No 15: Stanford

If Stanford is a little under the radar this year, that’s understandable.

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Washington is deserving of the attention it’s receiving as the Pac-12 standard bearer. The Chip Kelly Era is beginning at UCLA. And USC is USC.

But there’s a lot to like about the Cardinal. Postponing the NFL, Heisman runnerup Bryce Love returns after running for 2,118 yards and 19 TDs last fall despite being limited by injury. Sophomore K.J. Costello is poised to be even more effective after a promising freshman year (1,573 passing yards and 14 TDs).[membership level="0"] The rest of this article is available to subscribers only - to become a subscriber click here.[/membership] [membership]

The defense, on the other hand, is a question mark. Six starters return from a unit that gave up 22.7 points a game and allowed 5.98 yards a play, its highest total in the last 10 years.

It would be helpful if the Cardinal continues its takeaway success. It was plus-16 last year, a huge factor for a team that plays so many close games. Four of Stanford’s five losses came by three points or fewer. Three of its wins were by a field goal or less.

The schedule also looks ominous, especially in September, when Stanford opens with San Diego State and USC at home, and travels to Oregon and Notre Dame. There are also trips to Washington and UCLA in November.

David Shaw, who is 73-22 in seven seasons, has accomplished a lot at Stanford. If the Cardinal can find a way to step up on defense, this could be another good year. If not, he’ll have to rely on what promises to be a very potent offense. And that could be a tough deal against Stanford’s talented opponents.[/membership]

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