2013 Stanford football's 10 things to know: Holding onto that David mentality

Stephen Dunn

Best defense in the West? Check. Stability in the backfield? Check. Major-league continuity for a team that has won 35 games in three years? Check. Cooperative (but still pretty challenging) schedule? Check. This might be Stanford's best chance to make a serious run at the national title. For more Cardinal, visit Rule of Tree.

Confused? Check out the glossary here.

1. "There’s no such thing as carry-over."

Hey, did you hear I wrote a book? I wrote a book! It has a cover and everything, and soon you'll be able to actually purchase it! Buy my book!

It's quite possible that of all the people -- writers, coaches, nerds -- I interviewed for said publication, Stanford head coach David Shaw was the star. He was thoughtful and interesting, and he gave some of the better coach quotes in the book.

Shaw on Stanford's new, unexpected place in college football's ruling class:

When you start to win, you start to be able to recruit better players. Good players want to go where they can win games.

The key is to never, ever lose that David mentality. So even after winning BCS games, we still have the attitude that we're coming off of a 1-11 season. That's the trick. There's no such thing as carry-over. We're not going to win games because we won last year.

Stanford's rise has been rather stunning. The Cardinal went 1-11 not even seven years ago and were 5-7 as recently as 2008. They ranked 73rd in Off. F/+ in 2007 and 103rd in Def. F/+ in 2009. But Jim Harbaugh began laying an incredible foundation in 2007, one supplemented by an enormous upset of USC that year and maintained by Shaw when Harbaugh left for the San Francisco 49ers. Stanford has gone 35-5 in the last three years, ranking sixth, seventh, and 11th in overall F/+ in that time. The Cardinal went 12-1 in 2010, lost Harbaugh, and went 11-2 the next year. They lost star quarterback Andrew Luck and went 12-2 with a Pac-12 title in 2012.

Shaw is right: There is indeed no such thing as carry-over. For all we know, luck will turn -- Stanford is 10-3 in one-possession games since the midway point of the 2011 season, and that probably isn't all skill. For all we know, the offense will get exposed with the loss of five of last year's top six receiving targets. For all we know, the defense will fall apart in 2014 after losing a ton of 2013 seniors.

But Shaw and company have built a deep squad and a competitive culture; the train could certainly stop rolling at some point, but on paper Stanford is one of the most sturdily built, fascinating teams in the country.

2. "Going to Stanford is an out."

Shaw on improving Stanford's recruiting:

Let's say we're recruiting a young man from Georgia, and he's getting recruited by everybody in the South. Going to Alabama would be hard for him because of the locals, but going to Stanford is an out. Everybody's not going to hate me if I go to Stanford.

In 2012, Shaw signed the No. 5 recruiting class in the country according to Rivals.com, ahead of Florida State, ahead of Michigan, ahead of USC, ahead of Oklahoma, ahead of Georgia. In 2013, because of minimal attrition, the Cardinal inked just 12 players and, consequently, landed a class ranked just 63rd; but on a per-player basis, Stanford's star average of 3.33 was the 17th best.

Stanford! Harbaugh, Shaw, and a young, hungry staff figured out how to get to recruits earlier in the process (so they'd know what they had to do to get into Stanford), went out of their way to play more kids than almost any school in the country (if you work hard, you see the field), and established the Stanford name in recruiting circles like never before. And if you're going to sustain a run of success beyond one cycle of recruits, bringing in really, really talented replacements is a good way to go about it.

