Welcome to the Deadspin 25, a college football poll that strives to be more democratic and less useless than every other preseason poll. Leading up to the college football season kickoff, we will give you previews of the 25 teams that you, the readers, voted to be most worthy of writing about. Now, No. 22 Stanford.
Stanford is not here for your bullshit, man. In just six years, head coach David Shaw’s program has compiled 54 wins while maintaining a top-10 strength of schedule every season. The Cardinal have two Rose Bowl victories in the past four years and are poised to return a team that will again challenge for the Pac-12 title. This is a program with a coach that will soon surpass Pop Warner as the school’s winningest head coach. This season will have its challenges—Shaw and Co. will have to win with a new quarterback and improve both lines if they want to maintain the school’s blistering pace of success—but don’t be surprised if the Cardinal manage to outlast the rest of the league and bank another conference title.
After the season-opener against Kansas State, who Stanford should handle easily, the Cardinal will face USC, UCLA, Washington, and Notre Dame. That’s a pretty brutal opening stretch for a team that will be adjusting to a new quarterback for the first time in four years. Quarterback Kevin Hogan went out strong last season, bumping up his touchdown total from 19 to 27 and posting a 67.7 completion percentage, his highest since his rookie season. But Hogan has since departed, along with reigning Outland Trophy recipient left guard Joshua Garnett and first-team Pac-12 left tackle Kyle Murphy. While the same level of talent may not step up in their absence, the Cardinal will replace their linemen with a group of five upperclassmen, and will have two fine candidates waiting to line up under center—they’ll be fine.
Sophomore Keller Chryst and junior Ryan Burns will continue to duke it out for the open quarterback position as the season approaches. Shaw has yet to pick a starter and likely won’t until he has a chance to evaluate his options in live action against real opponents. Burns is older, but Chryst is the only one who has actually seen the field, not that it really helps here—he went 5-of-9 for 59 yards and a score all of last season. These two are very similar players and either will fit the Cardinal system well.
Wide receiver Michael Rector and tight end Dalton Schultz will be the go-to targets for the new Stanford signal-caller, and when they are covered he can always just chuck one up to magician Francis Owusu.