2012 Stanford Cardinal Football Preview
2011 Record: 11-2 (8-1 PAC-12)
Head Coach: David Shaw, second season (11-2 all at Stanford)
Projected Returning Starters: 14
Spring Game: April 14th (Red 37 White 29)
Notes: Few teams had the kind of success Stanford did, under starting quarterback Andrew Luck and Jim Harbaugh. Coach Buddy Teevens was fired at the conclusion of the 2004 season, after three straight losing seasons. Pittsburgh coach Walt Harris took over, but actually did worse, causing the program to bottom out at 1-11 in 2006. Then-San Diego coach Jim Harbaugh stepped into an excellent position. Expectations were low for a team considered to be the worst in the PAC-10 – Stanford also had few resources at its disposal. Despite that, Harbaugh had a reputation as being a great recruiter, and had a staff in place which valued player development. Harbaugh’s first two seasons were rough, but he improved each season, with records of 4-8 and 5-7; Stanford beat USC in Harbaugh’s first season, despite being a 41-point underdog! Luck led Stanford to the post-season in 2009, his first year, by beating three ranked teams: Washington, Oregon, and USC. The lone loss in the 2010 and 2011 regular seasons was to Oregon. Now second year coach David Shaw will have the tall task of replacing Luck.
BVTSB Take: Stanford has the potential to contend again for the PAC-12 North title. The opportunity to make the PAC-12 Championship game will all depend on how the quarterback position plays out. Coach Shaw hasn’t named a started yet, but neither Brett Nottingham nor Josh Nunes have significant experience. Expect the numbers to be down, significantly, after Luck threw for over 3300 yards in each of his last two seasons, including at least 32 touchdown passes each of those years. Besides Luck, the Cardinal will have to replace first round pick David DeCastro (RG), second round pick Coby Fleener (TE), and second round pick Jonathan Martin (LT). A veteran offensive line will need to help the inexperienced quarterback along. Outside of DeCastro and Martin, the rest of the line returns – C Sam Schwartzstein (13 starts in 2011), LG David Yankey (13 starts in 2011), and RT Cameron Fleming (11 starts in 2011, missed two games due to injury). Kevin Danser will try to replace DeCastro and Cole Underwood will try to replace Martin. Expect Stanford to rely heavily on the running game, especially early. Running back Stepfan Taylor returns for his senior season – he rushed for over 1300 yards last season and ten touchdowns. Tyler Gaffney was expected to serve as his backup (449 rushing yards and seven rushing touchdowns), but Gaffney is giving up his final year of eligibility to play pro baseball. Anthony Wilkerson (282 rushing yards and 3 touchdowns) projects to backup Taylor. Expect a number of two tight end sets this year (short pass game should be the focus). Tight ends Zach Ertz (346 receiving yards and four touchdowns in 2011) and Levine Toilolo (343 receiving yards and six touchdowns) are projected to start. Ty Montgomery is projected to start at wide receiver (350 receiving yards and two touchdowns). One of the things Luck did very well was spreading the ball around – he didn’t focus on just one target. 11 receivers had at least one touchdown catch last year, with eight of them having at least two. Stanford faces San Jose State, Duke, and Notre Dame in non-conference. The Notre Dame game is in South Bend, in mid-October. Stanford should at least be 2-1 in those games. Stanford has five PAC-12 road games: Washington, California, Colorado, Oregon, and UCLA. A loss or two on the road is entirely possible. Home games against USC, Arizona, Washington State, and Oregon State could propel Stanford into the PAC-12 Championship. The Cardinal is 22-3 at home since the beginning of 2008 (from 2004-2007 Stanford was 6-19 at home).
2012 Early Projection: 9-3
To see the 2012 PAC-12 composite schedule, click here.
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