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2007 Stanford Cardinal

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Jan 21, 2008


2007 Stanford Cardinal Season Game-By-Game Recaps and More

2007 Stanford Cardinal

Recap: Stanford is a long way from being a player in the Pac-10, but at least first-year coach Jim Harbaugh has helped bring a renewed energy to the program.  And one of the most memorable wins in school history.  The Cardinal’s 24-23 defeat of USC as a 40-point underdog brought national attention to the program, while breaking the Trojans’ 35-game home winning streak.  Throw in an upset of Cal in The Big Game, and it was a positive opening statement from Harbaugh on The Farm.       

Offensive Player of the Year: WR Richard Sherman

Defensive Player of the Year: LB Clinton Snyder

Biggest Surprise: The Cardinal caught the entire country off guard on Oct. 6, when it beat No. 2 USC,  authoring one of the strangest upsets in the history of college football.  Stanford just hung around long enough until backup QB Tavita Pritchard found WR Mark Bradford for the winning score with 49 seconds left, sending shockwaves throughout the sport.   

Biggest Disappointment: Stanford had every opportunity to pull a trifecta in 2007, beating Cal, USC, and Notre Dame in the same season.  The Cardinal, however, blew its chance against the Irish on Nov. 24, failing to capitalize on four turnovers and countless unforced errors by the visitors.  Although Notre Dame went on to win, 21-14, it was a game Stanford could have won if it played with a little more offensive consistency.

Looking Ahead: Although slaying the occasional dragon is nice, Stanford is aiming to be a week-in, week-out threat in the Pac-10 that contends for postseason games.  Last season was a building block, but now the Cardinal needs to continue bolstering its depth, while developing a quarterback that can exploit the league’s secondaries.        

- 2007 Stanford Preview
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2006 Stanford Season

2007 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
1-11
2007 Record:
4-8

Sept. 1 UCLA L 45-17
Sept. 15
San Jose St W 37-0
Sept. 22 Oregon L 55-31
Sept. 29 Arizona State L 41-3
Oct. 6 at USC W 24-23
Oct. 13 TCU L 38-36
Oct. 20 at Arizona W 21-20
Oct. 27 at Oregon State L 23-8
Nov. 3 Washington L 27-9
Nov. 10 at Wash St L 33-19
Nov. 24 Notre Dame L 21-14
Dec. 1 California W 20-13

Dec. 1
Stanford 20 ... California 13
Stanford took advantage of several Cal mistakes and got just enough scoring to hold on as Cal got Jordan Kay's second field goal with under five minutes to play to pull within a touchdown. Nick Sanchez snuffed out a final Bear drive with his second interception of the game to give Stanford its first win over Jeff Tedford and send Cal reeling. The Cardinal started out the scoring with a 28-yard Mark Bradford catch on the first play following a Nate Longshore fumble, and got two field goals from Derek Belch and a one-yard Austin Gunder touchdown grab. Cal only got in the end zone on a first quarter Robert Jordan catch from 46 yards out.
Player of the game: Stanford S Bo McNally made 13 tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss
Stat Leaders: California - Passing: Nate Longshore, 22-47, 252 yds, 1 TD, 2 INT
Rushing: Justin Forsett, 19-96. Receiving: Lavelle Hawkins, 7-63
Stanford - Passing: T.C. Ostrander, 16-23, 151 yds, 1 TD
Rushing:
Jeremy Stewart, 24-70. Receiving: Mark Bradford, 5-84, 1 TD
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... With four wins, a victory over Cal, and a win to ruin USC's national title dream, this has been a nice first year for the Jim Harbaugh era. It might not be an explosive team, and there might not be much on either side of the ball to do jumping jacks over quite yet, but the effort has been there from start to finish. Now there needs to be more pop. Stanford will never have a killer D, so it needs to spend the offseason figuring out how to put more points on the board. It's been a long time since the program could close out with a win in the Big Game; it's a step.

Nov. 24
Notre Dame 21 ... Stanford 14
In an ugly game, Notre Dame got a six-yard scoring dash from Robert Hughes with just over six minutes to play, and then the Irish defense came through, sort of, with Stanford stalling on the Notre Dame six in the final minute with two dripped passes. Anthony Kimble ran for two touchdowns for the Cardinal for a 14-7 lead, but the Irish scored 14 unanswered points to pull out a second straight win. The two teams combined for six turnovers and five missed field goals.

