UW Football: Who will challenge for the Pac-12 North crown?

PULLMAN, WA - NOVEMBER 25: Chico McClatcher
PULLMAN, WA - NOVEMBER 25: Chico McClatcher /
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SOUTH BEND, IN – OCTOBER 15: Craig Jones
SOUTH BEND, IN – OCTOBER 15: Craig Jones /

The case for Stanford

Stanford’s 2016 season was a confusing one. The Cardinal finished 9-3 in the regular season and defeated North Carolina in the Hyundai Sun Bowl.

Stanford downed USC and UCLA in the early stages of the season, but dropped its next three conference contests to escape the championship picture. The three game slide began in Seattle, when a top 10 matchup saw Washington trample the Cardinal, 44-6.

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Momentum, however, is on Stanford’s side. The Cardinal finished the year on a six game win streak and ranked 12th in the AP Poll. The preseason Coaches’ Poll slots Stanford in at 14th in the nation.

Mixed bag

When looking more closely at Stanford’s last six games, the streak seems less impressive. The combined conference records of the last four Pac-12 teams that Stanford defeated was 9-27.

The Cardinal closed out the year by blowing out Rice, and finally played some stronger competition in North Carolina.

Stanford has plenty of holes to fill after losing running back Christian McCaffrey and defensive end Solomon Thomas, amplified by a scary quarterback situation. Although the Cardinal defense should return to its dominant ways, the offense makes a Stanford championship seem unlikely.