early Stanford Game-by-Game Predictions for 2014
|at Notre Dame|
|at Arizona State|
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Stanford’s schedule is the biggest drawback for this team in the Pac-12 title race. The Cardinal plays five projected teams in Athlon’s final top 25 for 2014 on the road this year. In addition to the personnel losses on both sides of the ball, coach David Shaw must also replace standout defensive coordinator Derek Mason. With the losses on defense, Shaw needs more from his offense in 2013, starting with quarterback Kevin Hogan. The offensive line should be fine despite the departure of four starters, and a running back (or two) should emerge. However, Hogan needs to take the next step in his development, which could be the difference between Stanford finishing 8-4 or 10-2 and winning the North. I still think this is one of the top teams in the Pac-12 and a fringe top-10 squad this year. However, the brutal road schedule might be the difference in a tight division race between the Ducks and the Cardinal.
Kyle Kensing (@kensing45) CFBHuddle.com
I have trepidation in pegging Stanford for its worst finish since 2009. Firstly, that season was the last the Cardinal failed to qualify for a BCS bowl. Secondly, David Shaw has improved upon the foundation Jim Harbaugh laid, turning Stanford into a program built to win consistently. The Cardinal have one of the best offensive lines in the conference, the defense remains stacked despite losing key pieces like Shayne Skov, Ed Reynolds and Trent Murphy, and quarterback Kevin Hogan should take strides with a year-and-a-half of experience under his belt. Hogan is also working with a diverse receiving corps. And yet, the schedule is brutal. An 8-4 projection is less an indictment on the Cardinal in a reloading year, but rather a testament to how nasty this slate is. Oregon and UCLA are preseason top 10 teams, Washington is one of the most experienced teams in the Pac-12, and Notre Dame is a Playoff contender. Oh, and Stanford gets all four on the road.
Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
Stanford is still in great shape despite big losses along the offensive line and on the defense. The running game should still be nasty and the defense returns a lot of big time recruits who are ready to step into staring roles as upperclassmen. The issue is the home-road splits for Stanford could be very painful as the Cardinal have to face all of the biggest Pac-12 contenders and Notre Dame on the road this year. This includes two critical games within in the North Division in Eugene and Seattle.
Mark Ross (@AthlonMarkR)
David Shaw has done an exceptional job in his first three seasons at Stanford, but this fall could pose an entirely new challenge for him. Although Stanford doesn't lack for talent, the Cardinal lost quite a bit of it and experience along its offensive line, at running back and on every level of the defense. The defense also will be led by a new coordinator, Derek Mason departed to take over at Vanderbilt. Even with these personnel losses, I'm not expecting Stanford to take a huge step backwards, but I do think the Cardinal's margin of error has narrowed considerably. Of course the Nov. 1 date in Eugene with Oregon is huge, but the early-season tilt with USC, back-to-back visits to Seattle and South Bend, Ind., and the season finale at UCLA could each be equally important, especially if junior quarterback Kevin Hogan struggles to lead the offense.
David Fox (@DavidFox615)
Stanford is too well built to fall off too much, but I could still see this as a transition year. The offensive line is full of great recruits, but there’s still just one returning starter here. Inexperience there and at tight end and running back puts more on the shoulders of Kevin Hogan, which may be a problem on the road against teams like Notre Dame, Oregon and UCLA.