2012 record: 12-2
2012 conference record: 8-1
Returning starters Offense: 7; defense: 8; kicker
Key losses: RB Stepfan Taylor, TE Zach Ertz, TE Levine Toilolo, OLB Chase Thomas
2012 statistical leaders (*returners)
Rushing: Stepfan Taylor (1,530 yards)
Passing: Josh Nunes (1,643 yards); Kevin Hogan* (1,096 yards)
Receiving: Zach Ertz (898 yards)
Tackles: Shayne Skov* (80)
Sacks: Trent Murphy* (10)
Interceptions: Ed Reynolds (6)
1. Better to receive: Stanford's passing offense has been notoriously tight end focused the past few years, but that was more pronounced last season. Expect that to change in the fall, and not just because of questions at the position. The Cardinal has improved depth and athleticism at receiver, starting with Ty Montgomery and Devon Cajuste. Heck, you might even see some four-wide formations!
2. O-line? Oh, my: To say that Stanford coaches are giddy about their offensive line's potential might undersell it. There are NFL teams that will have less talented combos on their left side than tackle Andrus Peat and All-American guard David Yankey, who are both future first-round NFL draft picks. The right side ain't bad either.
3. No secondary issues: Richard Sherman used to get peeved at the Pac-12 blog in the past for questioning the athleticism of Stanford's secondary, with the Pac-12 blog obviously just trying to help kick-start Sherman's NFL career. This Cardinal secondary, led by All-American Ed Reynolds, is experienced and talented, the best unit during the Cardinal's recent rise in the national pecking order.
1. Who's the center? The one question on the O-line is who will replace Sam Schwartzstein, and spring ended in a three-way tie between Khalil Wilkes, Conor McFadden and Kevin Danser. If Danser, a returning starter at guard, prevails, that will mean coaches believe touted, 317-pound sophomore Josh Garnett is ready to take over at right guard.
2. Step back at tight end? Davis Dudchock and Luke Kaumatule have a chance to give the Cardinal a better-than-average combo at tight end, but it remains to be seen if they can become weapons in the passing game. Kaumatule, a 6-foot-7, 260-pound sophomore, has star potential but his hands have been inconsistent.
3. Ready for pressure, schedule? This team looks like a national title contender. It will be ranked in the preseason top-five and there will be plenty of hype. But Stanford has gown accustomed to high expectations and high rankings. The real issue is the schedule from Oct. 19 until Nov. 30. No team in the country faces a tougher road to a potential title game.