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What is Stanford football’s biggest weakness in 2018?

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They lost a lot of pieces on defense...

NCAA Football: Pac-12 Championship-Southern California vs Stanford John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

Friends and family around town keep asking me how I think Stanford will finish the 2018 season. Many presume that with the return of Bryce Love the Cardinal are automatically in contention for the PAC-12 Championship and even the National Championship; however, that’s not the case. David Shaw will need to fill many holes left by the departure of many players on defense.

The common college football fan pays more attention to the long touchdown runs and the jaw-dropping highlights than anything else. In other words, most fans judge teams based off their offense. With the nation’s best running back, a loaded offensive front, and K.J. Costello’s arsenal of receivers, Stanford should have the best offense in their conference and maybe a top-five offense in the country, but unfortunately for the Cardinal, they don’t play in the Big 12. In our conference and throughout the country, defense wins championships.

Historically in the past decade, Stanford’s defense (particularly the front seven) has been feared by the conference. Between Shayne Skov and Blake Martinez, the team annually had a tackling machine at middle linebacker, and rest of the front seven was composed of future NFL players. As a result, #partyinthebackfield was created.

Over the last couple years though, their front seven has deteriorated. Last year, the team allowed 4.6 yards per carry, which ranked 80th in the nation, and if not for Harrison Phillips, that number could have been a lot higher. Now with his as well as Peter Kalambayi’s and Kevin Palma’s departure, it would take a miracle for the front seven to look anything like its former self.

On the defensive line, the team practically has no one with experience and will probably be anchored by redshirt sophomore Jovan Swann, who recorded 25 tackles last year but never started a game, and redshirt junior Dylan Jackson, who has two full playing seasons under his belt but never really stood out. Basically, the Cardinal are praying for a breakout star on the defensive line in 2018, or else the defensive line might really get pushed around.

At this point, you might be saying, “hold on, hold on, what about our linebackers? Won’t they be able to pick up the defensive line’s slack?” Sorry to break it to you, Cardinal fans, but no. They only lost two linebackers, but the roster still has very few, especially on the inside. Fifth-year senior Bobby Okereke will be their rock, and he showed promise versus Washington and Notre Dame, finishing with 10 and nine tackles respectively. He’ll be a solid piece, but besides him, there are plenty of question marks.

How will Sean Barton return from his injury?

Which linebacker position will Joey Alfieri even play?

Will Curtis Robinson finally live up to his five-star ranking?

Here’s my prediction for the Stanford defensive line in 2018:

Remember Stanford fans, defense wins championships, and this year’s defense won’t exactly be the dominating, run-stopping defense that we were once accustomed too. Oh yeah, did I forget to mention our secondary might also struggle? I’ll get to that next.