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2011 Predictions: Stanford, the Pac-12, and Beyond

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With the 2011 college football season kicking off tonight, it's prediction time 'round the ol' interwebs. I asked fellow Cardinal bloggers Willys from The Daily Axe and Hank from Go Mighty Card, as well as my Rule of Tree cohort, RedOscar, to weigh in on a variety of topics. (Honestly, I don't want to be the only one who looks foolish come December, though I may have asked the wrong people to participate if that was my goal.)

If there's one thing we all agree on, it's that Stanford will have a terrific season. Just how terrific? Read on to find out. You should also feel free to mock and/or enlighten us with your own predictions in the comments. They'll be fun to revisit later. Maybe.

Oh, and drop me a line if you're interested in joining the Cardinal Blog Pick 'Em.

Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year

Daily Axe: Andrew Luck. Luck is both the Heisman frontrunner and probably the man most important to his team’s success of any player in the conference (including LaMichael James). 
Go Mighty Card: Andrew Luck 
Rule of Tree - RedOscar:
Andrew Luck
Rule of Tree - Scott: Andrew Luck

Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year

Daily Axe: Shayne Skov. Cliff Harris and Vontaze Burfict would be strong contenders if not for serious maturity problems exhibited in the preseason. If it’s any of the three, it’ll break the recent streak of defensive linemen winning the Pat Tillman Award. 
Go Mighty Card: Vontaze Burfict
Rule of Tree - RedOscar: Vontaze Burfict
Rule of Tree - Scott: Vontaze Burfict. The ASU linebacker will smoke the competition, including Cliff Harris.

Pac-12 Coach of the Year

Daily Axe: Kyle Whittingham. A berth in the conference championship game to cap the Utes’ inaugural Pac-12 season would almost surely lock up the award for Whittingham.
Go Mighty Card: David Shaw 
Rule of Tree - RedOscar:
David Shaw I originally had Jon Embree here, but I don't think people are going to give him the award if the Buffs don't make a bowl.
Rule of Tree - Scott: David Shaw

Pac-12 Bowl-Eligible Teams

Daily Axe: Arizona, Arizona State, Oregon, Stanford, Utah, Washington
Go Mighty Card: Arizona, Arizona State, Oregon, Stanford, UCLA, Utah, Washington
Rule of Tree - RedOscar:
Arizona State, Oregon, Stanford, UCLA, Utah, Washington
Rule of Tree - Scott: Arizona, Arizona State, Oregon, Stanford, UCLA, Utah, Washington

Pac-12 Most Surprising Team

Daily Axe: Colorado. The expectations are so low that underachieving seems virtually impossible.
Go Mighty Card: UCLA 
Rule of Tree - RedOscar:
UCLA. Neuheisel seems desperate to improve his team for more than just personal gain, seeing as how he's an alum of UCLA.
Rule of Tree - Scott: Washington State

Pac-12 Most Disappointing Team

Daily Axe: Arizona State. The Sun Devils will go to a bowl, but expectations for the team are much higher than merely making a late December game.
Go Mighty Card: Cal 
Rule of Tree - RedOscar:
Arizona. The entire state of Arizona is injury-plagued, but Arizona could least afford it of the two schools, especially after last year's train-wreck finish.
Rule of Tree - Scott: Arizona State

Pac-12 North Champion 

Daily Axe: Stanford. Stanford beats the Ducks on Foster Field to essentially clinch the division. 
Go Mighty Card: Stanford
Rule of Tree - RedOscar: Stanford 
Rule of Tree - Scott: Stanford

Pac-12 South Champion 

Daily Axe: Utah. This isn't the best rendition of the Utes, but it has a noteworthy opportunity to take the South. 
Go Mighty Card: Arizona State 
Rule of Tree - RedOscar:
Arizona State (by default, since USC is ineligible)
Rule of Tree - Scott: Utah. USC finishes first in the division, but the Trojans aren't eligible for the Pac-12 title game.

Pac-12 Champion 

Daily Axe: Stanford. The Card should have little problem dismantling the Utes in Stanford Stadium. 
Go Mighty Card: Stanford 
Rule of Tree - RedOscar:
Stanford
Rule of Tree - Scott: Stanford

Most Surprising Team (Non-Pac-12) 

Daily Axe: South Carolina. Playmakers are everywhere on the Gamecocks roster and the team lucked into a navigable SEC schedule.
Go Mighty Card: Michigan 
Rule of Tree - RedOscar:
Michigan State. I thought about putting Kansas State here, but ultimately I think the Spartans are on track to prove that last year wasn't just an aberration.
Rule of Tree - Scott: Texas

Most Disappointing Team (Non-Pac-12)

