The Stanford Cardinal just continue to prove people wrong. In 2011, everyone thought they’d struggle without head coach Jim Harbaugh on the sidelines, but then, David Shaw took over and won 11 games.
In 2012, the critics predicted the same fate, with the departure of No. 1 overall draft pick Andrew Luck under leaving the team. Yet again, the Cardinal exceeded expectations, winning 12 games including a Pac-12 championship and a Rose Bowl victory.
After back-to-back seasons of immense success without Harbaugh and Luck respectively, this team is heading into the 2013 campaign with much more appreciation in the preseason polls. In fact, in the Coaches Poll that came out this week, Stanford sits at No. 4 behind only Alabama, Ohio State, and Oregon.
Aside from some valuable offensive weapons at tight end and in the backfield, Stanford does not have many key losses, and certainly none as large as a head coach or an elite quarterback. Therefore, no critic is going to sleep on the Cardinal this year.
Increased attention means increased pressure. Even if a team is filled with poised, calm players, it is inevitable to start thinking about a national title when it opens the season ranked in the Top 5. This will apply to players and fans alike.
Last year, Ohio State went undefeated but had nothing to play for. Their postseason ban allowed them to play without having any pressure for postseason success. Now, that is not to take away from the excellent season that the Buckeyes had, but there is something to be said for a team that can win a title while receiving national attention and pressure the whole way.
In 2012, the Cardinal went to Eugene, Oregon with a chip on their shoulder. Everyone was talking about the Ducks’
elite offense, while Stanford boasted one of the best defenses in the country. This year, nobody will underestimate what Shaw’s team can do against the high-flying Oregon team, as the Cardinal held the Ducks to 14 points and won the game. On top of that, Oregon will be hungry for redemption in 2013.
With Kevin Hogan returning under center, David Shaw returning on the sideline, and the nation’s No. 5 rushing defense returning on the other side of the ball, there is more pressure than ever on the Stanford Cardinal heading into 2013.
Without any significant losses other than Zach Ertz, Stepfan Taylor, and Chase Thomas, Stanford must capitalize on its opportunity this year, and the team and fans know this.
A Top 5 ranking leads to a ton of pressure. Does the team wants it or not?However, the Cardinals have the talent and the intangibles on both sides of the ball to win and win big in 2013.