2019 Stanford Cardinal Football Predictions and Odds to Win National Championship
David Shaw in one of the top coaching minds in the country. I am confident in that. But it feels like he needs to get his mojo back a little bit. His last couple of years haven't been disastrous by any means - many coaches out there would kill to win nine games just once, and he has done it the last two years. But after winning three conference titles in four years leading up to 2015, Stanford just hasn't felt quite like the unstoppable force in recent years that they once did.
They have looked like just another team the last couple of years - a solid team, but not a special one. In the last two years, for example - they have lost to TCU in the Alamo Bowl and beaten Pitt by a point in the Sun Bowl. That's hardly equivalent to playing in three Rose Bowls in four years and winning two of them. Shaw still knows his stuff, but it feels a bit like he is going through the motions a little and needs to rediscover his passion a bit. He needs to remember that he is David freaking Shaw, and make other people fear that again.
2018 in a Nutshell
They opened up with a four-game winning streak, and they closed with one as well. It's the five games in the middle that were the issue. They beat San Diego State to open, then showed how bad USC was going to be last year by beating them soundly. Then they beat UC Davis before earning an overtime win at Eugene against Oregon that was probably their highlight win of the year. Then the troubles started. They lost badly twice in a row to good teams - at Notre Dame and then at home to Utah. A win at Arizona State stopped the bleeding briefly, but then they were swept by the Washington teams - at home against State and at Washington. You could argue that all four teams that beat them were better, but it really feels like earlier versions of Shaw teams would have found a way to win at least one - and more like two or three. Things got much easier from there, and they took care of business, beating Oregon State at home, and winning at UCLA and Cal. That put them at 8-4 and just 6-3 in a truly pathetic Pac-12. They went to the Sun Bowl where, as previously mentioned, they beat Pitt 14-13, in a game no one will be telling their grandkids about years from now.
Key Additions and Departures
The team certainly has had talent and developed it well. This year they had five players drafted. Receiver JJ Arcega-Whiteside was the first off the board in the second round. Linebacker Bobby Okereke went in the third. Bryce Love, the all-World running back talent who was riddled with injuries last year, could be a serious steal for the Redskins in the fourth. Punter Jake Bailey went in the fifth round - the first time I have mentioned a punter in all the previews I have written this year. And tight end Kaden Smith went in the sixth round.
Losing Arcega-Whiteside and Smith, along with receiver Trenton Irwin, is a hit. But the passing game should be in good shape. They have a solid group of receivers. And even though Colby Parkinson has been the number two tight end behind an NFLer, he is quite probably even better than Smith and will have the chance to show it. QB K.J. Costello is talented and should be poised for a big year. The offense will have to figure out the running game, though. They have been on a run of having great backs and have relied on them heavily. They have some options, but none nearly as special as Love was. This could be a good thing, though, as it could force them to rely on passing more. They seemed to have a running reliance in their mindsets last year, so when Love was limited and no one else stepped up they were in trouble. Not having the crutch of a Love or McCaffrey to rely on could force them to get more creative.
Along with Okereke, the team lost another linebacker, Sean Barton, who was their second-leading tackler. That's a big hole inside for the squad. Barton still had eligibility but retired from football. Both could be replaced by freshmen, which isn't ideal. But the rest of the defense is more experienced, and there are some gems - most notably corner Paulson Adebo, who was a first-team all-Pac 12 player as a freshman last year.
Stanford rebounded on the recruiting front, amassing the 21st -best class a year after being 40th. They jumped from seventh to fourth in the conference. Among the eight four-stars in the class, the one getting the most buzz at this point is the top-rated one - receiver Elijah Higgins is big and fast and has the body already of a guy who can play.
Biggest Area of Concern
Losing your two inside linebackers at the same time, and not having ideal replacements, is a real concern. So much of the heart and soul of a gritty defense comes from there, so the team will have to find a new identity in a hurry.
Stanford Cardinal Schedule Analysis
Things start out pretty rough, and that's not ideal. They host a decent Northwestern team to start, then travel to play USC and UCF, who has lost one game in two years, before returning home to host Oregon. They get a brief respite at Oregon State, but then host Washington. The team could be in terrible shape at the halfway point of their season if they aren't careful. They next host UCLA and Arizona, visit Colorado and Washington, and host Cal in a dramatically easier stretch of games, before closing out with a doozy against Notre Dame. It's a very tough, and frustratingly imbalanced, schedule.
2019-20 Stanford Cardinal Betting Odds and Trends
Bovada has Stanford at +15000 to win the national title, tied with conference mates Washington State and USC. Not great company this year. They are the sixth choice to win the Pac-12 at +1800, behind virtual co-favorites Oregon and Washington, Utah, Washington State and USC. Costello is at +8000 to win the Heisman, which makes him a long shot.
2019-20 Stanford Cardinal Predictions and College Football Picks
I do not have a good feeling about this. There are too many tough games, and I haven't seen the fight in this team in such games of late. They should still be bowl eligible, but I don't see them matching even the relatively disappointing nine-win mark of the last two years. Shaw needs to take a long look in the mirror.
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