Bryce Love and Jay Tyler of Stanford celebrate Love scoring a touchdown during the College Football Sydney Cup match between Stanford University (Stanford Cardinal) and Rice University (Rice Owls) at Allianz Stadium on August 27, 2017 in Sydney, Australia. Love, who finished second in the Heisman Trophy voting behind Oklahoma's Baker Mayfield, is back for 2018. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Football

Our 10th annual Top 25 countdown: As far as No. 14 Stanford’s concerned, all you need is Love

Bryce Love is the top returning vote-getter from the 2017 Heisman Trophy balloting. Suffice it to say, he's a pretty big deal around Palo Alto.

Posted July 15th, 2018

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Sure, it’s July. But it’s never too early to talk college football. Here’s your daily fix — our annual countdown of the preseason Top 25, as selected by the American-Statesman sports staff. Last year’s eventual CFP semifinalists were ranked Nos. 1, 5, 8 and 14 on our 2017 list.

Our Top 25 — so far:

No. 25: Texas is building — but are we there yet, are we there yet?

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No. 24: LSU has a tough schedule, questions at key spots

No. 23: Oregon welcomes a new coach — again and again and again

No. 22: Central Florida is out to go unbeaten (ahem, again)

No. 21: There’s a new coach, offense and direction for Florida State

No. 20: Their big names gone, USC is reloading … or is that rebuilding?

No. 19: For West Virginia, when there’s a Will there’s a way

No. 18: For Boise State, the Mountain West sky is the limit

No. 17: Mississippi State is breaking in a new head coach

No.16: Virginia Tech’s chances hinge on an up-and-down quarterback

No. 15: TCU has been the model of consistency, but there are 2018 concerns

Today’s team: No. 14 Stanford

The Cardinal’s best-case scenario: Bryce Love lives up to his billing as a Heisman Trophy front-runner and Stanford survives the first half of its schedule, which includes September meetings with USC, Oregon and Notre Dame.

Their worst-case scenario: What was an OK defense in 2017 can’t overcome the loss of three players to the NFL draft while quarterback K.J. Costello, who missed spring practices with a hip injury, struggles to beat teams that focus on stopping Love.

RELATED COVERAGE: Stanford football — a summer preview

RELATED COVERAGE: Stanford programs pull off the first Capital One Cup sweep

Inside the Cardinal

Coach: David Shaw (eighth year, 73-22)

2017: 9-5, 7-2 in the Pac-12 (lost to TCU 39-37 in the Alamo Bowl)

Returning starters: 9 offense, 6 defense

Goodbye: S Justin Reid (3rd, Texans); DT Harrison Phillips (3rd, Bills); TE Dalton Schultz (4th, Cowboys); QB Keller Chryst (Tennessee); OC Mike Bloomgren (Rice)

Spring cleaning: Ex-offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Mike Bloomgren left to become the head coach at Rice. The new “director of offense” is quarterbacks coach Tavika Pritchard, himself a former Stanford QB, and Kevin Carberry, formerly of the Washington Redskins and Dallas Cowboys, is coaching the offensive linemen. Stanford has two former Longhorns assistants on Shaw’s staff — defensive backs coach Duane Akina and receivers coach Bobby Kennedy. … The 15-member signing class was ranked 39th nationally by 247Sports’ composite ratings. The class was seventh in the Pac-12. … Top recruit and four-star signee Tanner McKee will serve a two-year mission before joining Stanford as a quarterback. … Chryst, who threw 144 passes last year, will join Tennessee as a graduate transfer.

K.J. Costello (3) congratulates Trenton Irwin (2) of the Stanford Cardinal after Irwin caught a touchdown pass thrown by Costello during their game against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Stanford Stadium on November 25, 2017 in Palo Alto, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Returning leaders

PASSING: K.J. Costello, 124-211-1,573, 14/4 (1st)

RUSHING: Bryce Love, 263-2,118-19 (1st); Cameron Scarlett, 91-389-8 (2nd)

RECEIVING: JJ Arcega-Whiteside, 48-781-9 (1st); Trenton Irwin, 43-461-2 (2nd); TE Kaden Smith, 23-414-5 (3rd)

TACKLES: ILB Bobby Okereke, 96 (3rd); ILB Jordan Perez, 66 (4th)

SACKS: ILB Bobby Okereke, 4 (2nd)

INTERCEPTIONS: FS Frank Buncom, 3 (2nd); FS Ben Edwards, 2 (T-3rd)

Returning All-Pac 12 players (8)

