2012 Stanford Cardinal Football Predictions and Pac-12 Betting Odds
by Trevor Whenham - 8/1/2012
Losing a long-time starting quarterback is almost always a big concern for a team. When that quarterback is a once-in-a-few-generations mega talent who practically walks on water, though, his absence is terrifying for everyone involved — fans, players, coaches and bettors.
The biggest storylines this season for the Cardinal will all revolve around Andrew Luck — how he does in Indianapolis, how much he is missed at Stanford, how effectively he can be replaced, and so on.
The change at pivot is going to weigh heavily on this team no matter how hard they try to avoid it. When you add in all the other losses to the draft the last two years and the departure of Jim Harbaugh for the 49ers the squad has had a lot to overcome. If they are as mentally tough as they have seemed they will be fine, but any cracks they have will be exposed and things could get ugly.
I don’t know if it would be better or worse if there was a clear and obvious replacement for Luck, but there isn’t. There were five guys who were given a chance in spring practices to take over. From that there are two leaders — sophomore Brett Nottingham and junior Josh Nunes. I’d bet that Nunes is the opening day starter, but I’d bet even more that both guys start at some point this season.
If there was a clear replacement then the team could feel more confident about replacing a legend. On the other hand, that replacement player would feel far more pressure than he will now when not as much is expected of him.
As if losing Luck wasn’t bad enough, this offense also lost their three top receivers from last season. For an offense that was pass-happy and top-heavy that hurts. In order for the passing game to be anything other than an afterthought they are going to need a player to step up in a big way. The most likely to do so is sophomore Ty Montgomery. He had four starts last year, and he had big performances in their most important games, so he likes the pressure. Beyond that the receiver position is full of potential but more questions. Despite the loss of stud Coby Fleener the tight end spot is in better shape. Massive tight end Levine Toilolo looks like he could be a star who was waiting for his shot, and Zach Ertz is no slouch, either. The tight end was crucially important under Luck, and that is sure to continue — and perhaps to magnify.
While change is the story catching the ball there is consistency running it. Senior Stepfan Taylor has run for more than 1,000 yards twice in a row, and he is unquestionably a star. He ran for 177 yards in the Fiesta Bowl last time out, so he has momentum coming into the season. Behind him is depth as well, so this team will be able to run.
The line returns three players, but the other two — David DeCastro and Jonathan Martin — will be hard to replace. Both were elite talents who were high draft picks. The five starters this year will have just three years of starting experience between them, so this will definitely be something to watch. There are reasons to be optimistic, but if the line falters early then the team — and especially the inexperienced quarterback — could have real issues.
While there is uncertainty on offense the same can’t be said for defense. This unit — and especially the front seven — is going to be very good. The line allowed the third-fewest rushing yards per game in the country. Two of the three players are back, and the third spot is deep, so that success should continue. The linebackers are even deeper. Senior Chase Thomas will be a national star this year, and he leads about six guys who could start if needed.
The secondary isn’t quite as strong, and the departure of safety Delano Howell hurts. There are still four players that have started at some point, though. With the front seven performing as well as they should for this team the pressure on the secondary is minimized. Given that, this unit should be fine.
2012 Stanford Cardinal Schedule Analysis
The two opening contests against San Jose State and Duke are exactly what this team needs — essentially an extended training camp. But then things get rough.
They open conference play with their toughest game. If they beat USC at home it would be a huge boost to their season, but that is a massive challenge. They then follow that with a trip to Washington, and road games at Notre Dame, Cal, Oregon and UCLA follow (along with one to Colorado that should be an easy win).
The good news is that beyond USC the home schedule should be very easy — Arizona, Washington State and Oregon State all have big issues that should limit their competitiveness. All in all, though, this is far from an ideal schedule given the timing of games and the large number of tough road trips.
2012 Stanford Cardinal College Football Futures Odds
The oddsmakers at Bovada are not optimistic about this team. At 10/1 they sit fourth out of the six teams in the Pac-12 North in terms of chances to win. Oregon is the overwhelming favorite at 2/5, with Washington and Cal behind. They are longshots at 150/1 to win the National Championship.
Somewhat surprisingly Stepfan Taylor is not among the 45 players with odds listed to win the Heisman.
2012 Stanford Cardinal Football Predictions
For far too long this team was totally irrelevant. That’s not going to happen again.
The team is in very good hands with David Shaw and will maintain their position as a Pac-12 power. That being said, though, this schedule is just brutal. Given that it would be hard to completely love this team even with Luck in place. Without him, though, it’s just too much to overcome.
Getting to six wins will be relatively easy, so they are going to a bowl no matter what. The other six games are very tough, though, and I’d be surprised and impressed if they win more than two of those games. Nine wins would be a major victory for this team as they take a small step backwards on their climb upwards.
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