October 6, 2012; Stanford, CA, USA; Stanford Cardinal free safety Ed Reynolds (29) and inside linebacker Shayne Skov (11) celebrate after outside linebacker Chase Thomas (44) intercepted a pass against the Arizona Wildcats in overtime at Stanford Stadium. The Cardinal defeated the Wildcats 54-48. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Pac-12 Football Preview: North No. 2 Stanford Cardinal


Jan 1, 2013; Pasadena, CA, USA; Stanford Cardinal head coach David Shaw celebrates following the 20-14 victory against the Wisconsin Badgers during the 2013 Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Pac-12 Season Preview Series

North:

3. Washington

4. Oregon State

5. California

6. Washington State

South:

1. Arizona State

2. USC

3. UCLA

4. Arizona

5. Utah

6. Colorado

2012 record:11-2 (8-1 Pac-12)Key returnees:QB Kevin Hogan, DE Ben Gardner, LB Shayne Skov, OG David Yankey

Key departures: TE Zach Ertz, DT Terrence Stephens, RB Stepfan Taylor, LB Chase Thomas

Key additions: QB Ryan Burns (Stone Bridge HS/Ashburn, Va.), DE Austin Hooper (De La Salle HS/Concord, Calif.), WR Francis Owusu (Oaks Christian HS/Westlake Village, Calif.)

2012 season recap:

Stanford once again rode its defense last season. This time, it took the Cardinal to the Rose Bowl. If not for a loss at Washington, the Cardinal would have gone undefeated in Pac-12 play, including two consecutive wins versus UCLA and a road win versus Oregon. David Shaw has proven to be one of the best coaches in college football after taking over for another great one in Jim Harbaugh.

It’s possible that Stanford would have gone undefeated last season if Shaw had Kevin Hogan under center all season. In each of the Cardinal’s two losses, Josh Nunes had less-than-spectacular performances, throwing three interceptions, zero touchdowns and completing less than half of his passes in the two games combined. Now that Hogan will be starting the full season, with half a season of experience under his belt already, he’ll have to deal with the same type of expectations Keith Price dealt with going into his second season starting.

2013 season preview:

The Cardinal will now be asked to repeat. And despite losing tons of talent, they have a real shot, too. Big things will be asked of Hogan in his second season as the Cardinal work on finding replacements for Zach Ertz in the passing game and Stepfan Taylor in the running game. The defense will be solid, as always, and a team coached by David Shaw will be a well-coached team. There isn’t a lot not to like about the Cardinal, except that they have to compete with Oregon for a conference title.

The top showdown in the Pac-12 will come November 7, when the Cardinal host the Ducks in Stanford Stadium – expect a larger crowd than normal, maybe even half the stadium! Jokes aside, it will likely determine which team represents the North in the Pac-12 Championship Game. The Cardinal surely have October 5 circled on the calendar as well, when the Huskies come to town. They’ll want to revenge last season’s only conference defeat. Anything less than another BCS bowl appearance will leave the team and fans unhappy, but in the ultra-competitive Pac-12, they’ll have to work for it, like everyone else.

2013 predicted finish: 10-2 (7-2 Pac-12), second in the Pac-12 North

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