Stanford football has thrived under head coach David Shaw, and last year was no exception. The Cardinal did suffer a pair of road losses to USC and San Diego State early in the year. But they managed to bounce back and get on a roll. Despite a loss to Washington State, the Cardinal scored a pair of top-10 wins over Washington and Notre Dame down the stretch to claim the Pac-12 North. Of course, the Cardinal would go on to lose to USC in the Pac-12 title game and suffer an equally devastating Alamo Bowl loss at the hands of TCU.
However, a 9-5 campaign a year ago does create plenty of optimism for 2018. The Cardinal lost four of those five games by three points or less, so they were not far from their season being completely different. With a Heisman contender leading the way in 2018, Stanford could be poised for a big season.
Oddsmakers aren’t buying into Stanford too much. The Cardinal are +6000 to win a national championship. That makes them a bit of a long shot but not a bad sleeper pick considering how competitive they were last year. Stanford is also projected to win only eight games in 2018. Shaw has failed to win at least nine games just once in his seven seasons as the head coach at Stanford, so winning eight or fewer games would be unusual for the Cardinal.
On paper, Stanford has all the pieces to be one of the best offensive teams in the country. It all starts with Bryce Love, last year’s Heisman runner-up and one of the leading candidates to win the award this year. Not only is Love one of the most talented backs in college football, but he’s also running behind an offensive line that returns four starters. If Love stays healthy, the Stanford ground game will be tough to stop.
The Cardinal are also settled at quarterback. K.J. Costello played well down the stretch last season to solidify the starting job. His numbers aren’t overwhelming, but 14 touchdowns and four interceptions last year is a good ratio. He also had that four-touchdown performance against Notre Dame. Stanford also returns most of their top receivers from a year ago, so there’s little doubt that Costello has plenty of weapons at disposal.
It’s actually on defense where Stanford has some questions to answer. The defensive line is lacking both depth and game-changers. The secondary is also in rough shape after losing a couple players to the NFL. However, the Cardinal are stacked at linebacker. Stanford will need that group to carry the defense until they can figure some stuff out elsewhere.
With so many questions on defense, this may not be the typical Stanford team that pounds the ball on the ground and plays solid defense. But that doesn’t mean they can’t be successful. With a balanced offensive attack, the Cardinal should once again be in contention for a spot in the Pac-12 title game.
|Aug 31||San Diego State Aztecs||9:00 PM|
|Sep 8||Southern California Trojans||8:30 PM|
|Sep 15||California-Davis Aggies||2:00 PM|
|Sep 22||@ Oregon Ducks||3:00 PM|
|Sep 29||@ Notre Dame Fighting Irish||7:30 PM|
|Oct 6||Utah Utes||3:00 PM|
|Oct 18||@ Arizona State Sun Devils||9:00 PM|
|Oct 27||Washington State Cougars||3:00 PM|
|Nov 3||@ Washington Huskies||3:00 PM|
|Nov 10||Oregon State Beavers||3:00 PM|
|Nov 17||@ California Golden Bears||3:00 PM|
|Nov 24||@ UCLA Bruins||3:00 PM|
Stanford’s schedule in 2018 figures to be a challenging one. They open the season against San Diego State, a team they lost to last year. They face another tough matchup the following week when USC comes to Palo Alto.
The Cardinal also have to play away against Pac-12 North rivals Oregon and Washington, not to mention a road trip to Notre Dame in late September. However, most of those games are early, so if Stanford can hang tough the first month of the season, things will get a little easier the second half of the season.
There will likely be some bumps along the road. But Stanford is accustomed to playing big games. After all, they played four top-10 teams a year ago. It’s still realistic to think Stanford will win nine or 10 games in 2018. Even is a College Football Playoff spot is unlikely, Stanford still has a chance to win the Pac-12 North.