PHOTO: USA Today Sports
CBR's "Way Too Early" Top 10
No. 10 Stanford Cardinal
David Shaw has only been a head coach for three years but each year he's led Stanford to a BCS bowl game. With an overall record of 34-7 and a Pac-12 record of 23-4, odds are in favor of Shaw and Stanford hanging around the Top 10 in 2014.
The Good: The Cardinal return QB Kevin Hogan and his #1 receiver Ty Montgomery (61 rec, 10 TD). Stanford is also loaded on the offensive line. They lose a couple of players but should return three linemen that were named to the All Pac-12 team last season.
The Cardinal also look to return eight defensive starters off of a unit that was first in the Pac-12 in scoring defense and second in total defense.
The Bad: For the second straight year, the Cardinal must replace their leading rusher. Last year it was Stepfan Taylor (1530 yds). This year it is Tyler Gaffney (1717 yds). Will Barry Sanders Jr or Remound Wright be able to step in and fill those big shoes?
On defense, they must replace leading tackler Shayne Skov (109 total tackles) and leading sacker Trent Murphy (15 sacks). That will be no small feat.
The Uncertain: The play-calling and lack of urgency of Stanford in their Rose Bowl loss to Michigan State has brought some questions about Shaw and his staff. Game management is crucial and Shaw's denial of any issues in the game definitely raise some concern.
Verdict: The Cardinal have some holes to address at RB and at LB but Stanford has been solid and very consistent under Shaw. You just can't ignore three straight eleven (or more) win seasons and three straight BCS bowl game births. The Pac-12 is going to be a Battle Royale in 2014 but expect the Cardinal to be one of the last teams standing.
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