Aztecs Non-Conference Preview: Stanford
The Aztecs open their season at Stanford Stadium, and the Cardinal will be looking for redemption after last year’s surprising 17-20 loss.
Things are different this year for Stanford as the Cardinal enter the fall with an elite offense- but is there a chink in the armor?
The Stanford Cardinal square off against San Diego State at Stanford Stadium on August 31. Kickoff takes place at 6pm PST and can be seen on FS1.
About Stanford: The Cardinal are traditionally known for elite defense and a strong running game, however this fall the tables have turned. Cardinal defense will be an uncharacteristic work in progress, while Cardinal offense is slated to be among the top in the Pac-12, and maybe the country.
Stanford is projected to remain at the top of the Pac-12 North, and this has become the new normal.
Coach: David Shaw
2017 Record: 9-5 (7-2 in conference, #1 Pac-12 North)
The Cardinal’s offense is highly formidable this year. 6’5″, 220-lb quarterback K.J. Costello, has taken over for Keller Chryst. Chryst has since opted to transfer to Tennessee. Costello’s season-high passing yardage last year was just 212 yards. He is unlikely to unleash an air assault.
Heisman Trophy runner-up Bryce Love returns, along with four Stanford running backs. Love is a Heisman Trophy favorite next year, and his 2,118 rushing yards in 2017 were the second-best total in Pac-12 history, and also second to SDSU’s own Rashaad Penny.
JJ Arcega-Whiteside, a “possession receiver” produced nine touchdowns last year. Trenton Irwin caught 43 passes. Osiris St. Brown, a once-celebrated recruit was redshirted due to injury. As for tight end, Stanford is once again solid – Colby Parkinson and Kaden Smith combined for nine touchdowns last year. Some are saying this fall’s offense could be Stanford’s best since Andrew Luck was in rotation during 2010 and 2011.
Hard to believe but, Stanford is actually vulnerable on the defensive line. Defensive end Jovan Swann managed an unimpressive 1.5 sacks and 3.5 tackles for loss last year, and yet he’s the leader on the depth chart. True freshmen don’t often break the defensive rotation, but Thomas Booker could if he displays pass-rush skills.
Stanford played a 2-4-5 scheme last year, and that might be repeated this year, given their resources on hand.
Bobby Okereke, an honorable mention All-Pac-12 pick last season, is one of three fifth-year seniors at linebacker and the presumed leader of the unit. He’ll pair inside with Sean Barton, who went down with a season-ending knee injury last year against the Aztecs.
The secondary took a big hit with safety Justin Reid and cornerback Quenton Meeks en route to the NFL, but it is better equipped to handle the turnover than the defensive line. A healthy return of injury-prone veteran cornerback Alijah Holder is a must.
Stanford Special Teams
For years, Stanford has led with its defense. That will likely change this year. This team needs to score a lot, and its defense will have a hard time containing the Aztecs’ ground game. It will likely be a high-scoring game, and a lot of fun to watch.
Stanford is beatable. The Aztecs could win this game. Nonetheless, the Cardinal have home field and are projected to win by 15.