Player of the game: Notre Dame RB Robert Hughes ran 18 times for 136 yards and a touchdown.
Stat Leaders: Notre Dame - Passing: Jimmy Clausen, 19-32, 196 yds, 1 INT
Rushing: Robert Hughes, 18-136, 1 TD. Receiving: Duval Kamara, 6-93
Stanford - Passing: Tavita Pritchard, 10-24, 102 yds
Rushing:
Anthony Kimble, 20-80, 2 TD. Receiving: Mark Bradford, 7-111

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... At this point in the season, the team should be getting tighter and not be making so many big mistakes. The placekicking situation was a disaster against Notre Dame while the passing game struggled with Tavita Pritchard getting banged up. The pass rush was fine and the running game was there, but the Cardinal almost had to work to blow the game. the offense had better gear up for a bit of a firefight against Cal because the defense doesn't have any one thing it's doing well.

Nov. 10
Washington State 33 ... Stanford 17
Alex Brink bombed away for 439 yards with a touchdown pass to Alex Brink, but it took four
Romeen Abdollmohammadi field goals and a 55-yard Husain Abdullah interception return for a score to put the game away. The Cardinal hunt tough, pulling within three late in the third quarter on a four-yard Jeremy Stewart run, but couldn't get closer after the Cougars took over in the fourth. Abdullah came up with 14 tackles and two broken up passes along with the interception.
Player of the game: Washington State QB Alex Brink completed 32 of 47 passes for 449 yards and a touchdown
Stat Leaders: Stanford - Passing: Tavita Pritchard, 22-40, 263 yds, 2 INT
Rushing: Tyrone McGraw, 19-79, 1 TD. Receiving: Mark Bradford, 12-141
Washington State - Passing: Alex Brink, 32-47, 449 yds, 1 TD
Rushing:
Chris Ivory, 15-104. Receiving: Jed Collins, 10-123

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ...
The Cardinal isn't getting enough consistency on offense, and isn't getting the one big play needed on defense, to turn games around. The offense moved relatively well on Washington State, but this isn't a high-octane offense that can get into shootouts. Mark Bradford was tremendous in a losing caught, catching 12 passes for 141 yards, and proved once again that he's a playmaker who needs the ball thrown his way more often. Now things get really interesting with Notre Dame up in two weeks before the Cal showdown.

Nov 3
Washington 27 ... Stanford 9
Washington tore off 388 rushing yards and held on to the ball for 35:46, but it needed a bit fourth quarter with Louis Rankin running for a one-yard score and Jake Locker sealing things with a seven-yard scoring run with :21 to play. Locker also ran for a 17-yard touchdown to start the scoring, but it was Rankin's day with 255 rushing yards. Stanford stayed alive with a one-yard Tyrone McGraw touchdown run making it a four point game late in the third, but that was as close the Cardinal would get. Ryan Perkins added two field goals for the Huskies.
Player of the game: Washington RB Louis Rankin ran 36 times for 255 yards and a score, and caught two passes for 11 yards.
Stat Leaders: Washington - Passing: Jake Locker, 16-32, 151 yds, 1 INT
Rushing: Louis Rankin, 36-255, 1 TD. Receiving: Anthony Russo, 5-71
Stanford - Passing: T.C. Ostrander, 16-28, 133 yds
Rushing:
Tyrone McGraw, 11-89, 1 TD. Receiving: Tyrone McGraw, 4-36

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... You can't win if you can't score, and lately, Stanford can't score. The run defense was the problem against Washington, but the Cardinal held tough for three quarters until the Husky running game took control in the fourth. T.C. Ostrander's return didn't mean there was any sort of spark to the passing game, but on the plus side, Tyrone McGraw had a nice day running the ball, while also turning into a nice safety valve receiver. With Washington State and Notre Dame up next, the Cardinal has to find some semblance of a consistent offense or it'll miss out on winnable games.

Oct. 27
Oregon State 23 ... Stanford 6
Stanford's defense came up with six sacks, but Oregon State came up with five of its own, holding the Cardinal to -8 rushing yards and forcing four turnovers. The Beaver offense got a two-yard Yvenson Bernard touchdown run and a two-yard Howard Croom scoring catch for a 14-0 lead, and Alexis Serna put it away with three second half field goals. The Cardinal was only able to manufacture Derek Belch field goals from 44 and 43 yards out.
Player of the game: Oregon State LB Joey LaRocque made eight tackles with a sack and two tackles for loss
Stat Leaders: Stanford - Passing: Tavita Pritchard, 16-32, 189 yds, 2 INT
Rushing: Jeremy Stewart, 7-16. Receiving: Ben Ladner, 5-32
Oregon State - Passing: Sean Canfield, 14-21, 142 yds, 1 TD
Rushing:
Matthew Sieverson, 16-68. Receiving: Darrell Catchings, 6-51

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Without Jason Evans to a knee injury, and with Anthony Kimble out with a shoulder injury, Stanford became one dimensional on offense against Oregon State, and Tavita Pritchard and the passing game wasn't up to snuff. The defense did a great job of generating consistent pressure into the backfield, which will be a must over the final month of the year, but without more of an offense, it's going to take the opponent to melt down to come up with another win.

