Jim Harbaugh took over for Stanford in 2007 with the Cardinal coming off a pathetic 1-11 season and a six-year Bowl draught. Stanford showed improvement every season under Harbaugh, reaching a bowl by 2009 and peaking with a 12-1 season in 2010 that saw them smash Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl.

Last season, Harbaugh was called up to the Big Leagues, but with Andrew Luck under center, and most of the coaching staff intact, the hangover was minimal. The Cardinal went 11-2 and were a missed chip-shot FG away from a 2nd consecutive BCS Bowl win.

This season, Luck is gone along with his three favorite receiving targets and two high draft pick O-linemen (Jonathan Martin and David DeCastro), but Stanford returns their top three rushers including the outstanding Stepfan Taylor. The Cardinal also returns plenty of familiar names at TE and WR like Zach Ertz, Ty Montgomery and Levine Toilolo. Furthermore, David Shaw has done a great job of retaining the cachet of the program as Stanford reeled in one of the nation’s top recruiting classes last season.


It seems like every team in the Pac-12 has a great running back, but most of them would probably trade their guy for Stanford’s Stepfan Taylor. The 5’11’’ combo back runs with outstanding discipline and vision and carried for over 1300 yards last season earning 2nd team All-Pac-12 honors. Whatever football fans there may be living in Palo Alto are expecting another similar season from Taylor this year.

The Cardinal will also be ecstatic to welcome back the best defensive player from their 2010 Orange Bowl Champion team, LB Shane Skov. The Senior LB tore his ACL in the third game of the season last year and his absence shifted the balance of power in the Pac decidedly in Oregon’s favor.

Skov was granted a medical redshirt and returns this season along with the phenomenal Chase Thomas. Both Thomas and Skov will be preseason All-Pac 12 1st team giving Stanford the best Linebacker corps in the conference, and potentially making this year’s game with Oregon VERY interesting.


As mentioned before, that Luck guy is gone along with fellow 1st round NFL pick David DeCastro and 2nd round choices Coby Fleener and Jonathan Martin. Luck will be replaced with highly regarded Sophomore Brett Nottingham who had a year of learning behind Luck last season.Zach Ertz will step into Fleener’s spot as the top TE, but of course, Ertz has played plenty in the past and appears more than ready for the spotlight.

The Cardinal also lose Pac-12 1st team CB Delano Howell and will replace him in the starting lineup with redshirt Freshman Wayne Lyons. Lyons was an extremely highly touted recruit from Ft. Lauderdale. Also keep an eye on Kelsey Young. Another RS Freshman Athlete who was recruited as a running back but was very impressive in spring at WR. With Stanford’s RB corps pretty much set, look for Kelsey to contribute as a receiver may even possibly see the field as a nickel DB.


No one in the Pac-12 North will be accused of having an easy schedule and Stanford is no exception. They open with San Jose State and Duke, but after that it’s right into the conference meat grinder. They have only 4 Pac-12 home games and one of those is USC. They also play at Notre Dame this season and must travel to Autzen Stadium for the showdown with the Ducks.


The Schedule is tough, but none of those though games on Stanford’s schedule are going to look forward to playing the Cardinal either. The young QB Nottingham has a lot on his shoulders, but the top talent on his offensive line and the strong running game he’ll fall back on should make his transition as smooth as possible.

Stanford is disciplined, talented and always well prepared. If their defense stays healthy this year, their ball control offense and strong defense seems almost specifically designed to combat Oregon. The Cardinal won’t be favorites to win the North, but don’t be shocked if they upset the Ducks and do it.