Stanford is rarely picked to win the Pac-12, and this year is no different. Vegas has Washington winning the conference, with Stanford coming up just short.
Granted, Stanford has won the Pac-12 three of the last four years, but for whatever reason, the Cardinal are never predicted to win it at the start of the season. Why not?
“I think part of the reason why Stanford is not getting a ton of love is just based off of the way they play, their style of play,” Pac-12 Network studio host Mike Yam said on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench. “It’s closer to what you see in the SEC, but that brand of football on the West Coast doesn’t necessarily grab enough headlines. David Shaw, I would make an argument for him being a top-five coach in college football, but the reality is they just kind of go under the radar a little bit. I think this year based off of their schedule, that’s probably the biggest reason why people are not as high. It is a straight-up gauntlet.”
Stanford, ranked eighth in the preseason, plays No. 20 USC, at No. 16 UCLA, at No. 14 Washington, at No. 10 Notre Dame and at No. 24 Oregon. The Cardinal also lost Kevin Hogan, who had 57 touchdowns (46 pass, 11 rush) and 16 interceptions over the last two years. The Chiefs selected him in the fifth round of this year’s draft.
On the flip side, Stanford returns Christian McCaffrey, whom Yam called “the most dynamic player in the country,” and sophomore wide receiver Trenton Irwin.
“Trust me: At the end of the season, you’re going to be very aware of what Trenton Irwin can do on the football field,” Yam said. “Defensively, they’re always studs. Offensive line might be a little bit of a question because they had to replace three guys, but the reality is it’s Stanford, it’s David Shaw and it’s been plug-and-play every single year for them.”
McCaffrey has said that he would rather win a national title than win the Heisman, but the latter seems more likely than the former.
“Right now, he’s got to be the favorite,” Yam said. “This has been a major issue that I’ve had based off of last season. You’re not going to be able to find a guy that was more dynamic than McCaffrey. No disrespect to the guys that were in that field, but just based off of the numbers alone, that was good enough for him to win it. And then if you go and look at the production – it is a travesty that 16 percent of the Heisman voters cast their vote before the Pac 12 Championship Game. He went and put a show on in the title game.”
McCaffrey had 461 all-purpose yards in Stanford’s 41-22 win over USC. Then he had a Rose Bowl record 368 in a 45-16 win over Iowa.
“We saw what he did in the Rose Bowl,” Yam said. “He was nothing short of phenomenal in that matchup. But when a majority like that cast their vote before championship weekend, to me, you’re doing a disservice. I think those voters should have their votes taken away. But right now, the headlines and the appeal that he has and the momentum based off of last year heading into this season, he’s on the short list. I don’t think there’s any chance that he’s not invited to New York as long as he has a typical McCaffrey-like season.”