Offense: RB Bryce Love (1st team, offensive player of the year); OT Walker Little (hon. mention, co-freshman offensive player of the year);OG Nate Herbig (1st); WR JJ Arcega-Whiteside (hon. mention)

Defense: ILB Bobby Okereke (hon. mention)

Special teams: P Jake Bailey (2nd); RET Cameron Scarlett (hon. mention); K Jet Toner (hon. mention)

FYI

Another Heisman shot: Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield recorded a lopsided win in the race for last year’s Heisman Trophy, but Love finished second on the ballot. The only returnee among the top-five vote-getters, Love should be favored to win Stanford’s first Heisman since Jim Plunkett in 1970. Last year, Love inherited the Doak Walker Award from former Texas standout D’Onta Foreman and set a school record when he rushed for 2,118 yards. His 301 yards in a 34-24 victory over Arizona State is also a new Stanford standard.

Clearning a path for Love: Love will run behind some familiar faces as six returners on Stanford’s offensive line have logged at least six starts in their career. (Three have at least 19 starts). Senior fullback Reagan Williams also has appeared in 21 games over the past two seasons.

Shaw and Pop at the top: In seven seasons, Shaw (73-22 at Stanford) won 28 more games than his three predecessors did in nine years. Shaw and Pop Warner (71 wins from 1924-32) are the only coaches to win more than 70 games at Stanford.

2017 national rankings

Scoring: 38th (32.4 ppg) — right above No. 39 Kansas State, right behind No. 37 UCLA

Points allowed: T-34th (22.7 ppg) — tied with Florida Atlantic, right above No. 36 Minnesota, right behind Nos. 32 Army and Illinois

Passing: 98th (186.3 ypg) — right above No. 99 Alabama-Birmingham, right behind No. 97 UNLV

Rushing: 30th (202.4 ypg) — right above No. 31 Colorado State, right behind No. 29 Toledo

Total offense: 79th (388.6 ypg) — right above No. 80 Temple, right behind No. 78 Western Mighican

Total defense: 76th (405.1 ypg) — right above No. 77 Kent State, right behind No. 75 Massachussetts

Stanford Cardinal players run on to the field with “The Stanford Axe” after they beat the California Golden Bears 17-14 at Stanford Stadium on November 18, 2017 in Palo Alto, California. This year’s game, though, is at Cal. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

The schedule

DATEOPPONENTLAST YR'S RESULT (IF PLAYED)
Aug. 31 (8, FS1)San Diego StateL, 20-17
Sept. 8 (7:30, Fox)USC*L, 42-24
Sept. 15 (1, P12N)UC Davis
Sept. 22at Oregon*W, 49-7
Sept. 29 (6:30)at Notre DameW, 24-3
Oct. 6Notre DameW, 38-20
Oct. 18 (8, ESPN)at Arizona State*W, 34-24
Oct. 27Washington State*L, 24-21
Nov. 3at Washington*W, 30-22
Nov. 10Oregon State*W, 15-14
Nov. 17at Cal*W, 17-14
Nov. 24at UCLAW, 58-34
* Pac-12 game

Note: Stanford lost to USC again in the Pac-12 title game, 31-28

The key game: Nov. 3, at Washington. The Huskies have been a top 10 team the last two times that they’ve met Stanford and the teams have split those two games. A 30-22 decision in last year’s duel went to the Cardinal, a result that was notable when it came to the Pac-12’s championship game since Stanford and Washington ended up tied atop the conference’s North division. The Cardinal play on a Thursday, Friday and Saturdays this season.

The last 5 years

YEARW-L (CONF.)RANKINGSBOWL, RESULT
201311-3 (7-2)4th / 11thRose, L
20148-5 (5-4)11th / —Foster Farms, W
201512-2 (8-1)21st / 3rdRose, W
201610-3 (6-3)8th / 12thSun, W
20179-5 (7-2)14th / 20thAlamo, L
Total50-18 (33-12 Pac-12)3-2 in bowls

Note: Ranks are that year’s preseason/final ranking

Our Top 25, by conferences

3 schools:

Pac-12 — No. 14 Stanford, No. 20 USC, No. 23 Oregon

Big 12 — No. 15 TCU, No. 19 West Virginia, No. 25 Texas

2 schools:

ACC — No. 16 Virginia Tech, No. 21 Florida State

SEC — No. 17 Mississippi State, No. 24 LSU

1 school:

Mountain West — No. 18 Boise State

AAC — No. 22 Central Florida

Coming tomorrow: Our No. 13 team

Want a hint?

Texas once played this school on a Sunday.

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