Duh take: the win against USC changes our entire outlook on the Stanford football season. Yes, I know: this is why you, dear reader, pay me the big bucks.
So how much? Keep on reading.
Week One: SJSU, Win.
Week Two: Duke, Win.
Week Three: USC, Win.
Week Four: @UW (80%, +10%): Objectively speaking I feel this game should be pretty easy. Think of UW as the discount version of USC: worse defense (though similarly stronger in the back four than front seven), similar though worse offense (quality QB, quality skill players). Critically, both teams are weak along the offensive line—UW was weak last year and went on to lose two of their OL starters in-season this year, all while looking not a whit improved. If Stanford’s front seven brings a good level of effort—and really, do you expect less from a front seven led by Shayne Skov and Chase Thomas?—it should shred UW’s OL and stop their offense before it even begins.
If it brings the same level of effort and emotion against USC, it could get beautifully ugly. But there’s my worry: it’s the first game on the road, offensive execution is still chugging along, and it’s just difficult to bring a high level of emotion every game. Fortunately there’s a bye week, but I wouldn’t be shocked by a somewhat flat game.
Week Five: vs Arizona (75%, +0%): Arizona’s offense doesn’t quite look like the spread-to-run we’ve typically seen from Rich Rod; instead, it looks like a blend of his system with some of the Airraid-type concepts from the Stoops regime. Historically Arizona’s Airraid concepts have given us a surprising amount of trouble, and Rich Rod’s a clever guy, so I wouldn’t be surprised by some trouble in this game.
On the other hand, Arizona’s win versus Oklahoma State has been overrated in many quarters. OK State was more efficient than Arizona on a per-play basis; turnovers were the edge for the Wildcats. Relying too much on turnovers can turn out to be fool’s gold. However, with the uneven execution of the offense, I can’t yet justify being too optimistic yet.
Week Six: @ND (55%, -5%): You’re going to read a lot of articles in the coming days proclaiming that Notre Dame is Back—the echoes have been revived from the coma, and so on and so forth. I’m not sure they’re totally inaccurate. Yes, hyping Notre Dame is an inflated currency. But it’s a rare inflated currency that’s totally valueless. So, yeah, make that adjustment in your head: Notre Dame is a solid team. Very good defensive line. Te’o is really good. The rest of their linebackers are solid.
Their passing game—both defensively and offensively—is still a question. Nevertheless they are at home. I think this is the swing game for the rest of the season.
Week Seven: @Cal (80%, +5%): Looked like they were about to get trashed in typical Tedford-goes-East fashion, before making some clever adjustments…and having Ohio State be completely flummoxed by them. It reminded me of the 2009 Big Game, in which coaches refused to throw on first down against Cal’s defense. Overall, the defense is just much too weak at the moment, however.
Week Eight: vs Washington State (87%, +5%): Struggled against 0-3 UNLV and looked tepid on offense. Some grumbling from Cougars fans. While nothing justifies struggling against UNLV, I’ll note two factors that may be at play here: one, Leach’s offense has a reputation of taking a while to fully take hold (you’ll think it wouldn’t with some good already-established personnel, but…); and two, I’m not sure anyone realizes that non-Pac-12 records and Pac-12 records require some translations. Simply put: the Pac-12 schedules good teams and other conferences do so much more rarely.
Take Leach’s career as an example. Leach coached 10 years at Texas Tech. His nonconference schedule, however, was never particularly strong. He left the state of Texas 6 times and played 4 ranked opponents during that time. Leach has already left Washington two times and played borderline top-25 team in BYU. In future years (which I realize isn’t strictly speaking relevant to this season, but I think is still interesting to illustrate the difference between the programs), they’ll play at Auburn, BYU, Wisconsin home and away, at Nevada, and Boise State home and away. This is a vastly different slate than Leach’s Texas Tech experience.
Week Nine: @ Colorado (99%, +4%): I’m honestly unsure what the appropriate rating for this team is, in the sense that it seems really weird to be so close to 100% in an away conference game. But they just got blown out sixty-something to twenty-something by Fresno State. They are so bad I am too lazy to confirm whatever was the correct score.
Week Ten: vs Oregon State (65%, +10%): Beating Wisconsin looked like a fantastic upset when it happened; with Wisconsin struggling against Utah State at home this weekend, it appears any reasonably well-coached high school team could pose a challenge for the Badgers. So Oregon State will have to prove itself; they may well be a good team—in fact, I suspect they are the third-best team in the Pac-12 North—but there’s quite a bit of uncertainty.
Week Eleven: @Oregon (15%, +5%): The same way we own USC? Until Stanford proves it, the same is true of our relationship with Oregon. Defensively, I think things maybe might well possibly maybe be different—but I’m uncertain and maybe possibly could change my mind. Offensively, I think we need to be able to reach 30 against a credible defense before I’m convinced—and that includes field goal kicking. So we will see. I’m very willing to be proven wrong here.
Week Twelve: @UCLA: (60%, +5%): Still looking dynamic on offense. We don’t have an idea of how the defense will match up—personnel are too different (Brett Hundley is pretty clearly a high first-round pick at QB, offensive line is young and overhauled)—and it’s so deep in the season it’s hard to predict with much confidence how both teams will look at the end.
Expected Wins: 9.16 (delta: +1.14 wins)