The Stanford Cardinal have experienced a meteoric rise to the top of the national standings over the past several seasons thanks to great coaching, immense talent, and strong recruiting. While it is one of the few Pac-12 teams that has failed to evolve its offense into a modern spread, up-tempo attack, Stanford has remained dominant within the conference.
The Cardinal are receiving a good amount of offseason respect, rising as high as No. 2 in the Sports Illustrated rankings. With increased attention comes increased pressure, so do the Cardinal have what it takes to earn their elite ranking?
Looking at the talent, both on the field and on the sideline, as well as the team’s schedule, the answer seems to be a definitive yes.
The Cardinal return most of the key pieces from one of the nation’s best defenses, including linebacker Shayne Skov, end Ben Gardner, and safety Ed Reynolds. These defensive standouts will join an elite offensive line and a rising quarterback in Kevin Hogan to provide one of the most experienced teams in the Pac-12.
David Shaw is entering his third season as head coach, and has proven all of the doubters wrong thus far in his tenure. The Cardinal have remained on an elite level even with the departures of Jim Harbaugh and Andrew Luck, and Shaw is going to make sure it stays that way.
Looking at Stanford’s schedule, the team appears to be set to make a national championship run. The first half of the season is relatively light, though there are enough interesting matchups to keep the Cardinal from getting complacent early.
The schedule gets tougher when Stanford hosts UCLA in mid-October, and remains challenging from there. Luckily, the Cardinal have most of their key games at home, including Oregon, Notre Dame, and Cal.
Another factor going in the Cardinal’s favor is the fact that tough non-conference matchups such as Notre Dame and San Jose State will be enough to earn national respect despite the fact that, with the exception of Oregon, Stanford should be favored by a good amount in each Pac-12 game.
Overall, looking at the returning talent on both sides of the ball combined with the tough yet manageable schedule, the Cardinal seem primed to make a push for the national championship in 2013.
Though many believe it will be the Oregons or Texas A&Ms of the world that will be the first to take Alabama down, it may take Stanford’s old-school brand of football to end the Crimson Tide’s dynasty. Look for Stanford to make a strong push for a BCS title during the coming year.