When Stanford went 8-5 last year, the world seemed right to the majority of the college football pundits. When Stanford lost to USC and Oregon, the Pac-12 correspondents were happy that their two most marketable teams in the most profitable sport were back. When Stanford was picked to play a bowl game within shouting distance, it was viewed as a cute little bowl game for a cute little team that can get back in reality. Reality says this is what made Stanford not just good, but great in the first place. The doubters make Stanford tick. The early morning workouts before an astrophysics test and then back to practice; working out with Shannon Turley might actually be harder than astrophysics. The guys who have to replace former players that were crucial pieces to success. The desire to be respected. That is all back on the table for Stanford and it starts September 5th at Northwestern.
I don't want to say that the Pac-12 is better than the SEC overall but I do feel the top teams in the Pac-12 could beat the top teams in the SEC. Unlike the SEC though, Stanford doesn't get "Cupcake U" on their schedule. Listening to everyone's best-case scenario for Stanford is tough when they are choked up on USC and Oregon. Here is a breakdown of why Stanford not only has a chance at the Pac-12 title but at a College Football playoff berth.
- Stanford is better than Northwestern today. That is without seeing the run game, the defensive line, the freshman, etc. The 9am kickoff doesn't matter in week 1 because it's week 1. Northwestern is currently ranked 25 spots below Cal... OH DON'T HIT ME GOFF LOVERS.
- Stanford has a great home-opening matchup against UCF. 2014 was a back to reality year for O'Leary and company and although UCF finished 9-4. They lost both of their big nonconference games and lost to 2-10 UCONN. Playing FIU a week before isn't a great tune-up game before a cross-country flight to Palo Alto.
- STANFORD WILL LOSE... Oh sorry, my post was hacked by the NCAA. Yes, USC is good. They have a big-time QB in Cody Kessler returning. This game is at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.... BLAH BLAH BLAH. USC has won 2 years in a row on perhaps Stanford's 2 worst games offensively. Last year, Stanford had to give USC the game over and over and yet they still couldn't do anything until the final minutes of the game with a 53-yarder that was probably no good 9 out of 10 times. Since 2007, Stanford is 3-1 at USC. If USC sleeps on Stanford like they did with their other "UNBEATABLE" team in 2012, Hogan and company will ruin the NCAA's dreams
- Oregon State could be the toughest opponent early on as they are an unknown team with a new coach playing on short rest in Corvallis. None of that is good for Stanford but in week 2, Oregon State plays at Michigan who also has a new coach... He's going to be good. TRUST ME. That could be the scouting report plus going into game 4, a newcomer or two should step up and the talent level is still heavily favored in Stanford's direction.
- Stanford going 4-0 into its BYE would be great of course but even better because it can relax and scout Arizona. Arizona is the reigning Pac-12 South Champions and has one of the best linebackers in the country in Scooby Wright so they aren't a walk in the park but history would say Stanford as it's on the Farm and Stanford's last home loss to Arizona was the dreaded 2006 season where even BYE beat Stanford.
- 12 days later, Stanford plays the team that probably hates them even more than Cal and that's UCLA. Stanford hasn't lost to UCLA since 2008 and Kevin Hogan has played like Andrew Luck's twin against them. UCLA is recruiting just as well as and maybe even better than Stanford and should have highly-touted quarterback recruit Josh Rosen starting. This game would worry me but for some reason, Thursday night games in college football seem to favor the home team for whatever reason. Stanford continues its dominance.
- Stanford plays another home game 11 days later against a Washington team that will have played USC and Oregon the previous 2 games. Win or lose, Washington could be exhausted from those two games and Stanford knocks off Washington again.
- Stanford travels to Washington State on Halloween. If Stanford is still undefeated or at the worst has 1-loss, the only spooky thing in this game will be the box score and hopefully popcorn guy returns.
- I like Colorado. I like the program. I like Coach MacIntyre. I like Nelson Spruce. I also like Stanford's chances in this game if Stanford played with backups the entire game. Colorado is still rebuilding and Colorado will be 3-7 or worse at just trying to play out the season.
- THE GAME PART 2. The first time it was this big a deal, it wasn't 2013. It was 2011. Stanford was finally part of the college football landscape. 9-0 with Andrew Luck at home and college gameday was there. Corso even picked Stanford.... That was the best part of the day and night as Luck played decent at best and Oregon kept finding a way to keep the lead and win the game and the conference. Fast forward 4 years later and you have the rematch. If Stanford wins, somehow Mariota will get hurt even though he's not even playing anymore... Wait, the Heisman is gone... Stanford wins by 2 touchdowns. NCAA sanctions Stanford for beating the teams that profit the most. Cal is the game you want to win as a Stanford fan, player, and coach more than any game on the schedule. Going 11-1 with a loss to Cal is worse than a 1-11 season with that lone win being against Cal. Jared Goff will have thrown for 8 billion yards by the Big Game and "The Play" will have still happened but will have no effect as Stanford Clinches a perfect Pac-12 record with a revenge game on their minds.
- When Notre Dame comes to town, it's a big deal. When Notre Dame comes to town after they escape in South Bend a year before, it's personal. I hope Notre Dame comes in undefeated so Stanford can just ruin the entire landscape of college football. Notre Dame last won at Stanford in 2007, when both teams were terrible.
- The Pac-12 title game could be anyone and it just doesn't matter at this point. A 12-0 Stanford team means the offense was scoring about 35 ppg, the defense was better than most expected, and the FEAR of the TREE is back.
13-0 is the dream and an automatic playoff spot. Playing 5 teams in the preseason ESPN poll and 2 teams receiving vote's helps a little too.
Stanford could win 6, 7, 8 games and I could be totally wrong but you can't take away talented players with a reason to win and a team goal. Kevin "Hulk" Hogan will own more wins than any other quarterback in the history of Stanford. His skills to make plays will singlehandedly win games. The run game will be back and everyone loves to talk about Christian McCaffrey (HE IS A RUNNING BACK, NOT A FLANKER OR TAILBACK) but don't forget about Barry Sanders Jr. The passing game is better without Ty Montgomery, sorry Ty but its true. And the offensive line could be better without Peat. If Ohio State or Alabama lose people, it's reloading but when it's Stanford, it's rebuilding. That's BS. The offense is reloaded and ready to fire.
The defense is what makes Stanford tick. I'm not going to waste time with why they will be good. They will be. And when you are a top-10 defense for a 5-year period, you can afford to lose a few players and be really good. Blake Martinez and Kevin Anderson will be All-Pac-12 players.
The special teams will be a mystery until game 1 and whoever the kicker is will probably miss his first kick. It won't cost them the game but it will happen. It will also be the last time that player misses.
David Shaw lost 5 games.... Oh no... Cut the crap. David Shaw is 42-12. Before last season he was 34-7. Shaw had a bad year. Every coach screws up here and there. The kinks are out, he has his guy at qb, and trusts Lance the Dance Anderson on the defensive side.
Sleep on Stanford and you will have nightmares. Welcome to the 2015 college football season.