Kevin Hogan is gone. Austin Hooper is gone. Devon Cajuste is gone. There is no doubt that the Cardinal will have a tough time finding ways to replace the talent that won't be returning to The Farm for the 2016 season. David Shaw once again has his work cut out for him. Despite all of this, Stanford will contend for the PAC-12 North crown once again. As a matter of fact, I believe this could be their best season in years. Here is why.
1) David Shaw
Coach Shaw has proven himself to be the best coach in the conference. After last season, his record as Stanford's head coach is now 54-14. He has yet to have a losing record, and during his time at the helm he has seen a great deal of changes, both to the roster and the staff. There is no other coach in the PAC-12 better suited to handle major roster changes than this man. He has his system and knows how to get the players to buy into it. He is the kind of master motivator every University looks to hire as a coach.
2) Christian McCaffrey
Coach Shaw can take a sigh of relief knowing he has the young stud Christian McCaffrey around for another season. McCaffrey will no doubt be asked to shoulder the workload this year. It's unclear if he will be able to match the same level of production he had last season, but he will certainly put forth his best effort. He has never been a player to take days off. With him in the backfield, it will give whoever steps in as the new starting QB a great deal of confidence knowing he has one of the NCAA's best runners as a primary weapon.
3) Unfinished Business
Last season can be summed up with one word; Incomplete. While 2015 can certainly be considered a success, the Cardinal couldn't quite get over the hump and make it to the Promise Land. Christian McCaffrey was a finalist, but didn't win the Heisman. Stanford came close to, but didn't make it into the playoffs. When you come so close to achieving ultimate victory and fall short, it eats away at your psyche. There is no doubt that everyone who will be returning to the field for the 2016 season has last years shortcomings fresh in their minds. There will be no slow start this time. There will be no room given to the underdogs for an upset. This will be the year Coach Shaw and company come out of the tunnel in week one on a mission. 2016 is going to be a very fun season to watch.