2012 Schedule & Results

Record: 12-2 | Adj. Record: 11-3 | Final F/+ Rk: 11
Date Opponent Score W-L Adj. Score Adj. W-L
31-Aug San Jose State 20-17 W 26.2 - 16.7 W
8-Sep Duke 50-13 W 25.8 - 19.4 W
15-Sep USC 21-14 W 31.5 - 11.5 W
27-Sep at Washington 13-17 L 12.7 - 19.9 L
6-Oct Arizona 54-48 W 42.0 - 28.9 W
13-Oct at Notre Dame 13-20 L 25.3 - 20.6 W
20-Oct at California 21-3 W 25.6 - 8.7 W
27-Oct Washington State 24-17 W 20.5 - 30.4 L
3-Nov at Colorado 48-0 W 23.1 - (-1.1) W
10-Nov Oregon State 27-23 W 43.0 - 21.6 W
17-Nov at Oregon 17-14 W 28.5 - 16.2 W
24-Nov at UCLA 35-17 W 23.5 - 15.4 W
30-Nov UCLA 27-24 W 23.9 - 30.6 L
1-Jan vs. Wisconsin 20-14 W 39.6 - 20.3 W
Category Offense Rk Defense Rk
Points Per Game 27.9 72 17.2 11
Adj. Points Per Game 27.9 65 18.5 7

3. "I am a half a field away."

Shaw on chemistry:

If the kid doesn't fit your team socially, doesn't fit your school, you're doing a disservice to him. Getting kids in your program that fit your program help you to have a healthier team. When the game is on the line, I am half a field away. It's the kids on the field that have to trust each other, work together, do problem-solving on their own, and they can only do that if the locker room is tight and if everybody trusts each other.

We can change lines and diagrams in our playbook, but if you have guys that don't trust each other ...

An incredible defense assured that Stanford was going to have a pretty good team in 2012. Stanford made more tackles for loss than any team in the country and beat you up with a big, physical front seven. Aside from some leaky moments versus Arizona and Washington State in October and UCLA in the Pac-12 title game, Stanford's defense played at a level far above average for most of the season.

The offense, however, needed a boost. The chemistry was evidently lacking.

Adj. Points Per Game (first 8 games): Stanford 26.2, Opponent 19.5 (plus-6.7)
Adj. Points Per Game (last 6 games): Stanford 30.3, Opponent 17.2 (plus-13.1)

That boost came in the ninth game when redshirt freshman Kevin Hogan took over at quarterback. In terms of adjusted points, Stanford's offense improved by about four points per game ... and the team won three of its final six games by four or fewer points. The next time Hogan loses will the first time; he didn't become a starter until November, and he has already won at Oregon and UCLA and taken home Pac-12 and Rose Bowl titles. Good luck one-upping yourself there.

Offense

Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 86 51 63 44
RUSHING 50 57 69 47
PASSING 96 43 57 41
Standard Downs 65 82 56
Passing Downs 24 39 19
Redzone 61 73 41
Q1 Rk 40 1st Down Rk 78
Q2 Rk 42 2nd Down Rk 47
Q3 Rk 75 3rd Down Rk 70
Q4 Rk 94

Quarterback

Note: players in bold below are 2013 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.

Player Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals Comp Att Yards Comp
Rate
TD INT Sacks Sack Rate Yards/
Att.
Josh Nunes 124 235 1,643 52.8% 10 7 9 3.7% 6.6
Kevin Hogan 6'4, 220 Jr. *** (5.7) 109 152 1,096 71.7% 9 3 11 6.7% 6.4
Brent Nottingham


5 8 22 62.5% 0 0 0 0.0% 2.8
Evan Crower 6'5, 215 Jr. *** (5.5)






Ryan Burns 6'5, 218 Fr. **** (5.9)






4. Taking what the defense gives you

According to our charting data, the biggest difference between Hogan and his predecessor, Josh Nunes, came in their distribution of passes. Nunes forced the ball downfield quite a bit -- 56 percent of his charted passes traveled at least 10 yards downfield. Predictably, this led to decent per-completion yardage (13.3 yards), an iffy interception rate (3.0 percent), and a rather awful completion rate (53 percent). Nunes actually averaged better per-attempt yardage than Hogan, but it came with a huge cost to Stanford's efficiency.

