#9 Stanford Football 2016 Preview

Stanford Cardinal
Overall Rank: #9
#1 Pac-12
Stanford continued their recent Pac-12 dominance last season, winning their third Pac-12 title game in the last four years. The Cardinal crushed USC in last year’s version by a score of 41-22 and followed it up with an even bigger beating of Iowa in the Rose Bowl. Coach David Shaw may have his toughest job in front of him this year with Stanford needing to reload at a lot of positions, but until proven otherwise, this is still the team to beat in the Pac-12.
2015 Record: 10-2, 8-1
2015 Bowl: Rose Bowl vs. Iowa (W 45-16)
Coach: David Shaw (54-14 at Stanford, 54-14 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Mike Bloomgren
Defensive Coordinator: Lance Anderson
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Christian McCaffrey, RB, 2,019 yards
Passing: Keller Chryst, QB, 59 yards
Receiving: Christian McCaffrey, RB, 645 yards
Tackles: Dallas Lloyd, S, 55
Sacks: Peter Kalambayi, DE, 4.5
Interceptions: Quenton Meeks, CB, 3
Other Key Returnees: WR Michael Rector, OL Johnny Caspers, DE Solomon Thomas, LB Kevin Palma, LB Joey Alfieri, K Conrad Ukrpoina
Key Losses: QB Kevin Hogan, RB Barry Sanders, WR Austin Hooper, OL Joshua Garnett, OL Kyle Murphy, DE Aziz Shittu, DE Brennan Scarlett, LB Blake Martinez, LB Kevin Anderson
Stanford has some key players returning on offense and none are more important than do everything running back Christian McCaffrey. He rushed for an amazing 2,019 yards last season on 337 carries. McCaffrey is a workhorse, but he does more than just run the ball. He also led the team with 45 receptions for 645 yards and totaled 1,200 on kick and punt returns. And if you are keeping track of total yardage, McCaffrey also threw for 39 yards. But this team has more offensive weapons than just McCaffrey. Wide receiver Michael Rector caught 34 passes for 559 yards and seven touchdowns last season and hopes are high for Francis Owusu and Trenton Irwin as well. Tight end Dalton Schultz is a big 6-6 sophomore who is ready to play a bigger role this year too.
The big question on offense is who is going to take over for quarterback Kevin Hogan. Keller Chryst and Ryan Burns are battling it out. Burns, a junior, has been around a little bit longer, but Chryst was the backup last season, yet only threw nine passes all season. The front seven is pretty thin on experience. Sophomore Solomon Thomas will have to lead the line after recording 3.5 sacks and 10.5 tackles-for-loss as a freshman. He also has the versatility to play the nose tackle position, but Coach Shaw hopes that fellow sophomore Harrison Phillips can handle that job. Kevin Palma and Joey Alfieri lead a pretty talented group of linebackers. The question is whether anybody can step up and be the next Blake Martinez, who recorded a Pac-12 leading 141 tackles last season. The secondary could be the strength of the defense. Cornerbacks Alijah Holder and Quenton Meeks are just sophomores, but they were both regular starters last season and played quite well. Safety Dallas Lloyd is the team’s top returning tackler with 55.
The Bottom Line:
Stanford continues to prove that they can reload and still win the Pac-12. It has happened before and it could happen again in 2016. The offense will be perfectly fine with a new quarterback. Maybe this team will not be able to rank eighth in the conference in total offense, yet third in scoring offense, but that will largely depend on the defense and how well they can set up the offense. And the defense has a lot of young talent that is ready to step up. The schedule is not easy with USC, UCLA and Washington beginning Pac-12 play. And to make matters worse, that is all after just one non-conference game against Kansas State. If the Cardinal can survive that stretch unscathed, Stanford will be well on their way to another Pac-12 title game.
Projected Bowl: Rose Bowl
2015 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 223.7 (19th in nation, 2nd in conference)
Passing Offense: 211.8 (76, 10)
Total Offense: 435.5 (40, 8)
Scoring Offense: 37.8 (18, 3)
Rushing Defense: 139.9 (30, 4)
Pass Defense: 228.4 (71, 5)
Total Defense: 368.3 (43, 3)
Scoring Defense: 22.6 (32, 3)
Turnover Margin: 0.07 (65, 8)
Sacks: 2.43 (39, 7)
Sacks Allowed: 1.43 (31, 2)
Madness 2017 NFL Draft Rankings:
#21 Christian McCaffrey
Madness 2016 Recruit Rankings:
#28 Kaden Smith
#45 K.J. Costello
#53 Curtis Robinson
#179 Simi Fehoko
#200 Clark Yarbrough
#206 Obi Eboh
#237 Devery Hamilton
#240 Andrew Pryts