Aztecs Vs. Stanford: First Look At The Cardinal
The Aztecs play Stanford on Friday. The Cardinal have an elite offense and a Heisman hopeful. Their defense is a different story.
Will the Cardinal defeat the Aztecs with a NCAA elite offense, or will the Aztecs contain them with a NCAA elite defense?
Stanford fans will be the first to tell you the Cardinal is known for its power defense and its running game.
Things are going to be a little different this season.
This fall, the word is the Cardinal offense will be one of the nation’s best. That said, there are big concerns with the defense. Nonetheless, David Shaw‘s Cardinal squad might just dominate the Pac-12 North.
This could be Stanford’s best offense since Andrew Luck‘s era in 2010 and 2011. The Cardinal welcome back K.J. Costello at quarterback; their top five rushers led by Heisman Trophy runner-up Bryce Love, and their top four receivers and placekicker. Four out of five offensive linemen return too.
6’5″ K.J. Costello took over for Keller Chryst and found his rhythm in 2017, and with it, the Cardinal beat Washington and Notre Dame and a Pac-12 North championship. His season-high passing yardage was 212 against TCU. Chryst, in turn, packed his bags and transferred to Tennessee.
Bryce Love is a Heisman Trophy favorite, after becoming 2017 Heisman runner-up. His 2,118 rushing yards in 2017 were the second-best total in Pac-12 history.
San Diego State’s Rashaad Penny surpassed his 2017 yardage last year. Unlike the Aztecs, though, the Cardinal receive actual Heisman consideration.
Stanford has one of the better offensive lines in the Pac-12, if not the nation this fall. Four starters and much of the 2017 depth chart return up front.
For once, Stanford is questionable on its defensive line.
End Jovan Swann with just 1.5 sacks and 3.5 tackles for a loss last year is the leading name on the depth chart. While true freshmen don’t often break the defensive rotation, Thomas Booker could do that at end if he offers up pass-rushing potential.
Bobby Okereke, an honorable mention All-Pac-12 pick last season, is one of three fifth-year seniors at linebacker and looks like the leader of the unit. He’ll pair inside with Sean Barton, who went down with a season-ending knee injury last year against San Diego State.
On secondary, safety Justin Reid and cornerback Quenton Meeks went to the NFL, but it is better equipped to handle the departures than the D-line. Injury prone cornerback Alijah Holder is OUT- despite his play being critical. And yes, he’s the twin brother to former Aztec Mikah Holder.
Stanford Special Teams
The Stanford offense hasn’t scored over 40 points per game since 2011, when Andrew Luck was the quarterback. It might need to in 2018, thanks to a soft defense.
Stanford will be offensively fierce, but defense is a potential liability. The Cardinal lost to the Aztecs last year. The Cardinal could defeat the Aztecs at home- but they might have trouble when their defense lines up against Aztecs offense.
Some pre-season injuries have recently come into play. In addition to Alijah Holder, starters Jesse Burkett (center), cornerback Malik Antoine, safety and special-teams standout Brandon Simmons and linebackers Curtis Robinson and Jordan Perez, will also be out- due to injuries.
An Aztecs repeat win is not out of the question.