Hogan took over and simply took what the offense was giving him. Seventy-six percent of his charted passes traveled fewer than 10 yards, and the resulting completion rate (72 percent) and interception rate (2.0 percent) offset minimal explosiveness (10.1 yards per completion) and some sack issues (the more mobile Hogan was also more likely to hold the ball too long). With such a strong defense, Stanford valued efficient, turnover-free offense, and Hogan provided that.

In 2013, Hogan most certainly loses his security blanket. Gone are Stanford's most high-efficiency options, tight end Zach Ertz and running back Stepfan Taylor. Gone, too, is Stanford's most reliable wideout, Drew Terrell. Granted, a pair of former four-star tight ends (Charlie Hopkins, Luke Kaumatule) could be ready to fill that role, as could fullback Ryan Hewitt and returning tailback Tyler Gaffney, who caught 12 of 14 passes in 2011. (Gaffney was playing minor league baseball last year.) But there are a lot more ifs in this year's receiving corps, and that could be an issue.

Kevin Hogan. Harry How, Getty.

Running Back

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals Rushes Yards Yards/
Carry
Hlt Yds/
Carry
TD Adj.
POE
Stepfan Taylor RB 322 1,530 4.8 3.9 13 -2.2
Tyler Gaffney (2011) RB 6'1, 221 Sr. **** (5.8) 74 449 6.1 N/A 7 N/A
Anthony Wilkerson RB 6'1, 214 Sr. **** (5.8) 50 224 4.5 3.3 1 -2.7
Kevin Hogan QB 6'4, 220 Jr. *** (5.7) 44 318 7.2 4.6 2 +7.3
Remound Wright RB 5'9, 198 Jr. **** (5.8) 23 81 3.5 2.4 1 -3.5
Josh Nunes QB 18 110 6.1 3.8 3 +2.0
Kelsey Young RB/WR 5'10, 189 Jr. **** (5.8) 14 160 11.4 8.9 2 +9.0
Ricky Seale RB 5'9, 199 Sr. **** (5.8) 13 57 4.4 2.0 0 -1.7
Ryan Hewitt FB 6'4, 245 Sr. *** (5.5) 13 32 2.5 0.7 0 -2.8
Barry Sanders RB 5'10, 191 RSFr. **** (5.8)





Receiving Corps

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals Targets Catches Yards Catch Rate Yds/
Target
Target
Rate
%SD Real Yds/
Target
RYPR
Zach Ertz TE 107 69 898 64.5% 8.4 28.3% 59.8% 8.4 103.6
Drew Terrell WR 54 33 463 61.1% 8.6 14.3% 59.3% 8.6 53.4
Stepfan Taylor RB 47 41 287 87.2% 6.1 12.4% 57.4% 6.2 33.1
Ty Montgomery WR 6'2, 215 Jr. **** (5.8) 47 26 213 55.3% 4.5 12.4% 59.6% 4.5 24.6
Levine Toilolo TE 44 23 380 52.3% 8.6 11.6% 54.5% 8.5 43.8
Jamal-Rashad Patterson WR 29 16 271 55.2% 9.3 7.7% 62.1% 9.2 31.3
Ryan Hewitt FB 6'4, 245 Sr. *** (5.5) 22 14 129 63.6% 5.9 5.8% 77.3% 5.2 14.9
Kelsey Young RB/WR 5'10, 189 Jr. **** (5.8) 9 8 74 88.9% 8.2 2.4% 66.7% 8.1 8.5
Kodi Whitfield WR 6'2, 197 So. **** (5.8) 7 2 13 28.6% 1.9 1.9% 57.1% 2.0 1.5
Devon Cajuste WR 6'4, 232 Jr. *** (5.6) 2 1 7 50.0% 3.5 0.5% 0.0% 2.8 0.8
Jordan Pratt WR 6'3, 211 Jr. NR 2 1 2 50.0% 1.0 0.5% 50.0% 1.2 0.2
David Dudchock TE 6'4, 233 Sr. *** (5.7)








