2010 record: 12-1 overall, 8-1 conference
2010 Bowl Game: 40-12 win over Virginia Tech in Orange Bowl
2010 ATS: 8-4-1
2010 O/U: 7-6
Returning starters: 11 total (5 on offense, 6 on defense)
Over the month of August, our team of writers will be previewing the top teams heading into an exciting 2011 campaign. The college football handicappers at Maddux Sports are also preparing and have season-long packages readily available for clients.
Let’s head to Palo Alto, California and check out life on campus without former head coach Jim Harbaugh, as David Shaw takes over.
Quarterback Andrew Luck skipped out on being the No. 1 pick of this year’s NFL draft and returns after leading the school to a record 12 wins last year, including a dominating 40-12 win over Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl.
Luck completed an incredible 70.7 percent of his passes last year and it remains to be seen if he’ll show signs of missing Harbaugh on the sidelines in 2011. He actually connected on 75.9 percent of his passes for 19 touchdowns over his last eight games of 2010.
A go-to receiver will need to step up after the losses of Doug Baldwin and Ryan Whalen, who combined for 99 catches and 1,296 yards and 11 touchdowns a year ago. Tight end Coby Fleener could be the early answer, but senior Chris Owusu is the most likely candidate as the season progresses.
The running game is in good hands with junior Stepfan Taylor, who ran for 1,137 and 15 touchdowns. He became the first sophomore in program history to rush for over the 1,000-yard mark since 1978.
Three starters from the offensive line are gone, but the good news is that the two remaining left behind are first-team All-Pac-10 selections. The Cardinal gave up just six sacks a year ago, ranking second nationally to only rush-oriented Air Force.
The word out of camp is the defense is expected to be as strong if not better than last year’s group that finished first in the conference in scoring defense.
Defensive end Matt Masifilo started all 13 games a year ago and led the entire line in tackles, as the rush defense allowed just 120.9 yards a game in 2010.
A strength is expected to be found at linebacker, as juniors Shayne Skov and Chase Thomas are back. Skov led the team in tackles and was an effective pass rusher in tallying 7.5 sacks.
The 2010 interception leader for the Cardinal, Delano Howell will be patrolling from his strong safety position, as the secondary unit is experience.
The team lost one of the nation’s best kickers in Nate Whitaker, but his younger brother will take over the responsibility.
Punting is really an afterthought for a squad that possesses next year’s top pick in the NFL draft, but someone will have to come to the forefront before the season opener against San Jose State.
The return game is likely to help Stanford win the field position battle each week, as Owusu is a talent on kick returns, while Drew Terrell is dynamic on punt returns.
Against the Spread
Stanford surprised many handicappers in 2010 by posting a 5-1 ATS mark as a road favorite. Due to being overvalued in the eyes of professionals this year, it may be a good idea to go against them early in games at Duke, Arizona and Washington State.
Facing San Jose State in the season opener is a money-making opportunity due to the Cardinal covering five straight in the series. The college football lines page is a must-see for the entire 2011 campaign.
Playing on the road against Oregon State is a nightmare for any Pac-12 team, especially this one, dropping six of the last seven meetings against-the-spread.