Head Coach: David Shaw
2014 record: 8-5 overall, 5-4 Pac 12 North
2014 Postseason results: Beat Maryland 45-21 in the Foster Farms Bowl
2015 returning starters: 8 offense, 4 defense
Odds to win 2016 College Football Championship game: 61/1
Odds to win 2015 Pac 12 Championship Game: 6/1
Odds to Win 2015 Pac 12 North Division: 2/1
Regular season wins: over 8 -160 / under 8 +130
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Prior to last season, the Stanford Cardinal had played in four straight BCS level bowls. However, a rebuilding year was bound to happen eventually. The Cardinal still won 8 games in 2014 but it was clear early on that this team would not be contending for the Pac 12 Championship. Stanford would have to settle for a win over Maryland in the Foster Farms Bowl in nearby Santa Clara.
Twelve starters are back in 2015 including 8 on offense for coach David Shaw. With the Pac 12 seemingly wide open Stanford looks to get back into contention.
Last year, the offense struggled somewhat averaging 390 yards and 27 points per game. Eight starters are back in 2015 for coordinator Mike Bloomgren.
Senior quarterback Kevin Hogan is back as the starter for the third straight year. Last year, he completed 65.9% of his passes for 2,792 yards with 19 touchdowns and 8 interceptions, and also rushed for 295 yards on 91 carries with 5 touchdowns. Keller Chryst, a freshman, and Ryan Burns will battle to be the back-up in case something happens to Hogan.
Last year for the first time since 2007 Stanford failed to produce a 1,000 yard rusher. That was part of the reason the passing game struggled. Including Hogan, 4 of the top 5 rushers are back for the Cardinal. The only exception is Kelsey Young who transferred to Boise State. Remound Wright had 135 carries for 601 yards and 11 touchdowns, plus 8 catches. Barry Sanders, Jr. had 59 carries for 315 yards, plus 7 catches. The break out star over the last several games was sophomore Christian McCaffrey who had 42 carries for 300 yards, and also made 17 catches for 251 yards and 2 touchdowns. McCaffrey looks to be the starter in 2015 but Wright and Sanders will get plenty of carries as well. Fullback Daniel Marx will get very few carries but is an important part of the blocking schemes. Last year’s fullback Patrick Skov transferred to Georgia Tech and had 4 rushing touchdowns last year.
Ty Montgomery was the leading receiver last year but is now with the Green Bay Packers. He had 61 catches for 604 yards and 3 touchdowns, along with 23 carries for 144 rushing yards and a touchdown. Devon Cajuste looks to be the go-to receiver after making 34 catches for 557 yards and 6 touchdowns last season. Tight end Austin Hooper had a fantastic freshman year with 40 catches for 499 yards and 2 touchdowns. Michael Rector had 24 catches for 324 yards and 2 touchdowns. Francis Owusu had 11 catches for 138 yards. Stanford will sometimes use a three tight end set with Hooper, Greg Taboada, and Eric Cotton. Taboada and Cotton combined for 15 catches and 3 touchdowns last year.
Four starters are back on the offensive line, but the Cardinal must replace All-American tackle Andrus Peat. The new starting right tackle will be Casey Tucker. Center Graham Schuler, left tackle Kyle Murphy, and left guard Joshua Garnett are all seniors. Right guard Johnny Caspers is a junior. The depth was hurt though when Reilly Gibbons transferred to South Florida and Kevin Reihner transferred to Penn State.
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Last year, Stanford was in the top 10 nationally in all defensive categories. The Cardinal were #3 in total defense allowing just 282 yards per game and #2 in points allowed at 16 points per game. Only four starters are back for Lance Anderson so it could be a rebuilding year on defense.
The defensive line must replace all three starters. Aziz Shittu and Cal transfer Brennan Scarlett will start at the ends, while Harrison Phillips will start at nose tackle.
The linebackers will be the strongest unit on defense led by Kevin Anderson and Peter Kalambayi. The duo combined for 21 tackles for loss and 12 sacks in 2014. Blake Martinez led the team in tackles last year with 102. Kevin Palma will join Martinez in the middle.
The depth of the secondary is in question after Alex Carter and Jordan Richards left early for the NFL and Wayne Lyons transferred to Michigan. Safety Zach Hoffpauir was drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks and will play baseball instead of football. That leaves cornerback Ronnie Harris as the only returning starter. Dallas Lloyd a converted quarterback and Kodi Whitfield a former receiver should movie into starting roles.
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Conrad Ukropina takes over as the kicker. Incoming freshman Jake Bailey looks to be the new punter, but Ukropina and Alex Robinson could also be in the mix. McCaffrey will be the primary kick and punt returner but Sanders could also return a few.
Stanford opens at Northwestern before hosting Central Florida. The Cardinal close September with conference road games at USC and Oregon State. October brings three straight home games against Arizona, UCLA and Washington before a road trip to Washington State. In November, the Cardinal travel to Colorado before closing the season with three straight home games against Oregon, California and Notre Dame.
The offense should be much improved in 2015 but the defense will likely not be as dominant as it has been in recent years. The schedule is tough. Still this team should win around 8 or 9 games but I don’t think they win the Pac 12 North. I think the Cardinal return to the Foster Farms Bowl.
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