2016 Conference Preview: Pac-12

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THE FAVORITE

Stanford logo

Despite questions at quarterback and on the offensive line, the Cardinal have a good shot at repeating as Pac-12 champs in 2016.

After being perennial doormats for much of the early 2000s, Stanford has become a national contender with three conference titles in the past four seasons. Head coach David Shaw has continued the great coaching out on ‘The Farm’ that now Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh started back in 2007. Under Shaw, the Cardinal have won at least 11 games in four of the past five seasons.

This season there will be a new face under center as Kevin Hogan graduated and moved on to the NFL. