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Stanford Football 2016: A Down Year or Transition Year?

Stanford hasn’t lived up to expectations, but should the season still be considered a success?

USC v Stanford Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Ten years ago, Stanford fans could only dream of a winning record let alone the possibility of a ten win season. Now, Stanford fans seem to be disappointed with the idea of a three loss season. But should they be?

Stanford came into the year with high expectations. After an impressive Rose Bowl win, they were picked to win the PAC-12, the playoff was in sight, and Stanford fans were excited for another Christian McCaffrey Heisman campaign. Everything was going as planned after starting the year 3-0, but everything changed when the Cardinal arrived in Seattle. The Huskies embarrassed the Cardinal on national TV and showed the nation that Stanford was a different team than year’s past. Washington exposed Stanford’s offensive line and their quarterback, and Washington State followed that formula the following week. Stanford fans were disappointed, and the season’s future looked grim.

The next week, Stanford was fortunate to escape South Bend with a victory. The win was far from impressive, and with similar poor offensive play against Colorado, Stanford lost their third game of the season. However, Stanford has now found some momentum. The defense has held up, the offense has suddenly showed up, and the team has won their last three games by double digits. With only Cal and Rice remaining, there is a very good chance Stanford finishes with nine regular season wins and spot in the top 25. Still, Stanford can’t win the PAC-12 or make a big bowl, but they finish on a high note.

Many teams would be ecstatic to have a nine win season. Who can remember the last time Oregon State won nine games? How about Cal? A nine win season is a goal for most PAC-12 teams. Heck, a nine win season might even win the south. Competing for the south, USC will probably finish with nine wins and are arguably the best three loss team in the country. Remember, Stanford did beat USC early in the year. Looking back, that’s an impressive win. Stanford can still compete and beat top twenty five teams.

Stanford hasn’t won all their games though. They were crushed by the Washington schools, but the team was riddled with injuries in both games. Quenton Meeks and Alijah Holder were both out, which was a huge blow to the secondary. Both games could’ve been much closer if they were healthy. Against Colorado, Stanford didn’t score an offensive touchdown. Stanford dropped the snap on the Colorado five, and if they don’t drop the ball, Stanford could be sitting at 8-2 right now. But Stanford did drop the ball, and they have three losses to three top 25 teams. Stanford has lost to top teams in the country, and all of their losses were closer than they appear.

If Stanford wins their remaining two games and their bowl game, they’ll finish 10-3. In my opinion, that’s pretty good. This Stanford team is relatively young, and many players will return next year. They’ll have received valuable playing time, and Stanford will know their identity heading into the 2017 season. Just because Stanford finished below what may have been in hindsight unreasonably high expectations does not make this a down year but rather a transition year. Stanford hasn’t lived up to expectations, but they have showed promise heading into next year. The young team is capable of beating a top 25 team, and if Stanford doesn’t slip against Cal and Rice, 2016 will be a successful year.