Stanford's chances to win BCS title

Best team of the Harbaugh-Shaw era is well-positioned to make a run

Originally Published: May 24, 2013
By Rod Gilmore | ESPN Insider

Ben GardnerRobert Hanashiro/US PresswireBen Gardner is part of Stanford's loaded group of linebackers.

From May 20-31, Insider's college football experts will examine the national championship chances of the 10 teams with the best odds to win the BCS title this season, according to Brian Fremeau's post-spring projections.

Today, Rod Gilmore takes a look at the path the Stanford Cardinal could take to the national championship game and the factors that could trip them up along the way.


Let's begin with a trivia question: Which college football teams have won the most games over the past three seasons? Most would probably be able to name Oregon (36), Alabama (35) and Boise State (35).

But how many fans would include Stanford on that list?

That's right, the Cardinal, with 35, have as many wins as Bama during that period, as well as three straight BCS appearances (Orange, Fiesta and Rose Bowls). Over the past few seasons, Stanford has quietly laid the foundation for making a run at the national championship this season.

This foundation is quite similar to the one built in Tuscaloosa, with an emphasis on tough, physical linemen and a power running game. While the spread offense craze swept the country, Stanford went old-school like Bama and just got bigger, more physical and tougher than just about everyone it faces.

In fact, it wouldn't be surprising if at season's end the Cardinal are facing the team they resemble, the Crimson Tide, in the national championship game. The Cardinal return seven starters on offense and 10 on defense from their 12-2 Rose Bowl-winning team and should be the best team of the Jim Harbaugh-David Shaw era at Stanford.

What are the factors that could lead the Cardinal to the title game, and what could cause them to fall short? Let's take a look.


Why they'll win a national championship

[+] EnlargeStanford's Kevin Hogan
Richard Mackson/US PRESSWIREStanford's offense rose to a new level after Kevin Hogan took over at QB.

1. Stanford found more Luck at QB
The process of filling the shoes of all-world QB Andrew Luck did not go smoothly last year -- until redshirt freshman Kevin Hogan took the reins late in the season. Before Hogan was inserted into the starting lineup, defenses were loading up to stop running back Stepfan Taylor, and Stanford had to rely on its defense to win games.


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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.