15. Stanford Cardinal
Last year: 10–3 (6–3 Pac-12); Beat North Carolina in Sun Bowl
SI Top 100 players: One (CB Quenton Meeks)
Player you need to know: Stanford has had a terrific run of tight ends, and the 6' 6", 242-pound senior Dalton Schultz is the next in the pipeline. Expect a jump from last season’s 23 catches for 222 yards and one touchdown as the big target helps boost an offense that dropped from 30th in the nation in red zone TD percentage in 2015 to No. 123 in ’16. “Our desire for Dalton was to be that complete NFL tight end. And that’s what he’s becoming,” says Stanford coach David Shaw. “As we stabilize the offensive line and quarterback positions, he’s one of the guys I think is going to benefit and really have a breakout year. And it won’t just be statistically. He’s one of those guys that you’re going to see play on Sundays.”
Path to the playoff: Stanford visits USC (Sept. 9) early, but the key games are at Washington State (Nov. 4) and home against Washington (Nov. 10). Last year Stanford lost to those two by a combined 86–22. If the Cardinal sweeps the Evergreen State, they’ll likely get another shot at the Trojans in the Pac-12 title game.