The case for
It began on the night of Nov. 17, 2012, when Stanford upset the Ducks 17--14 in Eugene, holding them to 28 fewer points than any other regular-season opponent. "The Oregon game showed people—which we had been saying, but no one had been listening—that we have speed on the defensive side of the ball," says coach David Shaw. That defense, which finished No. 5 nationally against the run (97.0 yards per game) and helped lift Stanford to a Pac-12 championship and a 20--14 Rose Bowl win over Wisconsin, has eight starters back, including the safety tandem of All-America Ed Reynolds and Jordan Richards and standout linebackers Trent Murphy and Shayne Skov—as well as nickelback Usua
Amanam, the defensive MVP of the Rose Bowl. The Cardinal may have the most loaded D outside of the state of Alabama. Meanwhile, they remain formidable on the offensive front, led by All-America guard David Yankey, while sophomore quarterback Kevin Hogan (5--0 as the starter) is now far more versed in the offense.
The case against
Stanford had only 47 plays of 20 yards or more last season, less than half that of leader Texas A&M (100) and 92nd nationally. The Cardinal need more big strikes but lack proven playmakers at running back, receiver and tight end.
What does the return of Tyler Gaffney from minor league baseball mean for your backfield?
We've got five guys [Gaffney, Barry Sanders, Anthony Wilkerson, Remound Wright and Kelsey Young] who we believe would start most places. The job for us as coaches is to make sure we use these guys.