Charlie Hopkins TE 6'6, 269 Jr. **** (5.8)








Luke Kaumatule TE 6'7, 260 So. **** (5.8)








Michael Rector WR 6'1, 190 So. *** (5.5)








Francis Owusu WR 6'3, 195 Fr. **** (5.8)








Offensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs
LY/carry
Pass.
Downs
LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Team 106.2 2.96 3.65 41.1% 64.8% 16.4% 133.5 4.3% 5.2%
Rank 42 64 23 39 82 22 33 54 42
Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals Career Starts/Honors/Notes
David Yankey LG 6'5, 311 Sr. *** (5.7) 27 career starts; 2012 1st All-Pac-12
Sam Schwartzstein C 27 career starts; 2012 2nd All-Pac-12
Kevin Danser RG 6'6, 301 Sr. *** (5.7) 14 career starts; 2012 2nd All-Pac-12
Cameron Fleming RT 6'6, 318 Sr. *** (5.7) 25 career starts
Khalil Wilkes C 6'3, 290 Sr. *** (5.7) 13 career starts
Joshua Garnett RG 6'5, 317 So. **** (6.0) 1 career start
Dillon Bonnell LG 6'4, 279 Sr. **** (5.8)
Conor McFadden C 6'3, 288 Sr. ** (5.3)
Brendon Austin RT 6'6, 304 Jr. **** (5.8)
Andrus Peat LT 6'7, 310 So. ***** (6.1)
Kyle Murphy LT 6'7, 272 So. ***** (6.1)
Johnny Caspers LG 6'4, 292 So. *** (5.5)
Graham Shuler C 6'4, 277 RSFr. **** (5.8)
Nick Davidson OT 6'7, 283 RSFr. **** (5.8)

5. "To keep getting positive yards is so important."

Shaw on red zone play-calling and execution:

If you can keep averaging four yards per carry down there, you're getting second-and-mediums, run-pass situations. To keep getting positive yards is so important.

Shaw was talking specifically about Stanford's red zone offense, obviously, but the avoidance of negative plays was a Stanford strength at every yard line in 2012. Following the loss of two studs up front (David DeCastro and Jonathan Martin, each of whom was drafted in the first 50 picks of the 2012 NFL Draft), Stanford's offensive line regressed overall last fall, struggling more than expected in power situations and only opening up rushing holes at an above-average rate. But the line kept defenders out of the backfield, allowing Taylor to avoid losses and grind out quite a few second-and-mediums.

Stanford was very much a run-first (and run-second) team and probably will be again without Taylor -- Gaffney, Anthony Wilkerson, Remound Wright, Ricky Seale, and perhaps youngster Barry Sanders still give the Cardinal plenty of options; and despite the loss of center Sam Schwartzstein, the experience here is impressive, especially considering Stanford's three stud sophomores (Andrus Peat, Kyle Murphy, Joshua Garnett) have gotten some seasoning. Peat's success at left tackle actually allowed for shuffling elsewhere, and last year's starting guard Khalil Wilkes will replace Schwartzstein at center.

Defense

Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 20 5 7 5
RUSHING 5 7 8 7
PASSING 72 8 9 9
Standard Downs 4 11 4
Passing Downs 12 9 15
Redzone 15 17 12
Q1 Rk 2 1st Down Rk 4
Q2 Rk 11 2nd Down Rk 1
Q3 Rk 31 3rd Down Rk 34
Q4 Rk 1

6. The less-painful death

There were no good options for Stanford opponents in 2012. The Cardinal were typically stout against both the run and pass, ranking seventh in Rushing S&P+ and eighth in Passing S&P+.

