Top 25 playoff teams: Stanford

With a sturdy offensive line and dominant D, Cardinal could again top Pac-12

Updated: July 1, 2014, 12:49 PM ET
By Rod Gilmore | ESPN Insider

Ty Montgomery AP Photo/Mark J. TerrillTy Montgomery leads a talented group of receivers for the Stanford Cardinal in 2014.
From May 27 to July 3, Insider's college football experts will preview the season for the 25 teams with the best chance to make the inaugural College Football Playoff, based on Brian Fremeau's post-spring projections. This is the entry for the Stanford Cardinal.

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Fremeau's projection

Projected finish: 9-3 (7-2 Pac-12)
Chance to make playoff: 17 percent
Chance to win Pac-12: 20 percent
Toughest games: Oct. 18 at Arizona State (64 percent chance of winning), Nov. 1 at Oregon (33 percent), Nov. 28 at UCLA (60 percent)


Why they'll make the playoff

1. The big, bad O-line

When you enter the Stanford locker room, the first thing you notice is the massive picture of the offensive line on the wall with this quote: "There is no greater feeling for an offensive lineman than moving a man from point A to point B against his will." Strength and power are the essence of Stanford football and the main reasons the Cardinal could make the first College Football Playoff.

This offense revolves around that line. Despite losing linemen year after year to the NFL, the Cardinal continue to pound opponents into submission. In three of the past four seasons -- a period during which they've won 45 games -- Stanford has averaged 200-plus yards per game on the ground and allowed an average of only 13 sacks per year. Only Oregon has comparable numbers in the Pac-12 in the same time frame. This year's O-line may be Stanford's most talented ever. The guys who gave Stanford a top-10 recruiting class three years ago (Andrus Peat, Kyle Murphy and Josh Garnett) are now juniors. Peat is already a star, and Murphy and Garnett have seen plenty of action the past two years. Coach David Shaw has been stockpiling O-line talent. It will show on the field this season.

2 . Big-play passing attack

Rod Gilmore

College Football analyst
Rod Gilmore serves as an ESPN studio analyst on SportsCenter and College Football Live, and provides commentary on ESPN's Friday night game telecasts. He writes regularly for ESPN Insider.