The Stanford Cardinal are at No. 18 in the college football rankings. Here are five things that matter heading into Stanford’s 2016 season.
Is Stanford good enough to simply reload?
It’s one thing for Alabama to lose a ton of talent and keep everything rolling. The same goes for Ohio State. But can Stanford lose a longtime starting quarterback, most of the offensive line, all of the defensive line, and still be a threat for a fourth Pac-12 championship in five years? At this point, it deserves the benefit of the doubt.
This is becoming a factory led by one of the best coaches in college football, David Shaw, one of the best players in America, Christian McCaffrey, and most of all, one of the most productive systems in the Pac-12. Stanford is able to recruit a type of player that’s ready to roll right away – at least that’s the hope coming into an interesting transitional season.
Replacing Kevin Hogan
Finding a new starter for Hogan isn’t like having to replace Andrew Luck, but it’s one of the most underappreciated – and underreported – position fights going into the season. Understanding the playbook is hardly the problem for junior Ryan Burns or sophomore Keller Chryst, but they both have to step in without missing a beat. There will be no grace period for the starter – they both should know what they’re doing. At least those are the expectations.
The defense is starting over … again
It seems like Stanford’s defense has to find new, fantastic starters to replace the irreplaceable old ones every season. At some point there has to be a major slip – but it’s not likely to happen this time around. The secondary is the biggest strength – at least early on – while the line is going to be the concern. It’s Stanford, though – everything will be okay. However …
The defense might have to do even more
The Cardinal defense will be outstanding at times, but it might have to come up with more big plays and even more game-changing moments. Last year’s defense only took the ball away 14 times; this year it’ll have to make up for a retooling offense that’s not always going to be as efficient and effective as expected. The more easy drives, the better.
What’s going to happen?
It’s not going to be another Pac-12 championship season, but it’ll be plenty strong. The bar is set at championship-or-bust now, but with so much turnover and so much uncertainty, it’s asking for too much to get by all the conference road dates at UCLA, Washington, Oregon and Cal, not to mention the showdowns with USC and Washington State on the road. Throw in the non-conference games against Kansas State and Notre Dame, and 8-4 might even be a stretch.