2011 Stanford Cardinal Football: Predictions for Every Game, Pac-12 Championship

Michael TierneyAnalyst IAugust 30, 2011

Stanford Cardinal

2011 Season Prediction: 12-1

Bowl Prediction: Rose Bowl

Top 120* Preseason Ranking: No. 7

Strength of Schedule: No. 49 


2010 Results: 12-1

Sacramento State - Won 52-17

at UCLA - Won 35-0

Wake Forest - Won 68-24

at Notre Dame - Won 37-14

at Oregon - Lost 31-52

USC - Won 37-35

Washington State - Won 38-28

at Washington - Won 41-0

Arizona - Won 42-17

at Arizona State - Won 17-13

at California - Won 48-14

Oregon State - Won 38-0

ORANGE BOWL: vs. Virginia Tech - Won 40-12


Quick Look: NFL Draft analysts believe Andrew Luck (Heisman finalist), to be the first overall pick. Two of the best linemen in the Pac-12 return to protect him, OT Jonathan Martin and OG David DeCastro. But Stanford has to replace three on the offensive line and that could be a concern.

Luck's two top receivers, Doug Baldwin and Ryan Whalen, departed; however, Chris Owusu and Griff Whalen will step right in to take their place. Luck's biggest targets, no pun intended, are his three big tight ends. Zach Ertz, Levine Toilolo and Coby Fleener are three of the best in college football. The defense loses two on the line, two at linebacker and two in the secondary, but their replacements are stout.

Offense: Five returning starters but two of the returners are out (weakness: offensive line). Key losses: Owen Marecic-FB, Ryan Whalen-WR, Doug Baldwin-WR, Konrad Reuland-TE, Andrew Phillips-OG, Chase Beeler-C, Derek Hall-OT, Nate Whitaker-K

Defense: Six returning starters, but one of those is out (weakness: defense). Key losses: Sione Fua-NT, Brian Bulcke-DE, Owen Marecic-ILB, Richard Sherman-CB, Austin Yancey-SS, Taylor Skaufel-FS, Thomas Keiser-OLB (NFL)



Coaching Carousel: Head coach Jim Harbaugh graduated to the 49ers. The system won't change since hiring was from within.

Schedule: Easy non-conference.





San Jose State at Stanford

Saturday, Sept. 3, 

Game Prediction: Win 

Stanford 55 – San Jose State 9

First things first. San Jose State does not have a chance, and it will be hard for Stanford to keep this game under a 50-point differential. San Jose State is one of the worst FBS teams, they are visiting one of the best and this is just a money game for them.


Sports Illustrated ranks Stanford just behind Oregon, Alabama and LSU in their May 24th rankings. Looking ahead to Nov. 12th, Oregon visits Stanford for a shocker, but this article is about the first week. Jim Harbaugh and other coaches are gone, however, last time I checked, I didn't see them on the field playing last season. The Cardinal have Andrew Luck, a great rushing attack and good replacement wide receivers. But Stanford will really utilize their experienced tight ends in their passing attack.


Stanford's defensive line will be a concern, but you can count on quarterback Luck, running back Stepfan Taylor, wide receiver Chris Owusu and tight ends Zac Ertz and Coby Fleener, to just outscore almost all of their opponents.

Stanford at Duke

Saturday, September 10, 

Game Prediction: Win

Stanford 42 - Duke 9


Last year, Tyrod Taylor (VT) beat Duke 44-7. Greg McElroy (AL) thumped Duke 62-13 in 2010. The Duke Blue Devils lose six starters on defense and that is going to show when they play a Cardinal team who may be ranked in the Top 10. Stanford was 12-1 last year while Duke was 3-9. Stanford wins big on ESPNU and Andrew Luck hits targets other than his tight ends all night long.


Stanford at Arizona

Saturday, September 17, 


Game Prediction: Win

Stanford 38 - Arizona 24

Last year Arizona lost at Stanford 42-17. Both teams lost a few good players to the NFL, and both teams return two of the best quarterbacks in the Pac-12. There will be plenty of offense in this game and both Andrew Luck and Nick Foles will throw for over 300 yards —each! Stanford still has a better ground attack. Stanford wins this Pac-12 matchup.



Week 4 Bye.


