Dr. Saturday’s Too Early Top 10: No. 9 Stanford Cardinal

The 2014 season might be eight months away, but it's never too early to start thinking about the teams that could challenge for the new College Football Playoff. This week, we'll count down Dr. Saturday's Top 10 teams for 2014. Past entries: No. 10: LSU

Stanford Cardinal
2013 record:
11-3, 7-2 Pac-12
Final AP ranking: 11

Bowl result: L. Michigan State 24-20 Rose Bowl

Top returners: QB Kevin Hogan, OT Cameron Fleming, WR Ty Montgomery

Top losses: RB Tyler Gaffney, LB Shayne Skov, LB Trent Murphy, OG David Yankey, C Khalil Wilkes, OG Kevin Danser, S Ed Reynolds

Overview: Stanford has become a stalwart in the Pac-12 and as long as coach David Shaw stays with the program that won’t be changing anytime soon. So, why is the Cardinal so low? Well, there are a few question marks for this team that probably won’t be cleared up until later this week and into spring football. At the time of this posting, offensive lineman Cameron Fleming had not decided whether he was going to enter the NFL draft. Two other members of that stout offensive line – Khalil Wilkes and Kevin Danser – have already run out of eligibility, and guard David Yankey announced Monday he was leaving early for the draft. If the Cardinal lose Fleming it will have to rebuild that line and replace its biggest backfield threat in running back Tyler Gaffney.

Stanford has the tools to do this. Thanks to recruiting, there are strong players waiting their turn to keep Stanford’s o-line its most dominant feature, but until those players are game-tested as starters, it’s difficult to make judgments on their potential performance.

If Stanford can maintain its smashmouth persona, that will take some pressure off quarterback Kevin Hogan, who was inconsistent at times this past season, but has the potential to give the Cardinal a credible (and consistent) passing threat.

Defensively, the Cardinal lose top linebackers Shayne Skov and Trent Murphy as well as safety Ed Reynolds. None of these players will be easy to replace. The linebacking corps was the heart-and-soul of the Cardinal defense and filling those holes will be a major priority this spring.

Still, Stanford, which has won back-to-back Pac-12 titles and been to four consecutive BCS bowls, has proven it has staying power and the Cardinal will continue to be considered one of the nation’s best teams until they prove otherwise.

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Graham Watson is the editor of Dr. Saturday on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email her at dr.saturday@ymail.com or follow her on Twitter!

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