But opponents decided that passing seemed a less painful way to lose. Teams like Arizona, Washington State, and Duke went nearly all-in with the pass -- they threw a combined 192 times against Stanford, and only Duke was throwing because it was down big -- and it wasn't hard to see why. UCLA rushed for an outstanding 284 yards in the Pac-12 title game, and in the other 13 games, Stanford allowed just 83 rushing yards per contest. They did this despite facing Notre Dame, Oregon, Wisconsin, and UCLA again. And while I don't usually include sacks as rushing yards (it's dumb), doing so creates one of the funnier stat lines you'll see: California, Washington State, and Colorado combined to "rush" 73 times against Stanford ... for minus-36 yards.

The dynamics of last year's defense should remain the same this time around. The top four linemen all return, and while graduated OLB Chase Thomas was incredible, he's the only departed starter in the front seven. Thomas will be missed, but we still get another season of Trent Murphy, Shayne Skov, Ben Gardner, A.J. Tarpley, Henry Anderson, and the most ridiculous 3-4 alignment this side of Tuscaloosa. Plus, Thomas' shoes will at least be filled by a former stud recruit: James Vaughters.

Defensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs
LY/carry
Pass.
Downs
LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Team 125.4 2.48 2.79 33.0% 58.8% 26.3% 138.2 8.7% 8.3%
Rank 4 12 24 9 13 4 13 3 33
Name Pos Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Henry Anderson DE 6'6, 282 Sr. *** (5.7) 14 39.0 5.1% 13 5.5 0 5 1 0
Ben Gardner DE 6'4, 275 Sr. ** (5.2) 14 37.5 4.9% 14.5 7.5 0 5 1 1
David Parry DT 6'2, 303 Sr. NR 14 22.0 2.9% 3 2 0 2 0 0
Josh Mauro DE 6'6, 281 Sr. *** (5.5) 13 15.0 2.0% 7 5 0 0 0 2
Terrence Stephens DT 11 8.0 1.0% 3 1 0 0 1 0
Aziz Shittu DE 6'3, 275 So. ***** (6.1) 5 1.0 0.1% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Anthony Hayes DT 6'3, 290 Jr. *** (5.5)
Ikenna Nwafor DT 6'6, 288 So. *** (5.6)
Jordan Watkins DE 6'5, 271 RSFr. **** (5.8)






7. If we're nit-picking…

...the defensive line was really, really thin last year. Stanford got away with playing basically four men up front for most of a given game; any injuries could have thrown this unit for a loop. Granted, the depth could improve this year if a pair of 2012 signees (Aziz Shittu and Jordan Watkins) begin to hold their own, but tackle could still be an issue if David Parry goes down. And if the line doesn't hold up, obviously the effectiveness of an incredible set of linebackers could be compromised.

Linebackers

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Shayne Skov ILB 6'3, 244 Sr. **** (6.0) 13 62.0 8.1% 9 2.5 0 1 0 0
Chase Thomas OLB 14 57.0 7.5% 14.5 7.5 1 3 1 2
A.J. Tarpley ILB 6'2, 237 Sr. *** (5.6) 14 53.0 6.9% 7 2 1 5 1 1
Trent Murphy OLB 6'6, 261 Sr. *** (5.5) 14 47.0 6.2% 18 10 1 4 1 0
Jarek Lancaster ILB 6'1, 232 Sr. *** (5.5) 14 29.5 3.9% 3 2 0 0 0 0
Alex Debniak OLB 14 21.0 2.7% 4 4 0 0 2 0
James Vaughters OLB 6'2, 245 Jr. **** (5.9) 14 20.5 2.7% 1 1 0 0 0 0
Blake Lueders (2011) OLB 6'5, 258 Sr. **** (5.8) 13 14.5 2.2% 3 2 0 0 0 1
Kevin Anderson OLB 6'4, 245 Jr. *** (5.6) 14 5.5 0.7% 2 2 0 1 1 0
Joe Hemschoot ILB 6'1, 227 Sr. *** (5.6) 14 4.5 0.6% 0 0 0 0 0 1
Blake Martinez ILB 6'2, 238 So. *** (5.6) 14 2.5 0.3% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Torsten Rotto OLB 6'2, 240 Jr. NR 1 1.0 0.1% 0 0 0 0 0 1
Noor Davis OLB 6'4, 227 RSFr. **** (5.9)