UCLA at Stanford

Saturday, Oct. 1, 

Game Prediction: Win

Stanford 35 - UCLA 6

UCLA quarterbacks Kevin Prince and Richard Brehaut combined for a passing attack ranked a dismal 116th (out of 120) in the nation. And they both return to continue to pursue the "pistol with more pass" guided by a whole new coaching staff.


The offensive line won't be any better this year, as the patched-up line has already lost starters Jeff Back to a broken ankle and Sean Sheller who broke his hand this spring. Most recently, guard Stan Hasiak was dismissed after being ruled academically ineligible for the third time in the last two years.  

This should be the year that coach Rick Neuheisel's best recruiting class of 2009 would have starting positions. But his five-star tight end Morrell Presley transferred, his four-star cornerback Marlon Pollard transferred, his four-star guard Xavier Su'a-Filo left for a Mormon mission, four-star quarterback Richard Brehaut has not panned out and now four-star guard Hasiak was booted out. Four-star wideout Randall Carroll, another recruiting flipper, is still on the team after multiple suspensions and academic issues.


The Bruins just can't catch a break between talented player departures, academic suspensions and being severely bitten by the injury bug (especially on the O-line) year-after-year. And 2011 is starting out the same way as last year. The Cardinal wins big and UCLA gasps at a third straight loss.

Colorado at Stanford

Saturday, Oct. 8th


Game Prediction: Win

Stanford 49, Colorado 10

The good news: Dan Hawkins is no longer with the Buffaloes. The bad news: Colorado has Stanford on the schedule (at Stanford). Rookie coach Jon Embree will learn that playing at the Cardinal is like playing at the Buckeyes.

Colorado lacks big-play guys like Stanford's Andrew Luck, Stepfan Taylor, Chris Owusu, Coby Fleener, Zach Ertz, Chase Thomas, Shayne Skov, Delano Howell, Michael Thomas, etc. The Buff's defensive line is capable, however, there are questions at linebacker and in the secondary. Colorado hasn't had a winning season in six years and, although they won't have one this year, it won't be six more years before they do. Stanford wins. Luck only plays three quarters. 



Stanford at Washington State

Saturday, Oct. 15

Game Prediction: Win

Stanford 42, Washington State 31


Last year, Stanford survived Jeff Tuel's three fourth-quarter touchdowns to beat the Cougars by 10 points. Yes, a win is a win...but a cellar-dweller playing a BCS game winner this close points to how tough games are in the Pac-12. Washington State can not be overlooked. 

This year, Tuel will turn a few heads with his passing performances. In fact, Washington State turnovers are really what helped Stanford to win the game last year. Washington State will have the home-field advantage, a better quarterback and the possibility of evening up their record with a win. On the other hand, Stanford has Andrew Luck, some great running backs and the best tight-ends in the conference. Even with the Cardinal coaching changes and the Cougars playing their hearts out, Stanford wins this game.   

Washington at Stanford

Saturday, Oct. 22,


Game Prediction: Win

Stanford 35, Washington 20


Last year at Husky Stadium, Stanford played Washington. Do you remember the score with the Huskies having home field? It was a Stanford 41-0 shellacking of Washington. Andrew Luck's leadership, ability, recognition, athleticism, etc., went a long way in winning that game.

Harbaugh's coaching played a big role too. The good news for Washington is that Harbaugh left for the NFL. The bad news for Washington is that Luck did not. This year Luck will have underestimated tight-end targets Coby Fleener and Zach Ertz on quick patterns and Chris Owusu deep. RB Stepfan Taylor and company will keep Washington's defense honest.

For Washington it will all be about RB Chris Polk, and that is what Stanford's linebackers (Thomas, Murphy, Skov and Bergen) will be waiting for. This is Chris Polk's black-and-blue year (not purple-and-gold). Stanford has success at home and wins with ease.


Stanford at USC

Saturday, Oct. 29, 

Game Prediction: Loss


USC 35, Stanford 24


This is one of the most important predictions of the season (OR/Stanford is the other one). Because these three teams, Oregon, Stanford and USC, are the most likely to win their Pac-12 divisions with reasonable odds (according to prognosticatorsPac-12 media and Vegas odds). The other teams in the Pac-12 are not nearly as close.

