USA TODAY Sports
WR Ty Montgomery
It might seem odd to see your two-time defending Pac-12 champions all the way down in the No. 3 spot. But the fact of the matter is that Stanford lost a ton of key playmakers and the road in 2014 is an uphill one.
There's a lot to like about David Shaw's team, however, so we'll get the negatives out of the way early.
The first and perhaps most important one comes from the program's bread and butter on offense: the running game. Khalil Wilkes, Cameron Fleming and David Yankey are all gone from an offensive line that simply mashed defensive fronts all season long.
In the backfield, fans will no longer be able to count on Tyler Gaffney or Anthony Wilkerson, although that's potentially a bittersweet situation given the talent waiting in the wings. Ty Montgomery is an absolute beast at wide receiver, and Devon Cajuste plays a decent Robin to Montgomery's Batman.
The key on offense will be allowing Kevin Hogan to become more of a playmaker and finding greater production out of the tight end position, which suffered greatly in 2013 after losing Levine Toilolo and Zach Ertz in the previous offseason.
On defense, you can expect more of the same from the Cardinal: tough, hard-nosed play that focuses on winning the line of scrimmage and never bending or breaking. Losing Shayne Skov, Trent Murphy, Ed Reynolds and Ben Gardner isn't ideal, but you have to believe Shaw will find a way to make things work.
All in all, this is a very dangerous team that should remain in every game because of its defense. However, with road trips to Oregon, Arizona State, UCLA and Notre Dame, surviving the season with only one loss is a difficult task.
The name of the game here is offense, and if the Cardinal can become a little more dynamic than in previous years, they'll have an excellent chance to win a third straight Pac-12 crown.