Oct. 20
Stanford 21 ... Arizona 20
Stanford rallied late in the fourth quarter with Jeremy Stewart closing off a 53-yard drive with a one-yard scoring run, and then held on two final Arizona drives. The Wildcats got a 21-yard Mike Thomas touchdown run, a three-yard A.J. Simmons scoring catch, and two Jason Bondzio field goals, but Stanford stayed alive with a 33-yard Richard Sherman touchdown catch and a two-yard Jason Evans scoring run in the second quarter.
Player of the game: Stanford S Nick Sanchez made nine tackles, one tackle for loss, forced a fumble and picked off a pass
Stat Leaders: Stanford - Passing: Tavita Pritchard, 19-27, 181 yds, 1 TD, 2 INT
Rushing: Jason Evans, 21-78, 1 TD. Receiving: Richard Sherman, 6-69, 1 TD
Arizona - Passing: Willie Tuitama, 28-41, 238 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing:
Nicholas Grigsby, 24-126. Receiving: Delashaun Dean, 8-51

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ...
Break up the Cardinal. With two wins in the last three games, and two Pac 10 wins in a row, the team is finding ways to come through in the clutch, even if it did lose late to TCU last week. Tavita Pritchard might not be flashy, but he was efficient against Arizona, even though he threw two picks. The defense did a nice job of keeping Willie Tuitama and the Wildcat passing game under wraps for the most part, and held well late. The turnovers will be there for the taking against Oregon State next week, and the offense will have to take advantage.

Oct. 13
TCU 38 ... Stanford 36
Aaron Brown ran for a two-yard touchdown with just over two minutes to play, and then hung on as Stanford drove deep, but unlike the USC game, got a fourth down pass batted away. The two teams traded scores back and forth all game long, with Stanford getting up 31-17 late in the third helped by Anthony Kimble's second touchdown run of the game. And then Andy Dalton went to work for TCU, connecting with Jimmy Young for a 70-yard touchdown, and connecting with Brown for a two-yard score to tie it in the fourth.
Player of the game: TCU QB Andy Dalton completed 23 of 34 passes for 344 yards and two touchdowns and ran for a score.
Stat Leaders: Stanford - Passing: Tavita Pritchard, 12-27, 171 yds, 2 TD
Rushing: Anthony Kimble, 119-109, 2 TD. Receiving: Richard Sherman, 4-112, 1 TD
TCU - Passing: Andy Dalton, 23-34, 344 yds, 2 TD
Rushing:
Aaron Brown, 21-91, 1 TD. Receiving: Aaron Brown, 5-45, 1 TD

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... While not always pretty, the offense showed good balance against TCU with Anthony Kimble running as well as he had all year, and Tavita Pritchard coming through with a nice fourth quarter drive. This time it didn't work out, but compared to where the team was earlier in the year, and back to last year, rolling up 364 yards and 36 points on a decent Horned Frog defense is a step forward. Now the Cardinal has to go on the road for three games in the next four.

Oct. 6
Stanford 24 ... USC 23
On fourth and goal from the ten, Stanford pulled off one of the biggest shockers of all-time when Mark Bradford fought his way for a touchdown catch to tie it. Derek Belch hit the extra point for the lead, and then the defense held on with its fourth pick of the night. John David Booty threw for 364 yards, highlighted by a 63-yard pass play to Fred Davis and a 47-yarder to Ronald Johnson, but overthrew his receivers late for two key interceptions, and threw one for a 31-yard Stanford pick six from Austin Yancy in the third. USC outgained the Cardinal 459 yards to 235.
Player of the game: Stanford QB Tavita Pritchard went 11-of-30 for 149 yards, a touchdown and an interception.
Stat Leaders: Stanford - Passing: Tavita Pritchard, 11-30, 149 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Anthony Kimble, 17-32, 1 TD. Receiving: Mark Bradford, 5-87, 1 TD
USC - Passing: John David Booty, 24-40, 364 yds, 2 TD, 4 INT 
Rushing:
Chauncey Washington, 23-75, 1 TD. Receiving:
Patrick Turner, 9-83
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... The offense stunk against USC until the final six minutes, but the defense got decent pressure on John David Booty, and came up with the big interceptions to change the game around. It helped that USC wasn't sharp, but give credit to the Cardinal defensive front for holding up stunningly well against the run. This was an all-timer of a win for the program, and now head coach Jim Harbaugh will become a hot property. However, give credit to the heart of QB Tavita Pritchard for overcoming a shaky start to come through with the clutch throws needed to pull this off.

