Friday, June 30, 2006

2006 Spring Opponent Preview - Stanford Cardinal

Top player: Trent Edwards, QB (followed closely by his 2 receivers)
Make-or-break player: Trent Edwards, QB
Biggest offensive strength: Passing the Ball
Biggest offensive weakness: Running the Ball
Biggest defensive strength: Safety
Biggest defensive weakness: Everything else
Spring Depth Chart

Stanford's season last year was, well, an enigma. At the beginning of the year, it looked as if the Cardinal were bad. Really bad. I mean like Baylor, Duke, Kentucky bad. Worse, even. The lost to the University of California. No, not the Golden Bears from Berkeley - the Aggies from Davis, a Div. I-AA team.

Then they win 5 games, including a shootout against Arizona State and (in a flukey game) put a scare into the Irish - a top 5 football team - at the end of the season, losing in the last minute.

Walt Harris got his team turned around, and now this Stanford team reminds me of the Stanford teams under Willingham - good enough to get to a bowl game most years, with the occasional chance of biting a big program in the ass or gatting to a major bowl.

Their offense like much of the Pac-10, is a passing offense. Problem is, somebody forgot to tell Coach Harris that you're supposed to run the ball, too. Stanford finished last year 110th in rushing offense, with a pitiful 2.8 yard per carry average. Stanford's passing offense was respectable, but not great. This year should see the passing offense improve, with veteran signal caller Trent Edwards throwing to one of the better receiving duos in the country in Moore and Bradford. They'll put up points by the bushel if they can develop a rushing attack.

The big problem with Stanford winning is that their defense gives up points by the truckload. Returning safety Brandon Harrison is as good as they come, but he can only do so much. 105th in total defense, 89th in scoring defense, 110th in passing defense.

110th. The only team worse than the Cardinal at stopping the pass last year on our schedule was Purdue. Of course, 110th in the country in pass defense was better than three of their Pac-10 opponents in the pass-happy conference.

Because of that 110th ranking, no balance on offense, and the talent differential between the two teams, I expect the Irish to score twice for every Stanford score in a game that will finish something like 56-28 Irish.

9/2at OregonL
9/9at San Jose StateW
9/23Washington StateW
9/30at UCLAL
10/7at Notre DameL
10/21at Arizona StateL
11/4Southern CalL
11/11at WashingtonW
11/18Oregon StateW
12/2at CalL

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