2011 projections, game-by-game

As the kickoff of the 2011 season draws ever closer, it's time to assess the Cardinal's chances of getting back to the BCS in the most anticipated season in recent memory. Game by game, here's how 2011 might just shake out.

Sept. 3, San Jose State: WIN, 42-14
The Card comes out rolling in its home opener against the Spartans (though why they play the home opener three weeks before the students return to campus remains a mystery to me). Andrew Luck throws a touchdown apiece to Coby Fleener, Levine Toilolo and Zach Ertz before sitting out the second half. In a surprise move, David Shaw inserts Brett Nottingham to take over in the second, and the new heir apparent shines with a 200-yard passing performance.

Sept. 10, at Duke: WIN, 30-17
The cross-country trip and time difference make for a slow start, with the Blue Devils surging to an early 7-0 lead. However, Stepfan Taylor and Anthony Wilkerson quickly shake off the lethargy, pounding the Duke defense into submission with a pair of dominant performances. After three quick touchdowns, the Blue Devils attempt a comeback and narrow the gap to 21-17. However, the Card forces three turnovers in the fourth quarter, and three impeccable field goals from Jordan Williamson ensure that no phantom clipping call will decide this game.

Sept. 17, at Arizona: WIN, 45-28
In Stanford's first Pac-12 contest of the year, Arizona comes out thirsting for vengeance after last year's 42-17 Palo Alto beatdown. Though Nick Foles and Co. manage a little traction against the Stanford defense—particularly a front-seven still struggling to find the proper chemistry—Andrew Luck is his usual self, finding Chris Owusu for two scores early and never looking back. Freshman receiver Ty Montgomery has a breakout game, catching six passes for 105 yards and one touchdown.

Sept. 24, BYE WEEK

Oct. 1, UCLA: WIN, 28-21
A surprisingly competitive Bruins squad manages to hang with the Cardinal for most of the game, stunning just about everyone inside Stanford Stadium, including Rick Neuheisel himself. The UCLA quarterback platoon of Kevin Prince and Richard Brehaut keeps the Stanford defense on its toes, and Andrew Luck picks a bad time for a pedestrian day. With the game tied 21-apiece in the fourth quarter, veteran running back Jeremy Stewart takes the game into his own hands, bludgeoning the UCLA defense before punching it into the end zone with 30 seconds left on the clock for the game-winning score.

Oct. 8, Colorado: WIN, 51-7
After barely escaping UCLA, the Card welcomes new Pac-12 member Colorado to the Farm with something to prove. It shows early, as Chris Owusu breaks off one of his signature kickoff returns to quickly put Stanford on top. The offense keeps rolling against the Buffaloes, whose defense seems ill-suited to stop a Pop Warner squad. By the middle of the third quarter, the rout is on, and Luck is pulled in favor of Nottingham. Meanwhile, Terrence Stephens answers his post-UCLA critics with a monster day, pulling down Buffs quarterback Tyler Hansen for two sacks.

Oct. 15, at Washington State: WIN, 24-0
Though the Cougars have steadily improved, they continue to be the Pac-12 punching bag. Delano Howell and Johnson Bademosi play some of the best football of their careers in shutting down Marquess Wilson, while Shayne Skov and Chase Thomas make sure Coug quarterback Jeff Tuel is well acquainted with the turf. In a showcase game for Stanford's stable of running backs, Stepfan Taylor and Anthony Wilkerson each go over 100 yards, while Tyler Gaffney adds 50 more.

Oct. 22, Washington: WIN, 31-7
The Huskies come to Palo Alto looking for revenge after last year's beatdown in Seattle, only to be sent home with their tail tucked firmly in between their legs. Keith Price bears a striking resemblance to Jake Locker, putting up atrocious numbers against a swarming Stanford defense. Meanwhile, Luck gets to head off the field in the fourth quarter to a 31-0 lead. A late Washington pick-six against Brett Nottingham amounts to little more than window-dressing as the Card preps for the toughest part of its schedule.

Oct. 29, at USC: WIN, 17-14
In another closely contested battle, the Cardinal and the Trojans wage war back and forth all game long. While the matchup is expected to be a shootout between Andrew Luck and Matt Barkley, the game turns into a protracted defensive struggle, with the two teams combining for 11 punts. With under a minute left and Stanford pinned in its own territory, Anthony Wilkerson bursts through the line for a 37-yard gain, setting Jordan Williamson up for a game-winning 48-yard field goal. Williamson drills it, sending Stanford to its third straight victory in the Coliseum, and another win over USC by a last-second field goal.

Nov. 5, at Oregon State: WIN, 41-38 (OT)
Stanford gets caught looking ahead to its Nov. 12 matchup with Oregon and falls behind quickly in Corvallis, as Ryan Katz and James Rodgers pick apart the Stanford secondary with frightening precision. The Cardinal enters the locker room staring squarely at a 28-7 deficit. Then, Andrew Luck rallies the team back in the second half. Two Beaver interceptions and two Levine Toilolo touchdowns later, the score is tied at 35-apiece, sending the game to overtime. After the teams trade field goals, the Cardinal defense comes up with a critical stop when Shayne Skov blocks a Beaver field goal. With all eyes on Jordan Williamson, he delivers a second straight game-winning field goal, preserving Stanford's undefeated record.

Nov. 12, Oregon: LOSS, 48-37
For the second straight year, the Cardinal and the Ducks meet with big postseason implications. Unfortunately for Stanford fans, the result is the same as well. In an offensive shootout, the Stanford offense is simply unable to keep up with Oregon, which pulls away in the fourth quarter after a 21-21 halftime stalemate. The defensive front seven shoulders much of the blame, allowing Darron Thomas to escape Stanford Stadium with 175 rushing yards and nary a sack to his name.

Nov. 19, California: WIN, 35-0
Though some pundits predict a Cal upset after the demoralizing loss to Oregon, Stanford comes out firing on all cylinders against the Golden Bears, jumping out to a quick 21-0 lead. The defense then takes over, sacking Zach Maynard six times when all is said and done. Stanford holds onto the Axe for the second straight season, and Andrew Luck bolsters his campaign for the Heisman with a 300-yard, four-touchdown performance.

Nov. 26, Notre Dame: WIN, 31-28
In its last game of the season, the Cardinal looks more fatigued than anything else, with the Fighting Irish visit coming after eight straight weekends of football. Notre Dame quarterback Dayne Crist takes advantage of the gaps in the Stanford defense, and matches Andrew Luck and the Cardinal offense score for score. Stanford manages to eke out a slim three-point lead in the fourth quarter, but all looks lost when running back Jonas Gray punches the ball into the end zone for a touchdown. However, the play is called back on a holding penalty, and kicker David Ruffer sends the ball wide right on the Fighting Irish's game-tying field goal attempt. Stanford Stadium goes delirious as the Cardinal hold on to bring their regular season record to 11-1.

Bowl Game: Allstate Sugar Bowl
Stanford wins its second straight at-large bid to the Bowl Championship Series, after one-loss Oregon downs Arizona State in the Pac-12 Championship Game to earn the conference's spot in the Rose Bowl.

Final Record: 11-1
Pac-12 Record: 8-1

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