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:
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.
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.
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)
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
|DATE||OPPONENT||LAST YR'S RESULT (IF PLAYED)|
|Aug. 31 (8, FS1)||San Diego State||L, 20-17|
|Sept. 8 (7:30, Fox)||USC*||L, 42-24|
|Sept. 15 (1, P12N)||UC Davis|
|Sept. 22||at Oregon*||W, 49-7|
|Sept. 29 (6:30)||at Notre Dame||W, 24-3|
|Oct. 6||Notre Dame||W, 38-20|
|Oct. 18 (8, ESPN)||at Arizona State*||W, 34-24|
|Oct. 27||Washington State*||L, 24-21|
|Nov. 3||at Washington*||W, 30-22|
|Nov. 10||Oregon State*||W, 15-14|
|Nov. 17||at Cal*||W, 17-14|
|Nov. 24||at UCLA||W, 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
|YEAR||W-L (CONF.)||RANKINGS||BOWL, RESULT|
|2013||11-3 (7-2)||4th / 11th||Rose, L|
|2014||8-5 (5-4)||11th / —||Foster Farms, W|
|2015||12-2 (8-1)||21st / 3rd||Rose, W|
|2016||10-3 (6-3)||8th / 12th||Sun, W|
|2017||9-5 (7-2)||14th / 20th||Alamo, L|
|Total||50-18 (33-12 Pac-12)||3-2 in bowls|
Note: Ranks are that year’s preseason/final ranking
Our Top 25, by conferences
Pac-12 — No. 14 Stanford, No. 20 USC, No. 23 Oregon
Big 12 — No. 15 TCU, No. 19 West Virginia, No. 25 Texas
ACC — No. 16 Virginia Tech, No. 21 Florida State
SEC — No. 17 Mississippi State, No. 24 LSU
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.