Peter Kalambayi LB 6'3, 238 Fr. **** (5.9)






8. One fine linebacking corps

Trent Murphy is bigger than a vast number of FBS defensive ends. In Stanford's 3-4, he's an outside linebacker with ridiculous pass-rushing skills and the ability to drop into coverage if need be. You have to account for Murphy on every play, and that will only help fellow OLB James Vaughters, or whoever ends up winning the job of replacing Chase Thomas. And on the inside, Stanford is ridiculously experienced, with seniors Shayne Skov, A.J. Tarpley, and Jarek Lancaster filling in the depth chart.

As thin as the line may be, the linebacking corps is equally deep. Seven players made at least 20.0 tackles last year, and while two of those are gone, 2011 contributor Blake Lueders returns to the two-deep, and a pair of four-star freshmen (Noor Davis, Peter Kalambayi) could force their way into the rotation as well.

The depth here is a very good thing, as the defense is absolutely loaded with seniors. The top four returning linemen, top four returning linebackers, and four of the top six returning defensive backs are all heading into their final seasons, meaning Stanford's recent run of strong recruiting will be tested severely in 2014. But never mind next season -- this season's Stanford defense is absurdly loaded, with the aforementioned members of the front seven, plus all-purpose nickel back Usua Amanam (whose 2012 development took this defense to a completely different level), ball-hawking strong safety Jordan Richards, and a potential future stud in sophomore corner Alex Carter. This is going to be a really, really fun defense to watch in 2013 before Stanford hits the reset button in the offseason.

Secondary

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Terrence Brown CB 14 56.0 7.3% 3 0 1 9 0 0
Jordan Richards SS 5'11, 208 Jr. *** (5.6) 14 56.0 7.3% 6.5 1 3 12 1 0
Usua Amanam NB 5'10, 175 Sr. *** (5.6) 14 47.0 6.2% 10.5 4 1 7 0 3
Alex Carter CB 6'0, 204 So. **** (6.0) 14 40.0 5.2% 3 0 0 1 3 0
Ed Reynolds FS 6'2, 205 Sr. *** (5.5) 14 37.5 4.9% 0 0 6 5 0 0
Wayne Lyons CB 6'1, 193 Jr. **** (5.8) 14 22.5 2.9% 0 0 1 0 0 0
Barry Browning CB 6'1, 179 Sr. *** (5.5) 13 22.0 2.9% 2 0 0 3 0 0
Devon Carrington FS 6'1, 200 Sr. *** (5.7) 14 19.5 2.6% 0 0 0 2 0 1
Ronnie Harris NB 5'10, 170 Jr. *** (5.6) 14 10.5 1.4% 0 0 0 2 1 0
Zach Hoffpauir SS 6'0, 195 So. *** (5.7) 14 9.0 1.2% 0 0 0 1 0 0
Harold Bernard SS 11 5.0 0.7% 0 0 0 0 1 0
Drew Madhu FS 6'1, 190 So. *** (5.5) 14 1.5 0.2% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Kyle Olugbode SS 6'1, 192 Sr. NR 0.0 0.0%
Sean Barton DB 6'3, 220 Fr. **** (5.8)






