Football: Predictions — No. 3 Stanford

No. 3: Stanford. It’s not often you lose the country’s most productive running back and the prognosis is still this good. That says a lot about the recruiting coach Jim Harbaugh has done since he arrived at Stanford and the type of program he is building.

No player in America may be harder to replace than Heisman runner-up Toby Gerhart, who led the nation in with 1,871 rushing yards and 28 touchdowns. He gave the Cardinal an irreplaceable dynamic with his ability to turn a short gain into eight yards.

Stanford will be hard-pressed to get even near that production with tailbacks Jeremy Stewart, Stepfan Taylor and Tyler Gaffney, but each features unique talents that should help ease the transition to the post-Gerhart era.

The Cardinal feels pretty good about itself offensively with the return of quarterback Andrew Luck, who was terrific as a redshirt freshman and is already considered a high NFL draft pick if he were to choose to leave college after this season. Stanford also returns its top two recievers — Chris Owusu and Ryan Whalen — while sophomore Jamal-Rashad Patterson could be a star down the line.

The rock of the offense is the offensive line, which at times last season was as dominating as any unit in the country. Four of five starters return, meaning you can expect more of the same this season. Replacing physical tight end Jim Dray will be a challenge.

The Cardinal is switching to the 3-4 on defense this season under new defensive coordinator Vic Fangio. The inside linebackers could be pretty formidable with Shayne Skov and converted fullback Owen Marecic (Marecic will continue to play fullback as well). Former defensive ends Thomas Keiser and Chase Thomas are in the mix to play outside backer.

Stanford is hoping experience in the secondary will help improve a defense that ranked ninth in the Pac-10 last season (402.9 yards allowed per game). Safety Delano Howell and cornerback Richard Sherman return, and both played well last season. The Cardinal need to replace leading tackler and safety Bo McNally.

With back-to-back top 25 recruiting classes, Stanford has built a deep enough roster to continue to contend in the Pac-10, even without the country’s most irreplaceable player.

Jonathan Okanes

Jonathan Okanes is in his fourth year covering Cal's football team. Previously, he covered Cal's men's basketball team for four years. He can also be followed on Twitter at twitter.com/OkanesonCal.

  • MoreNCsarecoming

    I have to agree with JO. Harbaugh is an impressive coach. Luck is an outstanding QB and they return their OL in tact with the exception of one person.

  • charlie

    I like Luck a lot but feel that we may be underestimating the value of Gerhart in relation to the success Stanford had last year/Luck’s success.

  • CM

    Calling my shot right now… No way Stanfurd finishes ahead of Cal in the standings, let alone four spots ahead! Please, people, enough with the fawning over this Furd team. Simply put, picture the 2009 Big Game WITHOUT Toby Gerhart. That is your 2010 Stanfurd Cardinal.

  • calbear

    Luck is a phenomenal talent…but they’re revamping their defense. Their players aren’t as athletic as ours when we did the same. I think their offense might make up for this…we’ll see

  • MoreNCsarecoming

    The difference between Stanford and your team is they know how to win a big game. Since Harbaugh they have won games they should not have and lost some they should have won. You guys have won only a few big games where you were picked to lose but you have lost many you were picked to win. (eg Vols 2006, Maryland 2008, Texas Tech 2004, etc etc). Don’t let it eat you up but Okanes called this one correctly. Live with it. You are now very mediocre and on a downward slide.

  • Tru Dat

    Stanford had better hope Luck stays healthy; it’s tough to stay in a game when the injured star QB goes out and all the backups are mediocre at best.

  • rollonubears

    moren’s team, and her comments, are obsolete. at least for the next 2 years.

  • covinared

    Was the big game last year a big game for stanford?

  • B

    Luck was terrific last year? Really? 56% completion percentage and 13 TD’s is terrific? Sure, he was good for a freshman, and he has the physical tools to succeed (which is why his draft stock is high), but let’s not confuse that with already giving a terrific performance. Put it into the context it belongs, and that’s one where his “terrific” was “for a freshman”, and where he wasn’t asked to do much behind one of the best ground attacks in the country.

    “Stanford is hoping experience in the secondary will help improve a defense that ranked ninth in the Pac-10 last season (402.9 yards allowed per game).”

    Of the 5235 yards surrendered last year by Stanford, 3442 of them were through the air, with 23 TD’s (for some context, Luck only threw 14 TD’s all year). Seems like that statement contradicts the one right after it:

    “Safety Delano Howell and cornerback Richard Sherman return, and both played well last season.”

    So their pass defense sucked, but you seem to be using these as positive examples for the pass defense going forward. Why?

    I think this is a classic case where you’re looking too much at what a team did last year and not giving enough consideration to what we should really expect out of a team in the future, JO. What indicates Stanford should be this good, beyond just looking at what they did last year (without even considering which aspects of last years performance are predictive and which aren’t)?

  • Calduke

    We are down to the last 2 teams

    I ‘predict’ JO says Oregon State

  • Calduke

    That is, JO says Oregon State is #1

  • Bears

    Stanford is the greatest team ever.
    Their coach is the best coach ever.
    They will be soooo good.
    Look out for the Cardinal.