Sept. 29
Arizona State 41 ... Stanford 3
Arizona State was struggling a bit early on, only managing two Thomas Weber field goals, and then lightning struck at the end of the first half. Rudy Burgess caught a 62-yard touchdown pass, and on Stanford's next play from scrimmage, Omar Bolden returned an interception 29 yards for a score and a 21-0 lead. The Cardinal bounced back to go 65 yards in ten plays, with Derek Belch connecting on a 42-yard field goal on the last play of the first half. That would be it for the drama. Welch his two more field goals in the second half, Dimitri Nance scored on a 17-yard run, and Keegan Herring closed out the scoring with a 72-yard dash.
Player of the game: Arizona State WR Rudy Burgess made seven catches for 137 yards and a touchdown.
Stat Leaders: Arizona State - Passing: Rudy Carpenter, 20-27, 259 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Ryan Torain, 16-103. Receiving: Rudy Burgess, 7-137, 1 TD
Stanford - Passing: T.C Ostrander, 20-35, 237 yds, 1 INT
Rushing:
Anthony Kimble, 10-20. Receiving: Richard Sherman, 6-105

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Stanford's offense has to figure out how to keep pace with the better Pac 10 offenses, or this will be a long season. It starts up front, with the line coming off a horrible game against Arizona State. No one had any room to move, and QB T.C. Ostrander didn't have any time to breathe. 235 yards of total offense isn't going to get it done against anyone in the Pac 10, and two of 14 third down conversions was part of the reason for the problems.

Sept. 22
Oregon 55 ... Stanford 31
It took a little while, and there were some problems in the first half, but Oregon eventually got everything together, scored 21 points in the third quarter, and 34 unanswered, to pull away and win easily. Dennis Dixon threw four touchdown passes, including a 71-yard strike to Cameron Colvin on the first play from scrimmage. Stanford got in the game roared to a 31-21 lead on 28 second quarter points helped by three Duck fumbles. T.C. Ostrander threw touchdown passes to Mark Bradford and Ben Ladner, and Anthony Kimble tore off scoring runs from 60 and three yards out. And then Dixon took over, hitting Ed Dickson for a 33-yard score on the opening drive of the second half, and finding Jaison Williams from 15 and 50 yards for scores.
Player of the game: Oregon QB Dennis Dixon completed 27 of 36 passes for 367 yards and four touchdowns, and ran nine times for 15 yards and a score.
Stat Leaders: Oregon - Passing: Dennis Dixon, 27-36, 367 yds, 4 TD
Rushing: Jonathan Stewart, 19-160, 1 TD. Receiving: Cameron Colvin, 8-136, 1 TD
Stanford - Passing: T.C. Ostrander, 25-44, 262 yds, 2 TD, 1 INT
Rushing:
Anthony Kimble, 16-119, 2 TD. Receiving: Mark Bradford, 6-72, 1 TD

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Oregon is playing as well as anyone in the country right now, so it's hard to exactly gauge how good Stanford might be. Unfortunately, that could also be said over the next few weeks against Arizona State and USC. The offense did show a spark when it got its opportunities in the second quarter, but there wasn't much happening once the Ducks got on a second half roll. RB Anthony Kimble had a nice day, providing a ground game the program hasn't had on a consistent basis against good teams in years. To have any shot against Arizona State, the ground game has to keep the clock moving and control the tempo.

Sept. 15
Stanford 37 ... San Jose State 0
Derek Belch nailed a 52-yard field goal on Stanford's opening drive, and that's all the scoring needed as the defense shut down San Jose State allowing 163 yards of total offense. Belch connected from 37 and 50 yards for a 9-0 Cardinal lead going into halftime, and then the offense found its groove with two T.C. Ostrander touchdown passes, including a 46-yarder to Richard Sherman, and a touchdown runs from Toby Gerhart and Anthony Kimble. Stanford outgained the Spartans 276 yards to 32 on the ground.
Player of the game: Stanford RB Toby Gerhart ran 12 times for 140 yards and a score
Stat Leaders: San Jose State - Passing: Adam Tafralis, 12-24, 130 yds, 1 INT
Rushing: Dominique Hunsucker, 10-26. Receiving: David Richmond, 4-38
Stanford - Passing: T.C Ostrander, 18-28, 220 yds, 2 TD, 1 INT
Rushing:
Toby Gerhart, 12-140, 1 TD. Receiving: Richard Sherman, 4-71, 1 TD

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... It's not like San Jose State has a juggernaut of an offense, but for the Stanford defense, this was an important game. UCLA did whatever it wanted to against the Cardinal two weeks ago, and with Oregon, Arizona State and USC up ahead, the D needed a little bit of confidence. On offense, the running game worked as well as it has in years, while T.C. Ostrander had an efficient day throwing the ball. To nitpick, it took too long to put the Spartans away for good, but this was still a dominant win for a program that hasn't had many in recent years.

