By Jeff Hauser @radiohauser on August 26, 2014
The Associated Press No. 11 ranked Stanford Cardinal enters the 2014 season as the defending Pac-12 champions. Stanford went 11-3 in 2013 including a tie for the best record in the Pac-12 with the Oregon Ducks at 7-2. The Cardinal will look to bounce back after finishing the season with a loss in the Rose Bowl to the Michigan State Spartans 24-20. Here are five questions the Stanford Cardinal need to answer entering the 2014 season.
The Cardinal defense will have holes to fill this season after losing LBs Shayne Skov and Trent Murphy, who were the core of the Cardinal defense. It will be tough to replace the production of Murphy, who lead the nation in sacks last season with 13. Senior A.J. Tarpley has looked good at linebacker in the spring, but must step up as the leader of the Cardinal's defense under new defensive coordinator Lance Anderson.
Stanford looks to defend their Pac-12 championship with the potential of a 3-peat this season. This might be the toughest season the Cardinal has faced in years due to the much improved quarterback competition in the Pac-12. Stanford is scheduled to play six top 25 teams with their only home game coming against the No. 15 USC Trojans on Sept. 6. The Cardinal will need a complete team effort to compete in the Pac-12 this season.
The Pac-12 conference is stocked full of talented quarterbacks with, 10 of them being named on the Davey O' Brien watch list, including Stanford's Kevin Hogan. There's still many who believe that Hogan makes common mistakes and has yet to show his true potential under center for the Cardinal. In an offensive aggressive conference, Hogan must prove himself as an elite by reducing the amount of interceptions and becoming a defensive-minded QB.
The biggest test for the Stanford Cardinal this season is their schedule on the road. With five of their six road games against No. 25 Washington Huskies, No. 17 Notre Dame Fighting Irish, No. 19 Arizona State Sun Devils, No. 3 Oregon Ducks and No. 7 UCLA Bruins, they must take care of business for a successful season. This will make or break their hopes for possible a national championship run and a third consecutive Pac-12 championship.
Head coach David Shaw has lead the Stanford to three consecutive BCS bowl game appearances and back-to-back Pac-12 conference championships. Despite being in contention, the Cardinal has yet to play for a national championship. Could this be the year that David Shaw takes his team to the next level? A lot of good luck with all the pieces falling will be needed for Stanford to be part of the first ever four-team playoffs.
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