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Stanford continues to win games, although the furthest David Shaw has gotten has been the Rose Bowl and a few Pac-12 titles. While that’s not a bad thing, a National Championship remains the goal for this team. Even with a few studs leaving on both ends of the field, the Cardinal have enough talent returning, but is it enough to make a Playoff run?

There remains a question at quarterback as Keller Chryst (10 TDs, 2 INTs), the starter late in 2016, nursed a knee injury in the spring and his status isn’t a certainty. Ryan Burns looked great in the spring game, but his 5 TDs and 7 INTs from last season isn’t enticing. With Christian McCaffrey gone, Bryce Love (779 yards, 3 TDs) will take over as the lead back with what should be a better offensive line in front of him with four starters returning. After being a problem last year, the line could be what makes this offense work in 2017 after scoring just 26.3 points per game. Receiver is also set with JJ Arcega-Whiteside and Michael Rector taking bigger roles with tight end Dalton Schultz a major factor.

What could help even more is an improved defense that gets a lot of guys back, not including NFL player Solomon Thomas. The Cardinal allowed 20.2 points per game last year and could reach that mark again with a crew of linebackers led by Joey Alfieri and Bobby Okereke to keep the unit rolling. DT Harrison Phillips will hold down the line, while the secondary returns three starters with corner Quenton Meeks and safety Justin Reid the names to know. But at the end of the day, this defense was still gashed by good offenses, giving up a combined 86 points to the Washington schools.

The Cardinal would like to be in the Playoff discussion, but road games at USC, Utah and Washington State could take them out of those conversations early with that meeting against the Trojans coming in early September. While every other game is winnable with teams like UCLA, Oregon and Notre Dame coming to Palo Alto, that trio of road games could do them in.

And because of that schedule, the Cardinal have the third-best odds to win (+900 at 5Dimes Sportsbook) the Pac-12, tied with UCLA, and getting the Huskies at home could be what decides the North division. This team has struggled to get over that final hump and with quarterback still a question and the defense not at its usual elite level, Stanford will have its usual trouble claiming the Pac-12. Either way, 10 wins are on the table yet again, which no fan can be truly disappointed by.

2017 Stanford Cardinal Football Schedule

Aug. 26 vs. Rice
Sept. 9 at USC
Sept. 16 at San Diego State
Sept. 23 vs. UCLA

Sept. 30 vs. Arizona State
Oct. 7 at Utah
Oct. 14 vs. Oregon

Oct. 26 at Oregon State
Nov. 4 at Washington State
Nov. 10 vs. Washington
Nov. 18 vs. California
Nov. 25 vs. Notre Dame

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