Stanford appeared to shoot on to the national scene just a few years ago, seemingly out of nowhere. Now they have proven that they are more than just a flash in the pan success story by maintaining a dominant team for a few years. They come in to the 2013 season ranked in the top 5 of most analysts preseason polls. With a strong offense and one of the best defenses in the country they look to continue on their winning ways.
The offense is led by sophomore quarterback Kevin Hogan. He has proven his ability to execute under pressure and also shown his mobility and resourcefulness. However, the one thing he really needs to work on couldn't be more important, becoming a pocket passer. The problem with the passing game doesn't really lie with the quarterback though, on this team the question marks are with the guys catching the ball. Kaumatule is the likely starter at tight end, but he leaves a little to be desired. The team knows they are lacking at that position and are subsequently directing their scheme away from these players and instead using hybrid players and wideouts. Will it work out, will they still be able to get production from their receivers without traditional style players there? That remains to be seen. One thing that is beyond question is the talent of the offensive line, they're loaded. All-American David Yankey is set to return to his natural position, left guard, and one of the two touted sophomores, Peat or Murphy, will take over at left tackle. The play of the O-line is going to be very important too, because the team is uncertain about their backfield. Since last years leading rusher Taylor is gone the team is going to use a running back by committee approach. AS of yet, it remains unclear who will get the starting nod, but they will need production from everyone if they hope to compete.
The defense is in a much better spot than the offense, they're predicted to be one of the best in the nation. The line has All-American caliber ends with Anderson and Gardner, how many teams can boast that. Maybe the dominant LSU defensive lines under Les Miles felt more confident going into the season opener, but maybe not. When your team has a dominant defense that plays the game fast and aggressive it makes opposing offenses unsure of themselves. No one wants to go out on Saturday and get embarrassed on national television and it effects game play. Three starting linebackers are returning to the team including Shayne Skov, the man who is the heart, soul and passion of the defense. When you have a man on the field who lives and breathes the game, it makes everyone around him better. Even when the skills of Ray Lewis started to decline late in his career, there wasn't one man on the field who wanted to let him down. Everyone wanted to live up to more than their potential when he was looking. Skov is the guy who represents that on this defense. As if that isn't enough, the secondary is arguably the most talented in school history. The team has not one, but two playmaking safeties in Reynolds and Richards and a great young corner in Carter. This defense might have some weaknesses, but it is going to take a phenomenal offense to expose them.
Fans can sleep easy thinking about this team, mark them down for 10 wins this season...easy. They have a rock solid defense, a great offensive line and a proven offensive line, what more can you realistically ask for? They are the favorites to win the Pac-12 and considered national title contenders. That is a long way to come in such a short time. Think back about 10 years ago, who would have ever thought we'd be talking about Stanford for national title contention.