Sept. 1
UCLA 45 ... Stanford 17
Ben Olsen threw five touchdown passes with Joe Cowan scoring from 19 and 77 yards out, while Kahlil Bell got the ground game going with 195 yards as the Bruins cranked out 624 yards of total offense. Stanford had its moments, with Richard Sherman taking a T.C. Ostrander pass 70 yards for a touchdown and Jim Dray scoring from nine yards out, but the defense didn't do enough to make it a game. Olsen also connected with Gavin Ketchum for a six-yard score, Dominique Johnson from four yards out, and Brandon Breazell for a 15-yard touchdown.
Player of the game ... UCLA QB Ben Olson went 16-of-29 for 286 yards and five touchdown passes. 
Stat Leaders: UCLA- Passing: Ben Olson, 16-29, 286 yds, 5 TDs
Rushing: Kahlil Bell, 19-195  Receiving: Brandon Breazell, 6-111, 1 TD
Stanford - Passing: T.C. Ostrander, 27-59, 331 yds, 2 TDs
Rushing:
Anthony Kimble, 14-69  Receiving: Evan Moore, 6-87

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Stanford isn't ready to play with a team like UCLA. Even though there were a few good signs with a passing game that has the potential to light up someone at some point this year, there aren't going to be many, if any, wins unless the defense figures out something it can do well. There wasn't even a hint of a pass rush against the Bruins, and the run defense didn't even show up. For good and bad, Bo McNally made 15 tackles. It's never a good thing when a safety is so active.

Sept. 1 - UCLA
Offense: Tired of his feeble offense and conservative play calling, Karl Dorrell is turning the unit over to Jay Norvell, a Nebraska import who’ll be calling plays for the first time in his career.  With him comes an up tempo version of the West Coast offense that’ll be rooted in high percentage passes and the occasional use of the shotgun.  Norvell’s triggerman will be lefty Ben Olson, who’s held off the challenge of Patrick Cowan, and is still waiting for a breakthrough season five years after being a ballyhooed BYU recruit.  Although 12 players with extensive starting experience return, only guard Shannon Tevaga and running back Chris Markey can be considered bona fide threats for all-league honors.  To help get Olson where he needs to be, a playmaker or two needs to emerge among a pedestrian receiving corps.
Defense: Kudos to defensive coordinator DeWayne Walker, who did the improbable in 2006 by whipping a sorry Bruin defense into shape.  Ten starters are back from that unit, which finished No. 2 in the Pac-10 in total defense and tops against the run.  One All-American rush end, Justin Hickman, has departed, but one, Bruce Davis, returns to wreak havoc on league quarterbacks.  Although the linebackers look nothing like the ones across town at USC, they’re fast, instinctive and a nice fit for Walker’s defense.  Middle linebacker Christian Taylor is the definition of a hard-working college athlete that makes a ton of plays, but likely won’t be wearing pads beyond 2007.  The secondary is an enigma that’s loaded with returning talent, yet still vulnerable through the air.  Strong safety Chris Horton laid the groundwork last year for what should be a terrific final season at UCLA.

Sept. 15 - San Jose State
Offense: The offense wasn't always explosive, but it was steady, didn't give the ball away, kept the chains moving, and got the job done. Expect more of the same if the offensive line can quickly replace three starters and the new recruits for the receiving corps can play right away. The passing game loses the top three targets and 141 of 181 catches, so ultra-efficient QB Adam Tafralis has to be even better. Yonus Davis leads a small, quick, veteran group of running backs that can take it the distance with a little bit of room.
Defense: The Spartan defense took a giant leap forward giving up yards, but not a whole bunch of points allowing fewer than 24 in ten of the final 11 games. Seven starters are back from the ball-hawking crew led by tackling machine Matt Castelo at middle linebacker and corners Dwight Lowery and Christopher Owens. The defensive front has to do a better overall job, and it will now that it's experienced after cutting its teeth last season. Jarron Gilbert and Justin Cole will be pass rushing terrors. Expect this group to give up plenty of yards, but also come up with more than its share of takeaways.


