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Stanford Cardinal Have Pieces for Run at National Title

(Photo by John Hefti/Icon Sportswire)

The game was effectively over: Stanford was well on its way to a 31-14 romp of Washington in a game that was not as close as the score suggested.

Games like this are rarely fun to watch all the way through the end, though watching them is significantly easier than commenting on them after the win is well in hand and very little of note happens.

That is when things like this, courtesy of Brian Griese, are said: “There isn’t any one team who has it all this season.”

In comparison to previous years, when teams as dominant as Alabama circa 2011 or 2009, or Florida State of 2013, or USC in 2004, I suppose he has a point. It was a genuine shock when those teams lost. Heck, it was a shock when a team finished within a touchdown.

But here’s the thing: This is not 2004, or ’09, or ’11, or ’13. Parity abounds in 2016, and the one team who does appear to have it all this season was one of the two playing right in front of Griese.

Think about Stanford for a second. Try to find a weakness. A bit difficult, isn’t it? Ignore week one for now. That’s not the Stanford we’re seeing anymore. This is a whole new Stanford, a revamped Stanford, one in which coach David Shaw properly uses the most explosive player in the country, Christian McCaffrey.

Since that opening week, only USC and UCLA have scored more than 30, and UCLA did so more out of consolation than anything, scoring the majority of its points when the game was already far out of hand. As for USC, the Trojans lost by 10, and they just stomped previously undefeated Utah, proving that perhaps they are not quite as terrible as the collective media made them out to be.

Offensively, Stanford has been historic. Kevin Hogan has been the model of consistency he is every single year, throwing nearly 1,300 yards and 12 touchdowns to just 3 interceptions. Meanwhile, McCaffrey has been nothing shy of the breakout player of the year, outgaining even LSU’s vaunted Leonard Fournette in all-purpose yards.

Two critical pieces for a national championship offense: solid quarterback (check), explosive threat (check).

Offense seems to be covered, Griese.

Defensively, Stanford is allowing just north of 21 points per game, and keep in mind: This is the Pac-12 we’re talking about here. It’s not the Big 12, per se, but it’s not exactly the Big 10, either. This is a conference replete with the second-most explosive offenses. The Cardinal don’t necessarily force an overwhelming amount of turnovers – they have picked off just three passes and recovered just two fumbles all season – they just sort of grind teams down.

This much was evident in the Washington game. The Huskies punted on their first five possessions, which totaled just 17 plays. They gained multiple first downs on three drives the entire game. At that rate, Stanford doesn’t need to force turnovers. Heck, if might be better if it doesn’t, seeing as whoever the opposing team happens to be will have to kick it to McCaffrey.

To recap, Stanford is equipped with the conference’s most explosive offense, led by a solid quarterback and a home run threat athlete, backed up by an immovable defense.

Seems like all the pieces to me.

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