2014 Stanford Cardinal Odds to Win the Pac-12 with Picks & Predictions
by Aaron Smith - 8/4/2014
The Stanford Cardinal went 11-3 in a highly-successful season last year. David Shaw's team won the Pac-12 Championship Game, which was played at Arizona State. They also upended Oregon a second straight year when they appeared to be on their way to a national title berth once again. Stanford was upset on three occasions in 2014 as well, though. They lost as seven-point favorites at Utah. They lost as three-point favorites at USC. Finally, they lost in the Rose Bowl as six-point favorite against Michigan State. Stanford was a team that actually fared better as an underdog than a favorite.
The Cardinal will start 2014 with 12 returning starters from last year's team. Five of them are on the offensive side of the ball, while seven return on defense. Unfortunately for Stanford, many of the guys who are gone were stars. There are some big shoes to fill at Stanford this year. Does the roster have guys who are ready to step in and fill those roles, or will this be a rebuilding season for Stanford?
2014 Stanford Offense
Kevin Hogan returns at quarterback to lead the Cardinal for another season, but a lot of the guys around him are going to be new faces. Hogan completed 61 percent of his passes and threw 20 touchdowns and 10 interceptions a year ago. He is a good scrambler, and he does a good job keeping plays alive. Hogan has never really been asked to do all that much in this offense, but I think that changes this year. It will be interesting to see how he responds.
Tyler Gaffney ran for 1,750 yards on 330 carries last year. He was the ultimate workhorse running back. Without Gaffney, Stanford will likely turn to sophomore Barry Sanders to start at running back. Indeed, he is the son of a legend that starred for the Detroit Lions in the 1990s. Sanders has shown his athleticism and footwork in practice (no surprise here), but he has a grand total of only five carries in his career at Stanford, so it remains to be seen how he'll do with the starting job right off the bat. Ty Montgomery and Devon Cajuste are the leaders for a highly-talented group of receivers. They'll be counted on more this year.
The biggest concern for Stanford is their offensive line. Their offensive front has been the best in the Pac-12 for the last few years, but that is going to change in a big way this year. The Cardinal will have four new starters on the front line. These new guys were highly recruited, but they aren't going to step in and be the foundation of the team like the line from the past few years has been.
2014 Stanford Defense
Stanford's defense plays a different style than most teams do. This is a defense that is in your face and hard-nosed at all three levels. They'll keep playing the same way this year, but it will be without some key players.
Ben Gardner was a leader on the defensive line. Gardner was injured quite a bit last year, and that hurt the 2013 team. He is now gone, and he's a tough one to replace. Still, Stanford will start three seniors on the defensive line, and this front line should be solid. Henry Anderson is a star at the defensive end spot, and he's the new leader.
The Cardinal defense was hit hardest at the linebacker position. First-team All-American Trent Murphy led the nation in sacks last year, but he's gone. Second-team All-American Shayne Skov led the team in tackles with 109, but he's gone as well. A.J. Tarpley was the team's second-leading tackler and he instantly becomes the leader for this group. Blake Martinez needs to become a force right away for this unit to hold its own. This unit takes a pretty big step back.
Stanford's secondary was expected to be good in 2013, but they were beaten badly by some of the top quarterbacks they faced. The corners are solid and the safeties are serviceable. The Cardinal really need someone from the secondary to step up and be a big play maker. They didn't have that last year. Who will it be this season?
2014 Stanford Cardinal Odds to Win Pac-12
Bovada lists Stanford at 6/1 to win the Pac-12 Championship. The Cardinal are given odds of 13/4 to win the Pac-12 North Division. They are listed at 33/1 to win the National Championship. Stanford's season win total has been set at 8.5 wins.
2014 Stanford Cardinal Picks & Predictions
Stanford will put a lot more pressure on Hogan this year, and I'm not convinced he's the type of quarterback to carry a team. The offensive line and linebacker spots take a major step backward after being the strength of the team the past two seasons. Stanford's schedule isn't going to help, either. They have an early tough home game against USC. Later in the season, they play at Notre Dame, at Washington, at Arizona State, at Oregon, and at UCLA. While I like the coaching staff here, the Cardinal are likely in for a rebuilding year. I think they stay "under" 8.5 wins.
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