Stanford, picked by some as a dark horse National Championship contender, became the first powerhouse team to fall victim to the upset bug in the 2015 NCAA Season. After a pretty bleak showing in the opener, here are 5 things Stanford needs to improve upon before UCF heads to the Farm.
1. Consistency at Quarterback
The Stanford offense was abysmal Saturday and 5th year Senior Quarterback Kevin Hogan was a big part of the reason. The Stanford offense moved down the field efficiently in the first drive and scored a field goal, but didn't get back on the board until the 4th quarter when the game was all but out of reach. Hogan had rough first week, getting sacked three times and going 20 of 35 with 155 yards and an interception to end the game which pretty much summed up his performance. Hogan was been pretty solid for the Cardinal to end last season and the passing was game expected to be a strong point this season, but after getting outplayed by a redshirt freshman in his first matchup it looked like anything but. Nonetheless, Hogan is a tough kid and I would expect him to bounce back strong next week after one of most forgettable performances in a while.
Even the Domers are not counting out Stanford:
2. Dropped passes
Hogan overthrew a lot of passes on Saturday, but the ones he did throw well were dropped. He had thrown a beautiful bomb that looked like a sure fire touchdown to Michael Rector that was dropped. That play alone could have easily changed the game, but costly drops kept the Stanford offense at the docks all day Saturday. There was definitely some rust that needs to be knocked off between the receivers and the quarterback. Each side is equally responsible for Stanford's early offensive woes. Hogan and his receivers would benefit greatly from some extra reps in practice. I just did not see the efficiency I saw last season at all.
3. Running game
The running game Saturday was mediocre at best. Christian McCaffrey, who was picked by many to a breakout player in this years Cardinal attack, averaged just above 3 yards per carry (ed. note: when you remove the 27 yard outlier). He broke out on one run of 27, but only tallied 66 yards for the day. The inability to make plays on the ground allowed the Northwestern defense to take a defender out the box and better defend the passing game. In order for the Stanford offense to get rolling, the running game must keep the defense honest and take some pressure of the passing game.
4. Third down conversions
Aside from the first drive, the Cardinal offense struggled to get anything going most of the game. The Cardinal offense particularly struggled on third down. Stanford converted a measly 3 out 15 third-down conversions. At that rate, it was remarkable that Stanford still had the game in reach at the end. If your going to be a good team, you have to commit on third down. Stanford simply could not get into that groove.
(Editors note: the guy in the following video doesn't really have any groundbreaking insights, but his face is mesmerizing, I can't look away)
5. Play calling
The offense on Saturday was very predictable and Northwestern seemed to have their number pretty much all afternoon. The offense did not really stray much from the conventional: running on the first few downs and passing on third down. The Cardinal playbook could use to a bit of a revamp after a stale performance Saturday. I would fully expect Coach Shaw to open up the playbook a little more next week against UCF.
Other adjustments? Share them in the comments below.