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           === Dorm Report: Cardinal not content with good enough ===
 
 By Phil Neuffer, Associate College Football Editor
 
 Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - At this point, it can be readily
 agreed upon that coach David Shaw and the Stanford Cardinal have not suffered
 much of an Andrew Luck/Jim Harbaugh hangover.
 
 In the two seasons after the departure of that coaching/quarterback duo,
 the Cardinal have gone an impressive 23-4 and made back-to-back trips to
 BCS bowls.
 
 Despite the success, the Cardinal are still residing in the shadow of other
 programs in the country, including fellow Pac-12 squad Oregon. That would be
 the same Oregon team that Stanford handed a 17-14 defeat in Eugene which ended
 the Ducks' run at No. 1 in the country last season.
 
 This season will be really crucial for Shaw and Co. It could very well spell
 the difference between being a good program and becoming a great one. The
 difference between a Virginia Tech or Wisconsin and a LSU or Oklahoma.
 
 As it stands, Stanford is a team, like the Hokies or Badgers, that
 consistently find its way into the top 15 of the country but is never among the
 teams mentioned in the same sentence as Alabama, Oklahoma and Oregon. The type
 of team that you can lock in for 10 wins and a New Year's Day bowl game but not
 the big game held a few days later.
 
 By no means are those types of accomplishments anything to scoff at, but
 this season Stanford will be taking aim at much more. The Cardinal
 aren't the only ones thinking a trip to the BCS title game is within
 reach as the Sporting News had Stanford ranked No. 2 in its first preseason Top
 25 released at the end of May.
 
 One of the more intriguing and prime rationales behind such an argument
 is just the type of team that Stanford has become over the last few seasons.
 
 Unlike conference foe Oregon, which has relied on flashy offensive schemes,
 Stanford is a team that hangs its hat on strong defense and a power running
 game. Some might go so far as to call it "old school."
 
 Perhaps it's not the type of strategy that lights up the scoreboard or
 stuffs the stat sheet, but it is the proven way to win championships in
 the current college football landscape. It's the type of game plan that
 they play in the SEC - the conference that owns the last seven BCS titles,
 including back-to-back championships for defending champs Alabama.
 
 Each of those Alabama teams was ranked No. 1 in the country in total
 defense. The two teams Alabama played in the title game - Notre Dame (No.
 7) and LSU (No. 2) - were each among the top 10 defenses in the country as
 well.
 
 Last season, Stanford was 20th in total defense (336.2 yards per game) and
 fifth in rushing defense (97.0 ypg). The year before that, the Cardinal ranked
 28th and fourth, respectively, in those categories.
 
 Though the heart of last season's defense, inside linebacker Chase Thomas, was
 lost to graduation, the Cardinal still have a number of their most productive
 players on that side of the ball in 2013.
 
 There's 2012 leading tackler Shayne Skov (81 total tackles, nine tackles for
 loss), sack machines Trent Murphy (10 sacks) and Ben Gardner (7.5 sacks) as
 well as ball-hawks Jordan Richards (three interceptions, 15 passes defended)
 and Ed Reynolds (six interceptions). That is quite a returning cast.
 
 During the spring game, Shaw saw what he was hoping to out of his
 acclaimed unit that could very well give Alabama and the rest of the SEC a run
 for its money in more ways that one.
 
 "I thought that defensively we ran to the ball and hustled. I thought we
 were physical," Shaw said. "I thought that the feeling of the practice
 was good. It was as physical as we wanted to be."
 
 While the defense looks poised to keep the clamps down on just about any
 offense it will face, the other half of the Cardinal's equation is much
 less certain.
 
 A year ago, Stepfan Taylor was the Cardinal offense. While the
 quarterback situation was as rocky as any in the country, with Josh
 Nunes and Kevin Hogan spending time under center, Taylor was a constant
 force. However, Taylor and is 1,530 yards and 13 touchdowns will be
 helping the Arizona Cardinals in the NFL this fall.
 
 Replacing Taylor will be difficult. There are six running backs on the
 roster right now. In the spring game, five of those players had at least four
 carries, which indicates there will likely be more of a spreading of the load
 this season. However, Barry Sanders, who had a team-high seven carries in the
 spring game, is the most intriguing back in the stable. His genes certainly
 don't hurt.
 
 While the running game retools, Hogan will be called on to show some
 progression in his junior season as he takes control of the starting
 job. Hogan threw for two touchdowns and completed 14-of-23 passes in the
 spring game, but Evan Crower (26-of-35, 197 yards, two touchdowns) may be
 breathing right down his neck if Hogan should stumble.
 
 "I'm going to push for balance. I think we had that two years ago and I
 don't think we had it this year," Shaw said, while also indicating a
 need to adjust the offensive playbook from the tight end-heavy sets of a
 year ago with Zach Ertz and Levine Toilolo, also lost to the NFL.
 
 Having so many concerns and relying on so many ifs and hopes in one
 entire phase of the game isn't a good thing. Thankfully for Stanford, its
 defense will allow it to stay close in just about every contest, meaning
 if the offense can improve just slightly, the Cardinal won't be a team
 playing in Pasadena on New Year's Day. They'll be playing there five
 days later.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 06/11 06:43:53 ET

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