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Alabama, Clemson should reign supreme over CFB once again
5:35 | College Football
Alabama, Clemson should reign supreme over CFB once again
SI Staff
Tuesday August 9th, 2016

Team breakdown

Offense

Key returning starters: RB Christian McCaffrey​, WR Michael Rector, LT Casey Tucker

Everyone knows what McCaffrey, a junior, can do (in summation: everything, as evidenced by his 3,864 all-purpose yards in 2015), but look for sophomore back Bryce Love (29 carries for 226 yards and two touchdowns in 2015) to put up big numbers this season, too. Coach David Shaw plans to put them in the backfield together. Stanford loves its tight ends, which means it’s Dalton Schultz’s turn to shine.

Defense

Key returning starters: DE Solomon Thomas, LB Peter Kalambayi, CB Alijah Holder

In the revolving door that is Stanford defensive stars, senior Thomas (10.5 TFL in 2015) steps forward as the one who will anchor the Cardinal’s line. No more Blake Martinez means junior Kalambayi (52 tackles in 2015) needs a big uptick in production. Shaw is excited about the return of senior safety Zach Hoffpauir, who took 2015 off to play minor league baseball.

Superlatives

Leader in rushing: McCaffrey. You’ve seen him play, right?

Leader in receiving: Rector. McCaffrey is the Cardinal’s leading returning receiver, but he needs a break occasionally.

Leader in tackles: Thomas. He covers ground remarkably quickly with his huge frame. ​

Leader in interceptions: CB Quenton Meeks. He led the team in 2015 with three, and he’ll get on the field a lot as a nickelback. 

Opposing coach's take

“People try to make a big deal about them breaking in a new quarterback, but even with the new guy, likely Keller Chryst, they’re going to be damn good. With young QBs you don’t know what you’re going to get until they start playing—but you could have also said that before Andrew Luck took over. Chryst has such a big, strong arm, and he’s really athletic, too. They’ve got a great offensive line and a great back in Christian McCaffrey, so they’re not going to have to rely on Chryst to sling it. He’ll have time to get adjusted.

McCaffrey, he’s just awesome. He has everything: really good change of direction, good speed; he’s a complete football player. It doesn’t matter that everyone knows he’s going to get the ball. Really, it makes the play-action game so much scarier because if they can run, that’s when you see those big throws go over the top. And as a returner he solves a lot of problems. You can pretty much count on him bringing back a kick for a touchdown every few tries, and it’s like, Oh, crap, can we at least try to not kick it toward him?

Defensively, it’s wrong to say that they don’t have talent. Those dudes play so, so hard, and they’re so well-coached. They’ve been outstanding over the last four to five years because they’re so big and physical. Really, they’re the only ones who have solved the Oregon riddle consistently. They’re a nightmare because they’re not going to beat themselves.” 

Icon Sportswire via AP Images

Freakiest athlete

Most human beings who check in at 6' 3" and 273 pounds cannot broad-jump 10' 2", run a 40-yard dash in 4.56 seconds and record a vertical of 34 inches. Solomon Thomas, a senior defensive lineman, can. He also boasts just 8.1% body fat and does 30 reps bench-pressing 225 pounds. He had 10.5 tackles for loss last year (with 3.5 sacks). You don’t want him chasing you in the backfield. It will not end well. 

Key numbers

9: Passes thrown by now sophomore quarterback Keller Chryst, who’s the favorite to start. Five were completions.

34.0: The Cardinal’s average time of possession (in minutes) last season, tops in the country. 

323: Difference in yards between Rocket Ismail’s three-season total at Notre Dame (4,187) and Christian McCaffrey’s total as a sophomore in ’15 (3,864). 

10: Starts for junior tight end Dalton Schultz, who has already been named to the John Mackey Award watch list. 

36.3%: Third-down conversion rate of Stanford opponents last year, 45th best in the FBS. 

Schedule

Date Opponent
Sept. 2 Kansas State
Sept. 17 USC
Sept. 24 at UCLA
Sept. 30 at Washington
Oct. 8 Washington State
Oct. 15 at Notre Dame
Oct. 22 Colorado
Oct. 29 at Arizona
Nov. 5 Oregon State
Nov. 12 at Oregon
Nov. 19 at Cal
Nov. 26 Rice

Top 25 rankings

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