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In the shortened 2020 season, Stanford took steps back to the Pac-12 powerhouse of a few years ago. But, how much are we to judge by last year? We all know they are led by an excellent coach in David Shaw and will put a physical, fundamentally sound team on the field. When the Cardinal are at their best they have a pro-type QB, a strong running game, and a defense that is tough as nails. I’m not sure all the pieces are there in 2021.
Offense: There are question marks at QB with the departure of 3rd-round draft choice, David Mills. The two candidates are senior Jack West who has been in the system a long time and sophomore Tanner McKee who has all the tools to be another good Stanford signal-caller. But, can he get command of what the Cardinal want him to do? The running back room looks solid as Austin Jones who went over 100 yards in three of the six games last year returns along with Nathaniel Peat. Shaw is high on the offensive line and Walter Rouse and Branson Bragg could great. Three quality receivers are gone from last year there are replacements waiting in the wings.
Defense: This appears to be a trouble area as they have to replace the leading tackler, the top pass rusher, and the top defensive back. But, they have players. Dalyn Wade-Perry is a 330-pound nose tackle and 2nd-team all-conference defensive end Thomas Booker provide experience upfront. Their 2nd leading tackler Levani Damuni heads up the linebackers. Another potential bonus is the return of Ricky Miezan who has star talent but has missed nearly all of the past two seasons with injuries. The secondary has a couple of big losses to fill and that area is of some concern.
9/4 Kansas State at Arlington,TX.
9/18 at Vanderbilt
11/27 Notre Dame
This is a difficult non-con schedule. They open with a neutral site game in Texas against a decent K-State team. They will probably be the favorites but I guarantee you this game will be tight. While Vanderbilt doesn’t exactly strike fear in anyone, this game is coming after a big conference game against USC. That makes it dangerous as the Cardinal could be flat. And Notre Dame is Notre Dame and that is always a toss-up. It’s not inconceivable to go 0-3 with these games.
9/11 at USC
10/9 at Arizona State
10/16 at Washington State
11/13 at Oregon State
Stanford didn’t fare too well in the conference schedule either. They drew both USC and Arizona State from the South division and both games are on the road. The other two games are must wins at Washington State and Oregon State. There are games at home against UCLA and Cal that have to be won. The other three games are Oregon, Washington, and Utah. all tough, but at least they are in Palo Alto. If they win all three of those games they might win the North.
Summary: Shaw has the Cardinal headed in the right direction but a tough schedule and an unproven QB might be too much to overcome. They also lost a lot of quality from the defensive end of things. The conference schedule starts off with USC and Arizona State on the road and UCLA and Oregon at home and they could be 1-3 on October 2nd. Stanford will be a tough team to beat but not back with the elite.
Predicted Finish: 3rd Place in the Pac-12 North
Overall Record: 7-5
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