Daily Axe: LSU. The Tigers have a plethora of discipline problems, a quarterback who's only starting because of the aforementioned insubordination and a head coach who eats grass.
Go Mighty Card: Oklahoma
Rule of Tree - RedOscar:
Florida State. I was tempted to put Texas A&M, but rather than risk the vitriol of Aggie fans, who've been in a frenzy for a month now, I'll go with the Seminoles.
Rule of Tree - Scott: LSU

Stanford's Impact Freshman 

Daily Axe: Wayne Lyons. You can count the number of true freshmen on the Week 1 depth chart on the same number of hands, and Lyons enters as a highly touted recruit at a position where he can play early. The Floridian also impressed in camp.
Go Mighty Card: Ty Montgomery (shocked he's not on the depth chart this week) 
Rule of Tree - RedOscar:
James Vaughters
Rule of Tree - Scott: James Vaughters

Andrew Luck TD Passes

Daily Axe: 35. A few more than last year, as a less effective Stanford running game will force Luck to make some more plays in the air.
Go Mighty Card: 37 
Rule of Tree - RedOscar: 35
Rule of Tree - Scott: 36. It'll "only" take 33 to break John Elway's career record.

Stanford Points Per Game

Daily Axe: 42. I don't expect more than a couple teams to contain the Stanford offense.
Go Mighty Card: 37 
Rule of Tree - RedOscar:
27.5
Rule of Tree - Scott: 38

Stanford Points Against Per Game 

Daily Axe: 22. With Vic Fangio at Candlestick, the Stanford defense will be a bit less stingy this fall.
Go Mighty Card: 19 
Rule of Tree - RedOscar:
22.4. There will be a lot of close games this year, and Stanford won't repeat its three-shutout performance either.
Rule of Tree - Scott: 21

Stanford Player Who Will Inspire Graduate Students to Wear Blonde Wigs to Games as Tribute (Fan Favorite)

Daily Axe: Chris Owusu. This pick is dependent upon an "if" the size of Hoover Tower. IF Owusu can stay healthy.
Go Mighty Card: Andrew Luck's Beard
Rule of Tree - RedOscar: Shayne Skov. Not necessarily blonde wigs, but I suspect mohawks and excessive eye black might make an appearance.
Rule of Tree - Scott: Ryan Hewitt. You gotta love fullbacks.

Heisman Trophy Winner

Daily Axe: Andrew Luck. If you start as the frontrunner, you have an enormous leg up on the competition. Unless there's a Cam Newton/Tim Tebow type somewhere in the SEC that absolutely dominates games single-handedly, Luck has an excellent chance to win.
Go Mighty Card: Andrew Luck 
Rule of Tree - RedOscar:
Landry Jones (Stanford isn't USC and isn't given the benefit of the doubt by media East of the Rockies in the end -- again.)
Rule of Tree - Scott: Andrew Luck. This time, Stanford's Heisman candidate finishes ahead of a running back from Alabama (Trent Richardson).

Heisman Trophy Sleeper

Daily Axe: Russell Wilson. The Wisconsin QB is a smart guy who's won the respect of his teammates, plays in a power conference for a storied program and has tremendous physical talent.
Go Mighty Card: Matt Barkley
Rule of Tree - RedOscar: Denard Robinson
Rule of Tree - Scott: Case Keenum

Heisman Trophy Bust 

Daily Axe: Justin Blackmon. The Oklahoma State WR gets a new offensive coordinator and plays a position that has a built-in Heisman disadvantage against players that touch the ball more often.
Go Mighty Card: Dan Persa 
Rule of Tree - RedOscar:
LaMichael James
Rule of Tree - Scott: Kellen Moore. I think he'll have another solid year, but I don't like his chances to get back to NYC. TCU derails his Heisman train on the same day that Andrew Luck seizes control of the race.

BCS Title Game

Daily Axe: Oklahoma vs. South Carolina. I don't have enormous faith in the Sooners, but they look like a best bet right now. And South Carolina might drop only one game--which is likely good enough for an SEC team to get into the BCS championship game.
Go Mighty Card: Stanford vs. Alabama
Rule of Tree - RedOscar: Oklahoma vs. Alabama
Rule of Tree - Scott: Stanford vs. Oklahoma

BCS Champion

Daily Axe: Oklahoma. I wouldn't put money on OU, but another team will have to prove it can beat the Sooners.
Go Mighty Card: Stanford
Rule of Tree - RedOscar: Alabama
Rule of Tree - Scott: Stanford. If Oklahoma wins, it will sting a bit more than the 2009 Sun Bowl.

Stanford's Final Record

Daily Axe: 13-1. I see one loss, either to USC on October 29, or in the two season-ending trap games (Cal and Notre Dame).
Go Mighty Card: 14-0
Rule of Tree - RedOscar: 13-1
Rule of Tree - Scott: 14-0. I'm definitely a homer, but I'm also a realist. I really think this could happen.