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Can Stanford Win the Pac-12? Game-by-Game Predictions

Examining Stanford’s schedule to see what it’s up against in each game

Valero Alamo Bowl - Stanford v TCU Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

Stanford was voted by the Pac-12 Media once again to finish second in the North. Last year, the Cardinal won the North, and with Bryce Love returning, they could easily do it again. Could they win the PAC-12? What about the national championship?

Stanford opens the season hosting San Diego State, who defeated the Cardinal early last season. However, both teams, are now different. KJ Costello didn’t see any action versus the Aztecs last time, and the Aztecs’ star running back, Rashaad Penny, left for the NFL. I don’t see the Cardinal dropping this game. 1-0

Next is USC, looking to beat Stanford for the third straight time. The biggest question in this game will be true freshman J.T. Daniels. No one knows if he’ll start, but ask most Trojan fans and they’ll presume Daniels is the guy. Some will even go so far as to tell you that Daniels is better than Sam Darnold (though I’m still skeptical). With the game being early in the season, I’d give the edge to Stanford. USC will have a new quarterback and running back, and the Trojans will likely face a learning curve early. 2-0

Stanford plays UC Davis on September 15th. I’m moving on. 3-0

The Oregon game this year might be closer than you’d think. The Ducks have a new coach, who inherits a good quarterback in Justin Herbert. Herbert completed 68% of his passes with a 167.5 passer rating, fourth best in the country had he thrown enough passes to qualify. Herbert also has an arsenal of weapons, including five of last year’s top six receivers. In other words, the Ducks’ passing game should be scary. Expect Herbert to pick apart the Stanford secondary and beat the Cardinal in a high-scoring game. (The fact that the game is in Autzen doesn’t help either.) 3-1

The Cardinal travel to South Bend for their last game in September, and this game will be decided by one man: Bryce Love. The Irish defense is very solid, whereas their offense has some holes to fill after losing their top running back and their top two offensive lineman. Simply put, Notre Dame will probably realize they can’t outscore Stanford, so they’ll try to control time of possession and win with their defense. Luckily for the Cardinal, the Irish didn’t have much of an answer for an injured Love last year, and I don’t expect them to have one for a healthy Love in 2018. 4-1

Stanford returns home after two weeks on the road to face Utah, which will be no easy win. The Utes return their starting quarterback, Tyler Huntley, and a handful of starters on both sides of the ball, but they lose their best receiver, Darren Carrington II, as well as a couple of key players in the front seven. After struggling last season stopping the run, they’ll struggle again. Bryce Love will have a monster game and lead the Cardinal to victory. 5-1

After a bye week, the Cardinal head to Arizona State for a Thursday night showdown. Like Oregon, the Sun Devils have a new coach, Herm Edwards, who gets a decent quarterback in Manny Wilkins. Wilkins isn’t afraid to scramble and can throw a nice ball to his impressive receiving corps. The ASU offensive line, though, really struggles (unless a particular transfer from Stanford, Casey Tucker, suddenly lives up to his five-star potential), and I’d expect to Bobby Okereke to shine in this game. As for Bryce Love, he ran for 301 yards against the Sun Devils last season, and although it’s unlikely that he’ll replicate that performance, he’ll expose the defense and add to his Heisman resumé in a blowout. 6-1

David Shaw and his team will then turn their attention towards the Washington State Cougars, who have given the Cardinal trouble recently. This time around, however, Stanford will be the one with a quarterback advantage. The Cougars lose their starting quarterback Luke Falk, and now, Mike Leach is scrambling to find his replacement for the team’s pass-heavy offense. On the defensive side of the ball, WSU lost three of its top four lineman. Expect another big game from Bryce Love in a comfortable win at home. 7-1

Stanford’s biggest game of the year will be played on November 3rd in Seattle. Most likely, the game versus Washington will decide the North, and last year, it did. Stanford surprised the country versus Peterson’s Huskies, and the Cardinal will be big underdogs on the road this year. Washington returns veteran starter Jake Browning, and although Browning lost a couple key targets, he can depend on his run game with senior Myles Gaskin still on campus. The Huskies are experienced on both sides of the ball in 2018 and will avenge last season’s loss versus Stanford. 7-2

Fresh off a loss to Washington, Stanford will then return home to face Oregon State. Last year, the Cardinal barely escaped Corvallis with a victory, but I promise you that was a fluke. The Beavers have a new coach and still no talent; the Cardinal will win this game easily. 8-2

The Big Game comes next. Early last year, it appeared as if the Bears could take down Stanford in 2017, but Cal faltered near the end of the season while Stanford turned their season around. This year, Stanford travels across town, and I wouldn’t sleep on the Bears. Justin Wilcox is a legit coach, and they return their starting quarterback and top running back. Basically, Cal will have the same guys that almost took down Stanford last season. Still, I’m giving the edge to David Shaw and the Cardinal. 9-2

Concluding the year on Thanksgiving weekend will be UCLA. This game will be the only game I go to all year, so the Cardinal better win. In fact, I’ll promise you right now the Cardinal will win. UCLA may have brought in Chip Kelly, but UCLA is without a quarterback and a formidable defense. Stanford wins the game behind Bryce Love’s monster game. 10-2

My prediction is that Stanford finishes 10-2, and honestly, I think that’s maybe a tad optimistic. Ahead of the season, I’m assuming Lance Anderson’s defense will be decent and the offense will be healthy. That’s a lot of assuming.

More realistically, Stanford will drop one or two easy games and finish with either nine wins or eight. Putting the record aside, I predict Stanford will finish second in the North and play in the Holiday Bowl.