Under David Shaw the Stanford Cardinal have become a legitimate contender for a national championship, even if they haven’t actually played for one during his tenure. The Cardinal hit double figures in wins in five of his six seasons and captured the Pac-12 championship in half of the game’s six-year existence. Stanford had finished first or second in the North Division since the league’s expansion in 2011, but slipped a bit last season and placed third. Even in a “down” year the Cardinal managed to win 10 games and they have a bunch of talent back in 2017.
2016 Record: 10-3 SU, 7-6 ATS, 5-8 O/U
2017 Regular Season Win Total: 8.5
National Championship Odds: +6500
Odds To Win Pac-12: +950
There was a lot to figure out at the beginning of the season, especially at quarterback with Kevin Hogan finally off The Farm. The Cardinal still had Christian McCaffrey, so the need for immediate production wasn’t the biggest concern. Stanford used the schedule to its benefit, catching Kansas State and USC in the first two games before those teams figured it out. A third win over UCLA had the Cardinal sitting pretty at 3-0.
With McCaffrey dealing with nagging ailments, the Cardinal hit a road block in the middle of the season. They lost three of four games and the offense produced a total of 44 points. Following a muddling 10-5 loss to Colorado, Shaw pulled the trigger on a quarterback change, swapping Ryan Burns for Keller Chryst. The move, along with the return of McCaffrey, sparked the Cardinal to five consecutive wins to close out the regular season.
Chryst wasn’t John Elway, but the Cardinal won. He was most efficient over the final three regular season games with 610 yards, seven touchdowns and no interceptions. He had the benefit of playing some of the poorest defenses in Cal, Oregon and Rice, but the numbers were there and so were the victories. Chryst injured his knee in the bowl win over North Carolina and McCaffrey sat out to avoid injury ahead of the draft. Still, the Cardinal ended the year with a sixth straight win, beating the Tar Heels 25-23 in the Sun Bowl.
McCaffrey is gone and Chryst could miss some time as he continues to recover from his injury. But that doesn’t mean the Cardinal will suffer on offense. Stanford was better with Chryst quarterbacking the team last season, but Shaw said he won’t rush him back to the lineup. He has faith in Burns, who led the team to wins over K-State and USC at the beginning of last season.
McCaffrey’s contributions last season were massive and can’t be overlooked. He rushed for 1,603 yards and the Cardinal still ranked 104th nationally in total offense with 367.1 yards per game. Now, Bryce Love finally escapes the shadow of McCaffrey and will let the Pac-12, as well as the rest of the college football world, know just what a talent he is. Love ran for 779 yards and three touchdowns while averaging 7.0 yards per carry. And Love will have an experienced line to run behind, which should help keep the Cardinal a more run-oriented team, especially if Chryst isn’t back for the start of the year.
Stanford has eight starters back from a defense that ranked 38th in the country in total yards allowed. However, there is a big hole on the line after Solomon Thomas was taken in the first round by the Niners. Despite that, the Cardinal should again be strong and a 10-win season has become the norm. Getting past Washington could put Stanford in the Pac-12 title game and that matchup is on The Farm.
Week 0: Stanford vs. Rice, Saturday, August 26 (in Sydney, Australia)
Week 1: OFF
Week 2: Stanford at USC, Saturday, September 9
Week 3: Stanford at San Diego State, Saturday, September 16
Week 4: Stanford vs. UCLA, Saturday, September 23
Week 5: Stanford vs. Arizona State, Saturday, September 30
Week 6: Stanford at Utah, Saturday, October 7
Week 7: Stanford vs. Oregon, Saturday, October 14
Week 8: OFF
Week 9: Stanford at Oregon State, Thursday, October 26
Week 10: Stanford at Washington State, Saturday, November 4
Week 11: Stanford vs. Washington, Friday, November 10
Week 12: Stanford vs. California, Saturday, November 18
Week 13: Stanford vs. Notre Dame, Saturday, November 25
|SEC Conference||Big 10 Conference|
|ACC Conference||Big 12 Conference|
|Pac 12 Conference||Big East Conference|
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