Sure, it’s July. But it’s never too early to talk college football. Here’s your daily fix — our countdown of the preseason Top 25, as selected by the American-Statesman sports staff. Last year’s CFP semifinalists were ranked Nos. 1, 2, 7 and 17 on our 2016 list.
Today’s team: No. 16 Stanford (Related coverage: Stanford quarterback K.J. Costello is happy to share some knowledge)
Best-case scenario: Quarterback Keller Chryst, who led the Cardinal to five straight victories to end the 2016 regular season, returns at full-strength from his knee injury suffered in the Sun Bowl. He’s expected back by the season opener. And there are high expectations for junior running back Bryce Love. Stanford, which has won at least 10 games in five of the last six years, should be in the Rose Bowl hunt.
Worst-case scenario: Even with the roster of talent, it becomes hard to replace running back Christian McCaffrey and defensive end Solomon Thomas, both first-round draft picks. They provided experience and leadership. If they can’t be replaced, the Cardinal should benefit from a relatively light non-conference schedule (Rice, San Diego State and Notre Dame) — but bigger challenges will loom from the Pac-12.
The key game: Nov. 10, Washington. The winner will have the inside track for the Pac-12 North title. Washington stunned the Cardinal last year, 44-6.
INSIDE THE CARDINAL
Coach: David Shaw (seventh year, 64-17)
2016: 10-3, 6-3 in the Pac-12 (beat North Carolina 25-23 in the Sun Bowl)
Returning starters: 5 offense, 7 defense
Goodbye: RB Christian McCaffrey (Panthers, 1st round), DE Solomon Thomas (49ers, 1st), WR Michael Rector (Lions, undrafted free agent), WR Francis Owusu (Dolphins, UFA), K Conrad Ukropina, S Dallas Lloyd, LB Noor Davis
Spring cleaning: The most significant change to the coaching staff is the addition of running backs coach Ron Gould, who spent the previous four years as head coach for UC Davis. Prior to Davis, Gould spent 16 years as an assistant at Cal. … Junior Jesse Burkett has been nominated for the Rimington Trophy, given to the nation’s top center. … The Cardinal’s signing class ranked 14th nationally, led by three five-star prospects, including a pair of offensive tackles. One of those was Houston Bellaire Episcopal’s Walker Little.
Passing: Keller Chryst, 77-136-905, 10/2 (2nd)
Rushing: Bryce Love, 111-783-3 (2nd)
Receiving: Trenton Irwin, 37-442-1 (1st)
Tackles: SS Justin Reid, 57 (3rd)
Sacks: DT Harrison Phillips, 6.5 (2nd); LB Joey Alfieri, 5 (3rd)
RETURNING ALL-CONFERENCE PLAYERS (8)
Offense: RB Bryce Love (honorable mention), TE Dalton Schultz (hon. men.), ST Brandon Simmons (hon. men.)
Defense: LB Joey Alfieri (hon. men.), P Jake Bailey (hon. men.), CB Quenton Meeks (hon. men.), DT Harrison Phillips (hon. men.), SS Justin Reid (hon. men.)
Replacing McCaffrey: Stanford’s primary mission this spring was to find a replacement for McCaffrey, the record-breaking running back who was taken in the first round of the NFL draft. Shaw may have found his replacement in Love, who averaged 7.4 yards per carry last season and ran for 115 yards in the Sun Bowl victory.
Getting a leg up: The team’s list of outstanding kickers over the years might continue with the addition of Jet Toner, a freshman from Honolulu. Toner ending the spring game by drilling a 47-yard field goal. He also converted kicks from 42 and 40 yards. He replaces Ukropina, who connected on 22 of 27 FGs as a senior, his longest from 52 yards.
Questions at quarterback: Chryst will not see much action in the summer while recovering from his knee injury, but Shaw believes the cupboard is filled with capable backups. Ryan Burns has some starting experience and took over for Chryst in the Sun Bowl win over North Carolina, and redshirt freshman K.J. Costello was one of the top quarterbacks in the 2016 signing class.
|DATE||OPPONENT||LAST YR'S RESULT (IF PLAYED)|
|Aug. 26||Rice (Australia)||W, 41-17|
|Sept. 9||at USC*||W, 27-10|
|Sept. 16||at San Diego State|
|Sept. 23||UCLA*||W, 22-13|
|Sept. 30||Arizona State*|
|Oct. 7||at Utah*|
|Oct. 14||Oregon*||W, 52-27|
|Oct. 26||at Oregon State*||W, 26-15|
|Nov. 4||at Washington St.*||L, 42-16|
|Nov. 10||Washington*||L, 44-6|
|Nov. 18||Cal*||W, 45-31|
|Nov. 25||Notre Dame||W, 17-10|
|* Pac-12 game|
The last 5 years
|YEAR||W-L (CONF.)||RANKING||BOWL GAME|
|TOTAL||53-15 (36-10)||4-1 in bowls|
|2012||12-2 (8-1)||21st/7th||W Rose|
|2013||11-3 (7-2)||4th/11th||L Rose|
|2014||8-5 (5-4)||11th/NR||W Foster Farms|
|2015||12-2 (8-1)||21st/3rd||W Rose|
|2016||10-3 (6-3)||8th/12th||W Sun|
Note: Ranks are that year’s preseason/final ranking
2016 NATIONAL STAT RANKS
Scoring: 83rd (26.3 ppg)
Points allowed: 18th (20.4 ppg)
Passing: 115th (158.2 ypg)
Rushing: 35th (208.9 ypg)
Total off.: 103rd (367.1 ypg)
Total def.: 38th (368.1 ypg)
OUR TOP 25 SO FAR
No. 25: Boise State
No. 24: Oregon
No. 23: Tennessee
No. 22: Texas
No. 21: Kansas State
No. 20: Miami
No. 19: West Virginia
No. 18: South Florida
No. 17: Florida
No. 16: Stanford
No. 15: Coming Saturday. Want a hint? Since 2000, this is the only school that’s won a BCS bowl game, made it to both the NCAA men’s and women’s Final Fours, and to the College World Series.
Big 12 (19-West Virginia, 21-Kansas State, 22-Texas)
Pac-12 (16-Stanford, 24-Oregon)
SEC (17-Florida, 23-Tennessee)
AAC (18-South Florida)
Mountain West (25-Boise State)
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