2013 Stanford Cardinal Season Preview

By Loot, NCAA Football Handicapper, Lootmeister.com

2013 Stanford Cardinal Season Preview

The 6th biggest favorite to win the BCS National Championship at 16 to 1, the Stanford Cardinal is considered a premier team entering 2013. The optimism is justified coming off a 12-2 season that included a Rose Bowl win over Wisconsin. In 2012, they beat USC, UCLA twice, and most importantly–they defeated Oregon on the road. The Ducks were 10-0 at the time and gargantuan 18.5-point favorites. They held a team averaging 55 points a game to a mere 14 points.

Their only setbacks were a surprise road loss to Washington and a 20-13 defeat to eventual BCS Championship team Notre Dame. They finished the season with 8 straight wins and now look to keep the good momentum going into 2013. A look at their 2013 schedule shows some rocky passages that might make it hard for the Cardinal to get to the BCS game.

The first half of their season is manageable, with a home opener against San Jose State, followed by a road game at Army. They host Arizona State, go to Washington State, then face Washington in a home grudge match on October 5. After a road game at Utah, they face a good team in UCLA. Then it’s off to face tough Oregon State.

They get Oregon at home this year and the Ducks are loaded this year. They will be looking to avenge last year’s defeat and while it’s hard to tell now, it should be a high-stakes matchup with a lot on the line. It’s not over for the Cardinal after that. They still have to go to USC, which may be underrated for the first time in recent memory. They should handle a rebuilding Cal at home, before hosting Notre Dame.

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The Pac-12 most certainly isn’t the best conference in college football, but it is deep, with a slew of teams that can beat anyone on a given day. The early part of the schedule is doable, but you can’t say there won’t be any slip-ups with any assuredness. Then it gets really tough. UCLA might be a ready to take a step forward this year in a meaningful way. Oregon State isn’t a gimme anymore. Oregon is going to be tough to beat. They’ll beat Cal, but they still have to jump through circus hoops with USC and Notre Dame. That’s a lot of work and a pretty tough schedule. To get into the BCS, a one-loss Stanford might not get the nod over a one-loss SEC team. They may have to run the table and that’s a tough table to run.

You gotta hand it to head coach David Shaw. When Jim Harbaugh left after reviving this program, his work was lauded as well it should have. Maybe Shaw hasn’t gotten enough credit for keeping this machine rolling without hardly missing a beat. He’s a cool customer, but he knows what is at stake this season and what this squad is capable of doing. In 2 seasons, Shaw is an impressive 23-4.

The defending Pac-12 champion had some close calls in 2012. They needed a couple overtimes and survived some other close calls in conference play. They lost key guys on offense like Stepfan Taylor and will need to find some suitable replacements at running back and in the pass catching corps.

Oregon obviously looms largely this season. They blew out the teams Stanford struggled to beat, but there was nothing flukey about Stanford’s big upset win over Oregon. It was great coaching and defense. Still, Stanford is probably the more-likely team to slip up against teams like Arizona State, Washington, and UCLA.

On the plus-side, they return 8 starters on defense and are big and strong on the line of scrimmage on both sides. The O-line should get a little better and they may need to be with inexperienced QB Kevin Hogan taking over. In a sense, it should be okay. They did pretty well with Josh Nunes. Hogan did play well, throwing 71.7% completions and 9 touchdowns against only 3 picks. By all accounts, he should be a handful this season.

There are numerous questions as to their viability as a BCS Championship contender. Oregon looks to be a strong favorite to win the Pac-12 this season. But Stanford is right there. They beat Oregon last season and their defense might be truly special in 2013. They’re not a frontrunner, but outside the top several teams, Stanford is right in the conversation.

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