Offense: USC should have the best offensive line in the Pac-12. Stanford is in the middle of the Pac. Andrew Luck is a slightly better quarterback than Matt Barkley, but these two are the best quarterbacks in the Pac-12 (along with Darron Thomas). Stanford has the edge in tight ends, but USC has a bigger margin with wide receivers and running backs. Both offensive lines are replacing three, but USC is replacing with three more talented blockers.

Stanford's offensive line will be facing a much more daunting task in staving off USC's ravenous defensive line than USC's O-line will have to face against Stanford's unit. ESPN analysts are questioning Stanford with "Andrew Luck and who?" I don't buy that—Stanford will still score plenty of points. The offensive edge is going to USC by a small margin.

Defense: Both teams have a strong linebacking crew; however, Stanford will miss Thomas Keiser and Owen Marecic. USC's defensive line is superior to Stanford's, who recently lost Sione Fua and Brian Bulcke. Stanford also will be adjusting to new defensive coordinator Derek Mason, who replaced Vic Fangio when he followed Jim Harbaugh to the San Francisco 49ers. USC also has the edge in the secondary where Stanford will miss cornerback Richard Sherman. The defensive edge goes to USC by a medium margin. 



Coaching Staff: USC already went through the growing pains of adjusting to a new staff. Now it is Stanford's turn. This is a slight edge for USC.

Home field advantage: USC

Winner: USC by 11.

Stanford at Oregon State

Saturday, Nov. 5, 

Game Prediction: Win

Stanford 31, Oregon State 21

In 2009 Oregon State beat Stanford at home 38-28. Stanford, over-ranked in the Top 10 this year, travels back to Oregon State, probably over-ranked at 55th in the country, to show why Andrew Luck is much better than Ryan Katz. The Beavers will battle, but Stanford succeeds. Stanford tight ends Coby Fleener, Zach Ertz and Levine Toilolo will put on a show. These are the three best tight ends in the Pac-12, without a doubt.



Oregon at Stanford


Saturday, Nov. 12, 

Game Prediction: Win

Stanford 35, Oregon 27

Oregon travels to Stanford with both teams probably sporting 8-1 records overall. This game will determine the winner of the Pac-12 North. Oregon opened the season ranked No. 3 in the AP poll while Stanford came in at No. 7.

Auburn exposed Oregon’s offensive weakness against a strong defensive line and their defensive weakness against a short passing game and strong running attacks. LSU will do the same on Sept. 3.

As far as intangibles go, Oregon has the better coaching staff, whereas Stanford’s coaching staff has been revamped. There has been some continuity in the Stanford coaching turnover since much of the hiring was from within.

This will ease the coaching transition. In addition, their schemes will not be changing. Stanford will have home-field advantage.

Oregon’s off-the-field problems will continue, and will be a distraction, no matter what Chip Kelly or Oregon fans say. Now we know Darron Thomas is a stoner (unless you want to believe he doesn’t inhale while smoking out in cars speeding at 118 mph with his teammates), and this infers questionable integrity and leadership ability.



More importantly, his decision-making ability is clouded by marijuana (just a fact). He may end up like Jeremiah Masoli, who was a great quarterback for Oregon for some time, but he was also a stoner and lacked good decision-making ability. We have not heard the last of the existing problems, or future problems, for Oregon.

Leadership could be a question on Oregon’s team (other than the questionable integrity of Darron Thomas). Oregon did lose 21 seniors from last year's team. Scholarship juniors and seniors are hard to find on the practice field.

There are only 11 seniors on scholarship; however, there are 69 freshmen and sophomores on scholarship for the 2011 team. Leadership is not a question on Stanford.

Cornerback Cliff Harris will be back for the Ducks (assuming charges are dropped and there is not an NCAA investigation on the use of the vehicle). Oregon’s defensive line losses (DT Brandon Bair, DT Zac Clark, and DE Kenny Rowe), and linebacker losses of Casey Matthews and Spencer Paysinger, will impact the team.

The losses of CB Talmadge Jackson III (and suspension of Cliff Harris) hurt the secondary. There are quite a few causes for concern on Oregon’s team.


Stanford brings the best quarterback in college football to this meeting, as well as some of the best running backs in the Pac-12 (Stepfan Taylor, Anthony Wilkerson, Jeremy Stewart and Tyler Gaffney). Fullback Owen Marecic’s replacement, Ryan Hewitt, played in all 13 games last year and the Cardinal won’t miss a beat with Ryan.


