|ESPN.com: Stanford Football||[Print without images]|
Two reasons to have faith in the Cardinal: They can run and they can stop the run, and that's a pretty good place to start in the effort of winning football games. Senior back Stepfan Taylor has stealthily put up consecutive 1,000-yard rushing seasons, going for 1,330 yards in 2011. Had Stanford's kicker made the chip shot late against Oklahoma State, it would have been Taylor, and not [Andrew] Luck, who would have been Fiesta Bowl MVP after a 35-carry, 177-yard, two-score outburst. Tyler Gaffney and Anthony Wilkerson, who combined for 731 yards and 10 touchdowns last season, provide quality depth. Youngster Ricky Seale impressed coach David Shaw in the spring. Oh, and Barry Sanders' kid (the nation's ninth-ranked RB recruit in the 2012 class) will be on campus beginning this summer.
Defensively, the Cardinal return the front for a unit that was first last season in the Pac-12 in yards per rush allowed (3.0 per-carry average) and stopping teams on third down (31.1 percent). It was second in the league points allowed, giving up 21.9 a game. With Shayne Skov returning from injury to rejoin all-conference performer Chase Thomas, Stanford is particularly loaded at linebacker.