Sept. 22 - Oregon
Offense: As usual, Oregon gobbled up a ton of yards in 2006, but lacked efficiency most of the year and imploded under the weight of its turnovers in the second half of the season.  So when offensive coordinator Gary Crowton left for LSU, Mike Bellotti turned to New Hampshire’s Chip Kelly to get the offense back on course.  A spread offense guru, Kelly will have a few new bells and whistles in his toolbox, including greater use of the no-huddle and increased reliance on superstar back Jonathan Stewart.  The key for the offense, and probably the entire team, will be the development of senior quarterback Dennis Dixon, who became the poster boy for the Ducks’ collapse late last year.  He’ll get adequate protection from Max Unger and the boys up front, but needs more consistency from a receiving corps that misplayed too many balls in 2006. 
Defense: Defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti isn’t shy about bringing pressure with his wave of good athletes, and now has a couple of quality corners to marginalize the risk of selling out.  Jairus Byrd and Walter Thurmond, Freshman All-Americans in 2006, join standout rover Patrick Chung to give the Ducks their feistiest secondary in years.  The front seven, however, is far less stable.  After finishing ninth in the Pac-10 in run defense, Oregon needs to shore up the middle of its defense and develop an end or two that can consistently create pressure.  Redshirt freshman Brandon Bair is one possibility that has the staff cautiously excited about the defensive end spot.  In a league filled with strong-armed hurlers, that promising secondary will pay the price if opposing passers are given too much time to throw.              
Sept. 29 - Arizona State
Offense: Arizona State really wasn’t Arizona State in 2006, but with ten starters returning, there’s reason to believe that the Sun Devils will score in bunches this year.  Dennis Erickson brings a balanced and unpredictable system that’ll use multiple formations and plenty of shotgun, yet still lean heavily on the running game.  The success of the unit hinges on the play of quarterback Rudy Carpenter, who looked destined for stardom as a freshman before suffering through a humbling sophomore season marked by turnovers and lapses in confidence.  His supporting cast is headed by Ryan Torain, one of the nation’s best backs that no one outside the Pac-10 has seen.  With six seasoned linemen back, he’s destined to become the first Sun Devil in over 30 years to go for more than 1,000 yards in back-to-back seasons.  Although Carpenter’s receivers did nothing to help him out of his slump in 2006, they’re now awash with the kind of speed and playmaking potential that’s customary in Tempe.       
Defense: Six starters return to a defense that improved in 2006, yet still allowed more than 40 points in four of the final ten games.  The Sun Devils will continue to run out of a 4-3 base while asking their linebackers and safeties to freelance and make plays all over the field.  There are building blocks—and question marks—at each unit heading into 2007.  Tackle Michael Marquardt and Dexter Davis have all-league potential, but both are going to need support from a couple of new starters.  Although the linebackers have considerable upside, the man in the middle, Morris Wooten, is a first-year player.  And while safety Josh Barrett and corner Justin Tryon will play on Sundays, the pass defense is in deep trouble if the other cornerback gets routinely exposed.  The net result?  A nice collection of talent that’ll still allow plenty of yards to the Pac-10’s finer-tuned offenses.                                    

Oct. 6 – at USC
Offense: Does anyone in the country reload faster than the Trojans?  While there’ll be new faces on the line, at wide receiver, and at offensive coordinator, the high-powered results that have become commonplace in the Pete Carroll era aren’t about to change.  Of course, it helps to have at the controls strong-armed senior John David Booty, one of the early favorites to add a fourth Heisman Trophy to Heritage Hall in the last six years.  He’ll be surrounded by an absolutely decadent amount of skill position talent, but most of the receivers lack experience at this level.  In this case, talent will overcome inexperience in a rout.  At 6-5 and 220 pounds, junior receiver Patrick Turner has the imposing size and sticky fingers to conjure up images of Mike Williams and Dwayne Jarrett, and have a breakout year.  Although the line is going to miss the presence of center Ryan Kalil, returning two-time All-American Sam Baker to protect Booty’s blindside will help cushion the blow.    
Defense: The Trojan offense is good.  The Trojan defense is scary good.  Backed by a Who’s Who of future first-day NFL Draft choices, USC is ready to unleash the nastiest and stingiest unit of the Pete Carroll era.  Led by Sedrick Ellis at the nose, Keith Rivers at middle linebacker, and Terrell Thomas at cornerback, the Trojans boast seven players capable of making a run at All-America honors in 2007.  Yeah, a few more sacks and takeaways would be nice, but this is as close to a flawless unit that there is in the country.  From front to back, they’re aggressive, experienced and fast enough to create a swarming effect on the ball carrier.  Although the Trojans will give up yards to teams playing from behind, scoring meaningful points on them in the first three quarters is going to be a year-long nightmare.   

