The Stanford Cardinal returned almost nobody on defense from the last few season’s excellent defenses. Their Defensive Line and Secondary lost almost everybody.
They did return excellent All Conference type Linebacker Blake Martinez and the confidence was there with the Stanford Defensive staff. These guys know defense and they get the best out of their players year after year. Stanford is a fun defense to watch because they swarm the ball carrier on most plays.
The offense was a completely different story. They returned some quality Offensive Linemen, a long time starter at Quarterback, and plenty of other talent at Wide Receiver and Tight End.
The media ranked Oregon in the top 5 to 10 in the Preseason, but real football minded people had Stanford as the probable favorite to win the Pac 12 North and possibly the conference championship overall.
That’s why the Stanford loss in game one at Northwestern was such a huge disappointment. Not only did they lose, but they really looked bad in their loss. Extremely experienced Quarterback Kevin Hogan looked like a freshman and couldn’t hit the side of a huge house with the ball, much less the standard side of a barn. The defense wasn’t bad, but the offense was totally out of sync.
But, this Stanford team may have some heart.
They bounced back brilliantly with 6 straight wins including impressive beat downs of USC and UCLA. With a record of 6-1 and Running Back Christian McCaffrey having an incredible season the media has suddenly jumped all over the Stanford Cardinal football team.
McCaffrey is even entering the Heisman Trophy race discussions. With Utah getting destroyed by USC on Saturday, the Cardinal is now all the rage on the talk shows and on the internet.
That’s what scares me.
Stanford was my favorite in the West at the beginning of the season. USC was there, too, but they are very young and might have been another year away even with a sober coach.
They are playing like I expected at the beginning of the season.
But, on Halloween Night, Stanford will travel to Pullman, Washington to take on the Cougars of Washington State. I have been watching Washington State head coach Mike Leach since he was an assistant coach and as a head guy, he can be a real headache to ranked teams and especially at home. One could hardly count all of the times when he was coaching at Texas Tech and the Red Raiders had a top team come to town and something scary happened to the favored team.
In 2008, highly ranked Texas came into Lubbock on a Halloween Night and everything fell apart for the Longhorns. After gamely fighting back, the Red Raiders won in the last few seconds on a miracle play. That game cost Texas a shot at the national title.
Moving ahead to 2015, Mike Leach is now the head coach at Washington State. His teams at Washington State are obviously very similar to those he had at Texas Tech. Same system, same types of results and same crazy games with potentially heartbreaking endings for once hopeful opponents.
After losing in game one to Portland State in a stunner, the Cougars have been somewhat like the
Cardinal in that they fought back with some wins. Washington State won 2 games against Rutgers and Wyoming. Stanford rival California beat Washington State in the Cougars 4th game. But, then the Cougars won three straight games against Oregon, Oregon State and Arizona.
They are playing well right now.
Which makes this more of a huge challenge for Stanford.
If Stanford can manage to get by Washington State on Halloween Night in Pullman, they have games remaining with Colorado, Oregon, California and Notre Dame.
Don’t laugh at Colorado. Mike MacIntyre is a good coach and he has Colorado playing better and they are 4-4 on the season. Ole Miss fans and Brent Musburger laughed at Memphis a couple of weeks ago right before Memphis beat up Ole Miss and shut them up, temporarily.
Oregon is down, but they still have lots of athletes on offense and can be dangerous. Stanford has played well against them the past few years and they should beat the Ducks, but Oregon is still dangerous.
California has their best team in years. Cal is 5-2 on the season, so far, and they don’t like their across the Bay rivals. Rivalry games are always dangerous and this one could be exciting.
Then, there’s Notre Dame.
The media now has Stanford as a playoff team. But, they clearly have their work cut out for them even if they run the table with their remaining 5 games, Stanford would have to win the Pac 12 Championship Game as well.
But, first, they have to win in Pullman, Washington on Halloween Night against a coach that has a long history of upsetting highly ranked football teams at his own stadium.
Yep, it could be a scary night for the Stanford Cardinal.