The 2012 season meant uncertainty for Stanford football. They were coming off a tough bowl loss, losing what many call their greatest player of all time, and having doubts on both sides of the ball. The talk about Cardinal football entering 2013 is the exact opposite of that.
With the 2013 season just on the horizon for the Cardinal, the hype could not be bigger for this upcoming season. Stanford started the 2013 season ranked #4 in both the AP and Coaches poll; the highest ranking they have ever received for preseason polls and the highest they have ever been in the rankings (Stanford was also ranked #4 during the 2011 season before being upset by Oregon at home). The Cardinal remain #4 in the coaches poll after their first week bye, but have dropped to #5 in the AP poll due to Clemson’s upset of now #11 ranked Georgia in week 1.
So instead of questioning whether Stanford still can compete with the elite like they did at the beginning of last year, now the question is, can Stanford be the team to beat this year? They definitely have a lot going their way for this season; David Shaw is entering the season as back-to-back PAC-12 Coach of the Year in only his first 2 seasons as a head coach.
Stanford returns defensive players like Shayne Skov, Ben Gardner, and Trent Murphy; all who have returned as 5th year seniors for one more shot at the National Championship. The Cardinal also remain dominant because of players who made names for themselves last season like Ed Reynolds, Alex Carter, and Henry Anderson. But this year, Stanford is strong on both sides of the ball.
Kevin Hogan brings a lot more confidence to the offense this season. While he lost big passing targets with his tight ends Zach Ertz and Levine Toilolo and receivers like Drew Terrell, Hogan getting an entire offseason to improve his offensive play will without a doubt improve his ability to make big plays. The Cardinal also loses their all-time leader rusher with Stepfan Taylor, who leaves with the record in career rushing yards (4,300) and career touchdowns (45).
However, Stanford gets a shot in the arm with the return of Tyler Gaffney from minor league baseball. Having Anthony Wilkerson healthy again and up an coming running backs like Barry Sanders should allow Stanford to keep running the ball just like they have before. They’ll just use more guys to do it, rather than putting the load on one guy. Losing the biggest receiver in Ertz is also a big hit, but you also have to remember that Ty Montgomery wasn’t a big factor with his injuries last season, so having an experienced receiver in him returning healthy this season also is a big help to Stanford’s offense.
Stanford’s defense averaged allowing just over 17 points a game last season. An average that will most likely be even lower this season. With the look of this 2013 team and what they were able to do last year, Stanford has a legitimate shot to run the table this year. And as a Cardinal fan myself, I would love to see that matchup of Alabama and the Cardinal for the National Championship. Instead of calling Stanford they Alabama of the west, maybe they’ll say Alabama is the Stanford of the east.
The Stanford of the east with a lot lower GPA’s.