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2008 CFN Stanford Preview
Stanford WR Richard Sherman
Stanford WR Richard Sherman
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted May 20, 2008


CollegeFootballNews.com 2008 Preview - Stanford Cardinal

Stanford Cardinal

Preview 2008

By Richard Cirminiello    

Interested in blogging about Pac 10 football?  Let us know

- 2008 CFN Stanford Preview | 2008 Stanford Offense
- 2008 Stanford Defense | 2008 Stanford Depth Chart
- 2007 CFN Stanford Preview | 2006 CFN Stanford Preview   

Head coach: Jim Harbaugh
2nd year at Stanford: 4-8
5th year overall: 33-14
Returning Lettermen:
Off. 27, Def. 18, ST 1
Lettermen Lost: 20
Ten Best Cardinal Players
1. LB Clinton Snyder, Jr.
2. C Alex Fletcher, Sr.
3. DE Pannel Egboh, Sr.
4. S Bo McNally, Jr.
5. LB Pat Maynor, Sr.
6. WR Richard Sherman, Jr.
7. DT Ekom Udofia, Jr.
8. RB Anthony Kimble, Sr.
9. OT Chris Marinelli, Jr.
10. LB Chris Amajoyi, Soph.

2008 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
3-9
2008 Record: 0-0

Aug. 28 Oregon State
Sept. 6 at Arizona State
Sept. 13 at TCU
Sept. 20 San Jose State
Sept. 27 at Washington
Oct. 4 at Notre Dame
Oct. 11 Arizona
Oct. 18 at UCLA
Oct. 25 OPEN DATE
Nov. 1 Washington State
Nov. 8 at Oregon
Nov. 15 USC
Nov. 22 at California
Nov. 29 OPEN DATE

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

For coach Jim Harbaugh, it’s a case of so far, so good.

From the moment Harbaugh stepped foot on the Farm, he’s had a positive impact on a program that was pining for a new direction. From beating USC and Cal in 2007 to improving the talent level on Signing Day, the charismatic coach has methodically built momentum, but it’s going to take a while before Stanford can become a consistent player in the Pac 10 race.

The Cardinal is still lagging way behind the conference elite in many key areas, but the gap is quickly being narrowed. This isn’t going to be the pushover team it has been in previous seasons, but to get in the hunt for a winning season and a bowl appearance, the offense, Harbaugh’s forte, has to be more effective.

In a high octane conference like the Pac 10, averaging 322.5 yards and fewer than 20 points per game isn’t going to get it done. Over the final five games, the Cardinal attack put up a total of 66 points, but even with the consistency problems, a few bigger breaks would’ve meant a breakthrough season.
 
Stanford may be far from storming the Pac-10 gates, but the positive buzz surrounding the program is undeniable. And as the offense attempts to take another step forward, an underrated defense led by future pros Pannel Egboh, Clinton Snyder, Pat Maynor, and Bo McNally will keep the Cardinal in a lot of games. 

With a little luck and a few more red zone conversions, the school will be poised to add a win or two to last year’s 4-8 record, making a challenge for bowl eligibility late in the season. At the very least, the team has to be taken seriously again.          

What to watch for on offense: More from the running game. While the quarterback situation will be the biggest issue early on, the Cardinal should be able to run the ball better than it has in years with several good options working behind a veteran line. Helping the cause will be mobility at quarterback which should mean far more than 111 yards per game.  

What to watch for on defense: A killer pass rush. One of the biggest surprises last year was Stanford’s ability to get into the backfield. The overall defense might not have put up the best stats, but the Cardinal finished 11th in the nation in sacks and fifth in tackles for loss as the coaching staff successfully manufactured ways to disrupt things. Now there should be just as much havoc wreaked and just as much work to get to the quarterback. Only now there should be better overall results.

The team will be far better if
… the quarterback evolves into a steady playmaker. Whether it’s Forcier, Alex Loukas, or incumbent Tavita Pritchard, the Cardinal needs more consistency from a position that produced just 13 touchdown passes and finished 109th nationally in passing efficiency. Even with Harbaugh pulling the strings and with veterans up front, it won’t be easy considering the line’s inability to protect the quarterback and the shortage of proven receivers.

The Schedule: The Cardinal will know where it stands in Pac 10 play right off the bat getting Oregon State to start followed up by a trip to Arizona State. The non-conference schedule is tougher than it looks playing at TCU, a resurgent San Jose State, and going to Notre Dame. With all the early road games, Stanford has a stretch of five away games in seven weeks and three in four before getting a week off. There's a good break getting just four conference road games, but that's offset by only getting one week off; the other comes at the end of the regular season. What's worse is how the schedule gets toughest at the end. An early November break would be nice, but Harbaugh's club won't get one facing Washington State, at Oregon, USC and California to close things out.

Best offensive player
: C Alex Fletcher. The new quarterback of the Cardinal line, Fletcher is showing off his versatility by shifting inside after a successful season at guard. An intense blocker with a future in the NFL, he earned a spot on the All-Pac-10 second team as a junior and now will make an even bigger impact. A veteran of 31 games, he plays from whistle-to-whistle and does his best work when he disengages and gets moving in space. 

Best defensive player
: LB Clinton Snyder. In a couple of years, Snyder has emerged as one of the Pac 10’s better kept secrets. He does a little bit of everything for the Cardinal defense, supporting the run, blitzing the quarterback, and dropping back smoothly into pass coverage. If he played in Los Angeles, he’d be on everyone’s short list for individual awards. 

Key players to a successful season
: The entire offensive line. With more support up front, everyone on the Cardinal offense, from the quarterbacks to RB Anthony Kimble, will benefit. The next step in Harbaugh’s evolution at Stanford is to inject life into the offense, but that won’t happen if the front wall allows four sacks a game and struggles to create daylight for the backs.

The season will be a success if ... Stanford claws its way to the .500 mark. While it’ll take an upset or two along the way, it’ll also be a monumental step for Harbaugh and a program that hasn’t finished a season even since 2001. It bears repeating, the Cardinal beat USC and Cal a year ago, so the team knows it can beat the good teams. Now it has to do so on a regular basis.

Key game: Aug. 28 vs. Oregon State. What better way to begin a season than by knocking off a conference foe? The Cardinal should be able to capitalize against a Beaver program that’s coping with question marks in the backfield and a slew of new starters on defense.  In a televised Thursday night game, Stanford gets to show a large audience that last year’s pulse is still beating.      

2007 Fun Stats: 
- First quarter scoring: Opponents 71 – Stanford 27

- Fourth down conversions: Stanford 8 of 18 (44%) – Opponents 5 of 17 (29%)
- Punt return average: Opponents 8.2 yards – Stanford 6.3