To say the least, the tea leaves are unclear as we try to project Stanford football's future. The list of things we can say for certain is a short one, but regardless, it is clear that the Card have some issues they must work through.
Stanford's defense has allowed 13 total points in three games. That is by far the best in college football. Thanks mainly to a poor performance against USC and facing a run on every play but five against the Black Knights, Stanford's run defense sits at 60th in the country. The pass defense, singled out as a concern at the beginning of the year, currently sits at No. 1 in the country. The most likely scenario is that the pass defense regresses and the run defense solidifies, but the overall results have been sensational. Coach Duane Akina appears to be the acquisition of the season so far for Stanford, and the unit overall has proven to be worth more than the sum of its departed parts. The one thing Stanford is not doing is getting sacks, but again, given the style of play of its last two opponents, I'd argue it's difficult to accumulate sack numbers. SC has Kessler getting rid of the ball quickly on most plays, while Army only attempted five passes. Stanford will certainly want to amp up the pressure, but remember, against many spread teams, it's not always about penetration in the backfield, but gap integrity and staying at home. We'll see if Stanford's D is able to turn the corner and get both against an opponent this year.
Kevin Hogan is a Shiny Golden God
- His 9.5 yards per attempt is 15th in the nation and third amongst Pac-12 quarterbacks.
- He has seven touchdowns and only 1 interception.
- His 73% completion rate is sixth best in all of college football.
- Third and short was a problem area, but this year he's 2-of-2 with a TD. (Small sample size alert!)
Kevin Hogan is the Anti-Chryst. Bring on the
- Hogan put two passes in the hands of Army defenders, and a number of his completions required Olympic-level contortions from his receivers.
- His yards per attempt have decreased in every game.
- It's not clear how well he is doing in terms of moving through progressions and pre-snap reads. He himself mentioned that he was having no problem in this area.
- "He" is 0-2 against USC.*
*I put this in to make the point that it's
ridiculous to evaluate a quarterback on wins and losses as if
he is solely responsible for the outcome of the game.
Hogan had a key role in both defeats to be sure, but
it'd be just as wrong to condemn him solely for those losses
as it'd be to build him a statue for being 10-0 against ranked
teams to start his career.
Sanders, Young, and McCaffrey looked far better running between the tackles against Army than they had previously, and that's understandable. Stanford came out in the second half and in a drive we'll examine later during the week, the Cardinal's seventh drive was a #TBS (throwback Saturday) to its recent glory days of power. Running primarily between the tackles, Stanford matriculated the ball down the field with surprising ease. Even if you take away Sanders' 44-yard run, he still averaged six yards a carry on his previous eight touches. The play of Stanford's line has been under great scrutiny for obvious reasons (Shaw-perbole and the penalty-stained egg laid against ‘SC) but for one drive against an undersized opponent, they began to resemble the Tunnel Workers of Yore. The interior of the line, Garnett, Schuler, and Caspers, have had real struggles at times. Coach Shaw sounded relieved when discussing this particular drive, as if he'd been reacquainted with an old friend. Saturday in Seattle it will be interesting to see what Stanford's two weeks off yields in terms of running game philosophy, execution, and performance. With the return of Remound Wright (who feels like he's perpetually returning from something), carry allocation will again be something to track. As of this moment, Stanford has the nation's 75th ranked rushing offense at 158 yards per game. That's right above their opponent in two weeks, by the way. They are averaging 4.6 yards per carry. Just as a comparison, they averaged 4.97 last year and 4.44 in 2012.
Receivers and Formation Tendency
One formation has emerged so far, and it's a strong indication of the adaptation made by the coaches to move towards the talent it feels it has. Three wide, one TE, and one back has become virtually Stanford's base formation. The rationale is sound in terms of personnel, but the question is whether or not Stanford can be a balanced team out of this formation. One of the problems with the ogre and the five-wide sets are that they are clear indicators of intent prior to the snap. Hogan seems comfortable dealing out of this formation, and it's proven to be a great set for reintegrating the tight ends and opening things up for Stanford's wide receiver core. Fittingly, it's top four pass catchers are three receivers and a tight end. All four are averaging over 11 yards a reception and 14 different players have caught a pass for Stanford. The Battle for Stanford's Offensive Soul should be ongoing for the next couple of weeks and Stanford's formation allegiance is a good indicator of which way the wind is blowing on any particular day.
Red Zone Report
Against Army, the Cardinal was 3-3 in the Red Zone, and used two passes and a run to score it's three touchdowns. The back-to-back fades to Cajuste were particularly peculiar. I wonder about the thought process that went into coming right back to Devon? Did he ask for it? That play has been a source of consternation for both fans of the Cardinal and the 49ers. If you have a physical advantage that you like, it seems tempting. It's also a safe pass (except for Colin Kaepernick), meaning it's highly unlikely to end up in a turnover. However, it requires a receiver who can win those battles consistently and a quarterback who has an expert touch and timing. So....yeah. I also tend to think it's a give-up play of sorts, in that it's "safe" but also is really only necessitating one defensive player to do his job to disrupt it. The pass rush is irrelevant, as are the other pass defenders. There's no read involved for the quarterback. It'd be great to know just how successful this play has been for Stanford, because anecdotally it seems regularly ineffective. Overall on the season, Stanford has scored 6 Touchdowns in 14 attempts in the Red Zone, "good" for 112th out of 128 teams. This was undoubtedly a priority during Mini-Camp 2.0, so we'll see if the only red is on the faces of Stanford fans when the Cardinal breaches UW's 20 this Saturday.
Up in Balcony 233 With Stadler and Waldorf
There's a lot of wisdom in the upper regions of the sunny side of Stanford Stadium. A fortunate few are within shouting distance of two golden-domed ex-Stanford linebackers. All comments are Tonga Juice-fueled and derived from decades of playing and watching Stanford Football, as well as the wisdom best illustrated by knowing the only open bar within convenient driving distance of Stanford Stadium that opens at 9 AM. Direct all comments/Fan Mail to Chuck Taylor Grove.
- "Noor Davis Plays on Roller Skates."
- "Not sure if Martinez is physical enough to play the run consistently."
- "If The Squid (Kalambayi) keeps playing this well, he may get some ink."
- "The only two words you need to survive married life are
Are you fully subscribed to The Bootleg? If not, then you are missing out on all the top Cardinal coverage we provide daily on our award-winning website. Sign up today for the biggest and best in Stanford sports coverage with TheBootleg.com (sign-up)!