Oct. 13 - TCU
Offense: This won't be the offense of last year that finished second in the Mountain West in yards and scoring, but it won't be bad as long as there isn't a major injury problem among the starters. The line should be the strength with three returning starters and experience to count on at the other spots. Aaron Brown is about to shine now that he doesn't have to split carries. He'll be the do-it-all back who'll be the offense until the passing game, which struggled mightily in spring, comes around. The receiving corps has potential, but it needs Donald Massey to become a number one target, and it needs the quarterback situation to be settled with Marcus Jackson, who'll likely win the job, battling with Andy Dalton.
Defense:
The Horned Frogs finished second in the nation in total defense, third in scoring defense, and led the Mountain West in several top categories. It'll be a total shock if they weren't even better. The only possible problems will come if injuries strike. Nine starters return, led by all-star ends Tommy Blake and Chase Ortiz, who make life easy for everyone else on the defense with the pressure they provide. The 4-2-5 has four good linebackers, an amazing group of safeties, rising stars at corner, and a good, active line. The only potential issue is a lack of raw bulk at tackle, but that's looking for a problem.

Oct. 20 – at Arizona
Offense: After averaging a 100th place finish in total offense over the last three years, Mike Stoops has handed the unit off to former Texas Tech coordinator Sonny Dykes.  Dykes has learned from the likes of Mike Leach and Hal Mumme over the last decade, so expect to see a rejuvenated Willie Tuitama in the shotgun, putting the ball up a ton more than last season.  The Wildcats’ quest to stretch defenses vertically and horizontally in the spread offense will hinge on their ability to develop dependable receivers other than junior Mike Thomas.  The beleaguered offensive line is a year older, intact and poised to benefit from a system that forces the quarterback to make quick passes and even quicker decisions.  Sophomore Eben Britton is on the brink of becoming a prodigy at right tackle.
Defense: With the return of ten starters and an all-star caliber player at each unit, Arizona should be even stingier than 2006, when it led the Pac-10 in turnover margin and allowed fewer than 20 points a game.  The headliner once again will be senior Antoine Cason, one of the smoothest corners in America and a leading candidate for the Thorpe Award.  Led by underrated senior Spencer Larsen, the linebackers are a no-name crew that just goes out and makes a bunch of tackles every Saturday.  The onus for jump starting the pass rush falls squarely on the shoulders of senior Louis Holmes, a massive talent that underachieved in his first season out of junior college. 

Oct. 27 – at Oregon State
Offense: While the Beavers regularly skip using a fullback in favor of a third receiver, they’re a balanced offense that’ll run it as much as they throw.  When you’ve got a back as talented as senior Yvenson Bernard, that’s called using your resources wisely.  Bernard has run for more than 1,300 yards in each of the last two seasons behind a nasty, no-nonsense line that welcomes back all but one starter.  Senior split end Sammie Stroughter is an open field dynamo coming off a monster season in 2006.  What he can do for an encore depends in large part on how well one of two sophomore quarterbacks adapts to a full-time gig.  Hard-throwing lefty Sean Canfield is the acknowledged favorite to supplant Matt Moore, but Lyle Moevao sent a message this spring that he won’t go away quietly.             
Defense: Much of the unit that led the Pac-10 in takeaways and sacks is back in Corvallis for 2007.  The front seven, in particular, is rock solid and made up entirely of seniors.  The best of the bunch is outside linebacker Derrick Doggett, who has the range and long stride to literally make plays anywhere on the field.  After bagging a team-high nine sacks as a reserve in 2006, end Dorian Smith is a sleeper with a chance to shed his anonymity this fall.  Whether the Beaver D can get from really good to impervious in 2007 depends on the development of a suspect secondary that allowed 223 yards a game a year ago.  Junior corners Keenan Lewis and Brandon Hughes are moving in the right direction, but you don’t get better by losing long-time patrolman Sabby Piscitelli.                                     

