Between now and the start of college football season, I’ll present you with 10 college football teams that have a realistic chance to win the national title this year. Today, the series continues with Stanford.
Stanford Cardinal (2013 schedule)
2012 record: 12-2
Rose Bowl champions (defeated Wisconsin 20-14)
Why they could win it all: Because Stanford was inches from the top already. Head coach David Shaw, preparing to start his third season at the helm, seems to have a pretty good grip on how to build a major college football program (not to mention it was already in pretty decent shape under Jim Harbaugh). They have plenty of respect from the pollsters, as they’re in the top 5 of nearly every preseason poll.
Their schedule lines up well, with the Cardinal hosting three out of five games against teams ranked in the top 25. They get UCLA, Oregon and Notre Dame — arguably the three toughest games on their slate — all at home. If they’re going to make a run at a national championship, that’s Step 1 in the manual.
Shaw has a cerebral bunch to work with, as always. Stanford’s roster is intelligent and mature, and that could pay off in pressure-packed situations. And let’s not forget that the Cardinal won 12 games a season ago with two brand-new quarterbacks sharing time. The experience gained by Kevin Hogan and Josh Nunes will make the offense extremely formidable in 2013.
Why they might not win it all: You might not have heard this yet, but the Pac-12 will be strong in 2013. It’s going to be a very tough task for any team to run the table out West this season, and Stanford is no exception.
Remember those five nationally-ranked teams I mentioned earlier? The Cardinal will play four of them in a row and five in six weeks to finish the regular season. They might not still be in one piece at the end of that run, and it’s hard to see anyone in any conference finishing a stretch like that with an unblemished record. If they can make it out alive, they probably are the best team in the nation.
Also, despite all of their strengths, it’s just hard to see any way Stanford can keep up with the speed of a team like Oregon, and, if they were to make it to the title game, a team like Alabama or Ohio State.