Special Teams

Punter Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Punts Avg TB FC I20 FC/I20
Ratio
Daniel Zychlinski 66 43.1 7 22 26 72.7%
Ben Ryhne 6'2, 202 Sr. 9 41.1 2 0 1 11.1%
Kicker Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Kickoffs Avg TB TB%
Jordan Williamson 5'11, 191 Sr. 75 64 32 42.7%
Place-Kicker Ht, Wt 2013
Year
PAT FG
(0-39)
Pct FG
(40+)
Pct
Jordan Williamson 5'11, 191 Sr. 45-46 13-17 76.5% 4-10 40.0%
Returner Pos. Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Returns Avg. TD
Ty Montgomery KR 6'2, 215 Jr. 11 26.6 0
Kelsey Young KR 5'10, 189 Jr. 8 22.2 0
Remound Wright KR 5'9, 198 Jr. 5 23.0 0
Drew Terrell PR 24 12.1 1
Category Rk
Special Teams F/+ 12
Net Punting 34
Net Kickoffs 13
Touchback Pct 37
Field Goal Pct 96
Kick Returns Avg 45
Punt Returns Avg 22

2013 Schedule & Projection Factors

2013 Schedule
Date Opponent Proj. Rk
7-Sep San Jose State 72
14-Sep at Army 103
21-Sep Arizona State 34
28-Sep at Washington State 97
5-Oct Washington 45
12-Oct at Utah 52
19-Oct UCLA 43
26-Oct at Oregon State 25
7-Nov Oregon 2
16-Nov at USC 17
23-Nov California 68
30-Nov Notre Dame 8
Five-Year F/+ Rk 12
Two-Year Recruiting Rk 30
TO Margin/Adj. TO Margin* +9 / +8.6
TO Luck/Game +0.1
Approx. Ret. Starters (Off. / Def.) 16 (7, 9)
Yds/Pt Margin** -6.1

9. "There’s always the idea that we’re going to slide."

Shaw on Stanford as Goliath (and on opponents preparing differently for the Cardinal now):

We've seen a lot of people do different things against us. But as long as we don't change our mentality, we don't change what we do. We haven't cemented ourselves in the football world's psyche as much as we should have. There's always the idea that we're going to slide.

Until you've won for the greater part of five decades or so in college football, people will always assume you're one recruiting cycle or one coaching change away from collapse. They assume this because college football's ruling class doesn't tend to allow new members into the club for very long.

Think about it this way. The final AP poll of 1964 looked like this:

1. Alabama
2. Arkansas
3. Notre Dame
4. Michigan
5. Texas
6. Nebraska
7. LSU
8. Oregon State
9. Ohio State
10. USC

All 10 of these teams spent at least one week in the AP top 15 in 2012, and eight spent at least one week in the top 10. And while this list does include a couple of members of the non-ruling class (Arkansas, Oregon State), the simple fact is that things don't change much. In the last 25 years, Oregon and Florida have joined the sport's ruling class, and that's pretty much it.

The fact that Stanford has won 35 games in three years and stayed at nearly the exact same level despite first losing their coach (Harbaugh), then losing their once-in-a-lifetime quarterback (Luck), says very, very good things about the Cardinal's staying power.

10. If not now, then when?

There are tests on the horizon -- there are basically no proven receivers in 2013, the defense will undergo a major reboot in 2014, and there's always the chance that an NFL team comes after Shaw like it did Harbaugh -- but in 2013 Stanford is one of the surest bets in the country.

The defense should be Stanford's best ever, the backfield is loaded, and the quarterback position appears quite stable after instability clouded most of the first half of 2012. And the schedule cooperates, too: Two of the three best teams on Stanford's schedule come to Palo Alto (Oregon and Notre Dame), as do five of the best seven. Only two road opponents are projected in the top 50.

Despite the question marks in the receiving corps and the lack of defensive line depth, this team was built to make a serious run at the national title this coming season. Let's see if the Cardinal can pull it off.

More from SB Nation:

Projecting every 2013 college football conference race

Simulating 2013 10 times in NCAA Football 14

Tons of top recruit interviews from SB Nation at The Opening

Bill Connelly’s Pac-12 team preview series is underway

National recruiting coverage

Today’s college football news headlines

X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.

Join SBNation.com

You must be a member of SBNation.com to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at SBNation.com. You should read them.

Join SBNation.com

You must be a member of SBNation.com to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at SBNation.com. You should read them.

Spinner.vc97ec6e

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.