“Hewitt, coming into spring, surprised a lot of fans,” Stepfan Taylor said. “Inside the team, we knew that he was just as good as Marecic…Hewitt came in as a tight end and is stepping up in the fullback position, where he has to go head to head against linemen and linebackers every time. That shows he loves the game.”

Stanford’s running game will be hard for Oregon to stop.

But Stanford’s strength will be quarterback Andrew Luck’s passing game. Especially to this three big tight end targets Coby Fleener, Levine Toilolo and Zach Ertz. These three are the best tight ends in the Pac-12 and will all be playing on Sundays.

In addition to them, wide receiver Chris Owusu returns and will be complemented by senior Griff Whalen. Yes, another Whalen will be giving Stanford opponents fits.

Stanford’s offensive line will be playing better together anchored by two of the best linemen in the Pac-12. LT Jonathan Martin and RG David DeCastro will be first-round picks in the NFL.


Center Sam Schwartzstein, LG Kevin Danser, and RT Tyler Mabry will progress to help form one of the best offensive lines in the Pac-12 (along with USC and Cal). Stanford will pass at will on Oregon.


The Ducks return quarterback Darron Thomas and running back LaMichael James on offense. They had several good backup running backs, but Lache Seastrunk announced that he is transferring in mid-August (recall he is related to the "Lyles/NCAA/Oregon" issue).

The Ducks will have to get by with tight end David Paulson after losing backup Curtis White and Brandon Williams to injuries. The Ducks will be very thin at tight end.Injuries had plagued the Ducks during fall camp and deteriorated their depth.

Those injuries included two wide receivers Blake Cantu and Josh Huff, which is another position that the Ducks were thin at. Last year’s senior wide receiver starters D.J. Davis and Jeff Maehl, graduated. The receiving corps will be a sore spot for Oregon all year long.

Oregon is replacing three starters on the offensive line. They are LT Bo Thran, center Jordan Holmes and RT C.E. Kaiser. Additionally, the backup center Max Forer graduated and Oregon lost two additional offensive linemen to medical retirement.

Center is the position that is giving Oregon the most trouble with early in the season, but it is assumed that these problems will be worked out by this November game.


Stanford has to replace a few linebackers and a few linemen this year, almost as many as Oregon. Stanford will be replacing nose tackle Sione Fua, DE Brian Bulcke, OLB Thomas Keiser and ILB Owen Marecic.


Just like Oregon, the replacements have seen quite a bit of playing time, but as I have said about Oregon, new guys are new guys, and Stanford’s front seven has mostly new guys.

Oregon’s running game will be hard for Stanford to stop. Oregon’s passing game out of the backfield will be strong, but their downfield passing game to wideouts and tight ends will see a drop off this year.

Both teams have issues on defense. Oregon's issues are bigger. Both teams have issues on offense. Oregon's issues are bigger. Only one team is having a bunch of off-the-field issues this year that will continue to manifest themselves in the form of losses (just like quietly losing five-star RB Lache Seastrunk out the back door). Only one team will win and it won't be Oregon.


Cal at Stanford

Saturday, Nov. 19, 


Game Prediction: Win

Stanford 42, Cal 28


California will have an impressive defense in 2011. Their offense will be developing. They will come into this game bowl-bound with nine wins. They will leave this game bowl-bound with 10 wins. Andrew Luck will show why he is the top quarterback in the 2012 NFL draft. WR Chris Owusu, WR Griff Whalen and TE Coby Fleener will all have big days. Stanford will win their 10th game.


Notre Dame at Stanford

Saturday, Nov. 26, 

Game Prediction: Win

Stanford 42, Notre Dame 13

This is still the same overrated Notre Dame team that lost to a lousy Tulsa team and a negligible Navy team. In fact, Notre Dame barely made it to a bowl game last year. The Irish will be exposed this year.



Pac-12 Championship Game

Arizona State at Stanford

Saturday, Dec. 3, 

Game Prediction: Win

Stanford 35, Arizona State 24



*The Top 120 Ranking is an average of four top college football team rankings for all 120 teams from east-coast online sources. Rival and Athlon are located in Tennessee, Presnapread.com is located in New York and the Sporting News is located in North Carolina.


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