Nov. 3 - Washington
Offense: All eyes in Seattle will be fixed on the debut of hot-shot rookie quarterback Jake Locker, but if there’s one priority for Tyrone Willingham in 2007, it’s to get more consistent on the ground.  Conservative by Pac-10 doctrine, the third-year coach wants to pound it between the tackles to set up the pass.  Top back Louis Rankin is more of an outside runner, putting the onus on 210-pound sophomore J.R. Hasty to start realizing his vast potential.  While Locker has all the tools for stardom, he’ll spend most of the upcoming season adapting to his new role as the face of the program.  His big-play target will be senior Marcel Reece, a Mike Walker clone poised to make a salary run.
Defense:
Even with a slight improvement in 2006, the Husky pass defense ranked among the nation’s worst for the second straight year.  With no stars and two new starters, expect more of the same in 2007.  The problems in the secondary will again overshadow a sneaky good front seven that features four returning starters on the defensive line and a group of young, dynamic linebackers, including sophomores E.J. Savannah and Donald Butler that could evolve into playmakers.  Defensive ends Greyson Gunheim and Daniel Te’o Nesheim are a couple of warriors that combined for two dozen tackles for loss last fall.  At 6-5 and 265 pounds, Gunheim runs like a gazelle, making him a magnet for NFL scouts visiting the Northwest. 

Nov. 10 – at Washington State
Offense: Washington State won’t abandon the run by any means, but this is an offense that’s traditionally wide-open and run out of three-wide sets.  The engineer of the attack will be fourth-year starting quarterback Alex Brink, who enters his senior season with a real nice complement of receivers, led by all-Pac-10 candidates Brandon Gibson and Michael Bumpus.  Although the offensive line welcomes back four players that started games a year ago, both tackles will be new, a big concern heading into the season.  If they’re overmatched, the ripple effect will reverberate throughout the entire offense.          
Defense: Expect some subtle changes as head coach Bill Doba steps in to coordinate the defense in 2007.  He’d like to utilize more man coverages and blitz packages, both of which could be suicide for a secondary that’s been gutted by graduations and is in dire need of a couple of reliable cornerbacks.  The Cougars are going to give up plenty of yards and points, but if they can create turnovers and sack the quarterback, like last year, there’s hope that the breakdowns can be managed.  The defense is loaded with big, agile bodies up front, but there’s a catch—serious injuries are mounting and could bleed into the start of the season.  While there’s no quick fix for the pass defense, junior college transfer Terry Mixon has the potential to be a star from the moment he steps foot in Pullman.

Nov. 24 – Notre Dame
Offense: Yeah, Charlie Weis is a great offensive coach, but there's some serious rebuilding needing to be done. There are good prospects, but there are several major concerns and no proven production. Can the line be better despite losing three starters? Will the skill players be remotely close to as good as the Brady Quinn, Jeff Samardzija, Rhema McKnight and Darius Walker foursome of last year? Are the quarterbacks ready? The quarterbacks appear to be fine, the running backs will be solid in a combination, and the receivers are fast and decent. The line will be a plus by the end of the year, but it'll be a problem early on.
Defense: Charlie Weis is trying to improve a defense that was fine against the mediocre, but lousy when it came to stopping the better offenses. Gone is defensive coordinator Rick Minter, and in comes Corwin Brown, who installed a 3-4 scheme to try to generate more big plays and get more speed and athleticism on the field. The line will be the issue early on as two steady starters are needed to help out Trevor Laws. Maurice Crum leads a promising linebacking corps that should shine in the new defense. The big problem could again be the secondary. It has experience, but it won't get as much help from the pass rush, like it did last year, and needs the young corner prospects to push the unspectacular veterans for time.

Dec. 1 - California
Offense: With Jeff Tedford at the controls, this is basically a pro-style offense that mixes the run and the pass evenly, and puts up points as quickly as any program in the country.  The head coach will be calling plays again after a one-year hiatus, meaning trick plays will be more frequent than a year ago.  The job of distributing the ball to an array of speedy skill position players belongs to quarterback Nate Longshore, a strong-armed junior that threw 24 touchdown passes in 2006 and a few too many picks.  Although he has plenty of receivers to choose from, none is more lethal than DeSean Jackson, a field-stretcher and legit Heisman candidate.  Super sub Justin Forsett takes over for Marshawn Lynch at running back, where he’ll be running behind an outstanding veteran line.  Center Alex Mack is on the All-American doorstep after earning first team All-Pac-10 honors as a sophomore.
Defense: There’s plenty of work to be done for a Cal defense that begins a new era without its signature all-conference player at each of the three defensive units.  Outstanding recruiting by Jeff Tedford and his staff in recent years ensures that the cupboard is far from empty, but there’ll be a learning curve early on in 2007.  Of greatest concern is a pass defense that gets modest support up front and will be relying on a slew of green cornerbacks.  Sophomore Syd’Quan Thompson and redshirt freshman Darian Hagan look the part, but need to deliver once Pac-10 plays begins.  Junior Zack Follett is the budding star of a linebacker unit that has the potential to be the next best thing to USC in the conference.      

 

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