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Stanford Football 2016: Halfway Home(less)

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Assessing Stanford football at the halfway point of the season.

NCAA Football: Stanford at Notre Dame Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

The 2016 Stanford Cardinal have hit the halfway point in their season and while any Cardinal diehard would gladly take a 4-2 record, many have pondered if that record truly defines this team. You could say that those 4 wins are covering up a bad or should I say overrated Stanford team that was a playoff contender just 3 weeks ago and their 4 wins, although against rivals have come against 4 teams that are a combined 12-15.

Now, I am not a big believer in bragging about whom you lost to but of those 15 losses between Kansas State, USC, UCLA, and Notre Dame, 11 of those were to teams that were ranked at the time of the game or are now ranked. The same can be said for the two losses Stanford picked up in back to back weeks against Washington and Washington State. Those teams are 10-2 and Stanford had to play at Washington on a short week and Washington State with key players being injured.

So, which Stanford team is closer to the real thing? The 4-win team that has given up 46 total points or the 2-loss team that has been outscored 86-22. The answer is most likely that they are a team that on any given day can beat you or get beat and that defines average.

Before we get in-depth, let’s point out that Christian McCaffrey was never going to win the Heisman this season and was eliminated after week 1 by Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson. This was going to be the Luck versus RG3 campaign all over again. McCaffrey came into this season better than ever and everyone outside of the friendly confines in Palo Alto was going to crucify him the minute he didn’t score 10 touchdowns and rush for 800 yards and make it rain in game one. And then, he gets banged up and can’t play and everyone not named David Shaw only knows it’s an undisclosed lower body injury. Does McCaffrey rush back to try and make Stanford bowl eligible or does he play it safe? It is never a good thing but did this injury all but guarantee he is going to the NFL or does he now have unfinished business left at the college level?

Offensively, Stanford has looked to be in neutral, reverse, drive, and park all at once this year. Stanford has looked like a team that wants to run power, spread, option, and everything in-between. It hasn’t helped that quarterback Ryan Burns, who had looked like THE GUY out of fall camp has now looked like A GUY and while the offensive line has had major struggles, Burns has had time to throw and just hasn’t connected. It hasn’t helped that Chryst has been just as equal at being average.

It’s already October and while Stanford is only two wins from a bowl game and neither quarterback is injured, the question has come up about blowing the redshirt on K.J. Costello. He might not be ready and blowing a redshirt this late can be horrific but right now you just can’t see Burns or Chryst ever starting a game for Stanford after this season so why not get Costello some real action? And speaking of blowing redshirts, why did Stanford blow the redshirt on WR Donald Stewart if he wasn’t going to play for a good portion of the games? To be clear though, David Shaw did say in his press conference this week that absent an emergency situation he does not intend to change any more of the redshirts.

Defensively, if there is anything we can do to keep Solomon Thomas for another year, that’d be great. Thomas has played like an All-American and his draft stock is shooting up and thank god that Quenton Meeks can’t declare for the NFL yet because he’s the real deal. As far as the rest of the group, they’ve played well but Stanford is lacking a talented linebacker for the first time in a long time and true freshman Curtis Robinson isn’t there yet. They’ve looked just like the offense at times and can look like a championship defense on one drive and then poof, the clock strikes midnight and the defense turns into a pumpkin again.

And last but not least, coaching. David Shaw can be a frustrating coach to have in your corner. He is not going to change for you or for me or anyone and that has always been his greatest trait and also his biggest demise. When Stanford is winning, his offensive philosophy looks brilliant. When Stanford is losing, you’ll hate that you aren’t going to see a fake field goal or punt or possibly going for it on 4th-down with more than 2 yards (MAYBE) to go. This year, I want to see what he does with his offensive coordinator Mike Bloomgren. Bloomgren has been with Stanford since Shaw hired him on in 2011 and started as an offensive line coach so Stanford’s two biggest weaknesses in 2016 are what Stanford does well when they are winning. I am not saying fire him but there should be a fire heating under Bloomgren as he is just as responsible for Stanford’s last place offense.

This Saturday is homecoming for Stanford. That shouldn’t just be for the alumni but for the football team as well. Stanford needs to come out and show Colorado that Stanford is still a major player in the conference and if you want to be the man, you got to beat the man. 2016 hasn’t gone to plan but that’s the fun of college football; the party has just begun and remember in 2012, Stanford went into game 7 with a 4-2 record.

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