With the loss of Andrew Luck to the NFL, Stanford offense has taken a big hit and is not going to be able to get nearly the same level of production from Brett Nottingham and Josh Nunes, the two quarterbacks in the front running for the starting job.
There is, however, a reason for Cardinal fans to breathe a sigh of relief. That reason is running back Stepfan Taylor, who rushed for 1,330 yards and 10 touchdowns last season.
This year, the senior back is going to have an even better year than last. Despite a weaker offensive line and more focus upon the running game with Luck gone, Taylor will continue to excel and surpass his yardage and touchdown totals from last season.
This article will predict how well Stepfan Taylor will do in each game on the Cardinal’s schedule.
Last year, San Jose State gave up over 200 rushing yards per game against the weaker Western Athletic Conference. Despite that, Taylor only managed to rush for 61 yards on 18 carries; he also made two receptions for 17 yards.
This season’s game will be different for Taylor. Since Stanford will just be breaking in a new quarterback, the offense will likely rely more on Stepfan. Furthermore, with another year of experience under his belt, he will likely perform better with the carries that he is given.
Taylor will also start off the season as a nice checkdown target for their new quarterback, which should get him at least three catches for the game.
16 Carries, 130 yards and two touchdowns.
Three receptions, 24 yards.
Like San Jose State, Duke has a pretty bad run defense. They allowed over 180 yards per game on the ground last season and don’t look like they will be too much better this year.
Against Duke last season, Taylor was pretty average. He rushed for 75 yards on 14 carries, which is not bad. He should, however, be able to do much better this season against a team that is in the bottom of its conference defensively.
Stanford also scored 44 points against Duke last season, which gives a good indication that Stepfan will score at least two touchdowns in the game.
18 carries, 163 yards and two touchdowns.
Two receptions, 21 yards.
USC is the first team that the Cardinal face with a solid defense. Last season against USC, Taylor was held to 99 yards on 23 carries, which was a season high in attempts for him.
The reason that Taylor will not carry the ball as many times is that last season’s game went into triple overtime, and it’s hard to assume that this one will as well.
USC has a solid rushing defense, which is returning a lot of starters. It is also very likely that Stanford will move to a passing attack quickly in this game in an effort to try and keep up with Matt Barkley and Robert Woods.
The upside of that is that more passing will probably result in more catches for Taylor.
17 carries, 66 yards and one touchdown.
Four receptions, 22 yards.
Last season, Taylor had a very big game against Washington and will likely have another. Stepfan totaled 138 yards on only 10 carries and averaged an amazing 13.8 yards per carry.
Washington has a very mediocre run defense which will allow Taylor to have another big day against them, although it is unlikely he will match his performance in last year's game.
Because this game most likely won’t be close, I suspect that the coaches will use their second running back Tyler Gaffney more in this game, which will cut down Taylor’s carries. Despite that, Stepfan should have another great day against the Huskies.
15 carries, 124 yards and one touchdown.
One reception, eight yards.
Another one of Stepfan’s big games last year came against Arizona when he rushed for 153 yards on 22 carries, and just like last season, he is going to have a good performance when they meet this year.
Arizona allowed over 160 rushing yards per game last season, good for fourth worst in the Pac-12. This defense will likely not put up too much of a fight against Taylor.
It will also help that the offensive line, one that is going to rely on several young players, will have had several games to jell together before this game, which will be a great benefit to Taylor.
18 carries, 135 yards and one touchdown.
Two receptions, 30 yards.
Notre Dame has a really large, run stopping defensive line, which is going to spell problems for Taylor and Stanford when these two teams meet.
The line is also backed up by LB Manti Te’o, who had 12.5 tackles for loss last season, along with a strong LB core.
Last season, Taylor rushed for 118 yards on 20 carries against Notre Dame, but there is no way that he is going to have the same success against them this year. This is going to be the one game of the season in which he really struggles to find any success.
15 carries, 70 yards.
Last year, Taylor had a terrible day against Cal with only 45 yards on 17 carries. Since then Cal has lost five defensive starters and is full of unproven but talented players.
This contest could definitely go either way, since those players may have found their talent this far into the season. Overall, I believe that he will have an average game against Cal, but nothing special.
It also may be around the time that Stanford really tries out its new quarterback and allows him to try to win the game, which would give Taylor less carries.
13 carries, 115 yards and one touchdown.
Two receptions, 15 yards.
Simply put, this Washington team is extremely poor defensively. Its main weakness is run defense, and they are also full of unproven, young talents.
This is a team that also allows a lot of points, including two games last season in which opposing teams scored over 65 points on them.
That means that Taylor is likely to score a few touchdowns. There is the chance that the big D-line of Washington State could step up, but it does not look likely.
18 carries, 178 yards and two touchdowns.
Even though Colorado gave up a lot of rushing yards last year, Taylor had one of his worst games against them.
This year, however, it’ll be different. While Colorado has a lot of promising players, especially defensive linemen, Taylor will likely be finishing strong around this time, as he will be looking at the draft.
This game could either be a really good game for Taylor or another stinker like last year. I believe, however, that he will finish with a high amount of yards.
21 carries, 163 yards.
Three receptions, 25 yards.
Oregon State gave up the most rushing yards of any Pac-12 team last year.
This year, it looks like the Beavers will again have good defensive ends but will struggle at tackle, which spells problems for their run defense.
Last season, Taylor had 95 yards on only 13 carries. While he did not end up with too many yards, he was not given the ball very often. This year, Taylor will be featured more frequently in the game and will have no problem running all over them.
18 carries, 148 yards and two touchdowns.
Two receptions, 15 yards.
One of Oregon’s strengths is its defensive tackles, which gives them run stopping ability. That should be able to slow Taylor considerably.
Oregon also runs an uptempo style, which may force Stanford to match and throw a lot of passes. That did not happen last year, as Taylor rushed 23 times, but it is always a threat with Oregon.
If Stanford sticks to the run, Taylor will still only have a pedestrian game against a strong D-line. He will still likely have some success catching the ball.
17 carries, 93 yards and two touchdown.
Four receptions, 9 36 yards.
While Taylor will have a very good yard per carry average in this game, Stanford may hold him from carrying the ball too many times as it will hopefully be looking forward to a bowl game and the Pac-12 championship.
Still, UCLA was ranked second to last in rushing yards allowed last season, and while they return most of the line from last year, that unit has yet to accomplish anything so we cannot say that it is good.
It’s possible that this UCLA unit could prove problematic for Taylor by the last game of the season if it reaches its full potential. Still, Stepfan should be able to have a good day without carrying the ball too many times.
16 carries, 145 yards and one touchdown.
Three receptions, 30 yards.