San Jose State will face Stanford at home on Saturday Sept. 7 at 11 p.m. ET. It will be aired on the Pac-12 television network.
Coach: David Shaw (3rd year)
2012 record: 12-2 (8-1 Pac-12)
2012 season in review: Before the 2012 season began, there was much chatter about the Stanford Cardinal football team going downhill. Was David Shaw going to be able to sustain success in a post Andrew Luck era? Would he be able to sustain and build upon the systems that Jim Harbaugh installed in terms of recruiting and game management? After their first game which they struggled against the much maligned San Jose Spartan team, some critics began to feel vindicated.
But the 2012 season proved them wrong. With a deadly defense and a killer running game (and at least a mildly irritating passing game, but more on that later) Stanford went on to a 12-2 season. They won the Pac-12 championship game against UCLA and went on to beat Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl. Their games were not the high scoring affairs of the Andrew Luck era, but what their offense lacked in pizzazz their defense made up for (And then some!)
Returning Offensive Starters: 7
Returning Defensive Starters: 8
Key Players and Returning Starters: QB Kevin Hogan, WR Ty Montgomery, RB Kevin Hogan, OG David Yankey, DE Henry Anderson, LB Trent Murphy, FS Ed Reynolds
2013 Strengths: Defense. Defense. Defense. Did I mention their defense? The Stanford defense inspires terror in opposing quarterbacks, getting 57 sacks over the course of the season. 57, leading Division 1-A football in sacks. Ed Reynolds grabbed 6 interceptions for a total of 301 interception yards. They were ranked 20th in total defense despite facing some of the top ranked teams in the division. They return a lot of stellar starters and it is hard to imagine a scenario where the defense takes a step backwards this season.
Their offensive line also deserves much praise. They return 4 starters, so look for them to continue their dominance over opposing defenses. Though their leading rusher Stepfan Taylor is gone, I expect the offensive line to open holes for the plethora of talented running backs on the Stanford roster who look to replace him. The offensive line kept their quarterback on his feet, giving up only 18 sacks over 14 games. That last stat though is less impressive considering the next section...
2013 Weaknesses: Offense. Offense. Offense. At the end of 2012, Stanford ranked 84th in total offense. They switched quarterbacks from Josh Nunes to Kevin Hogan mid season, but neither put up anywhere near the offensive output that Andrew Luck had. Stanford's leading rusher, Stepfan Taylor, as well as both starting tight ends, Zach Ertz and Levine Toilolo, have graduated. Last season, their offense did not impress, this season, leaders in that offense are gone. It remains to be seen whether the offense will improve this season. For now, the key to beating Stanford will be to outscore them on offense.
I will stand by that last statement. No retractions necessary. Opposing teams really will have to just run through the gauntlet that is the Stanford defense in order to win games.
For more on Stanford head over to Rule of Tree and Pacific Takes.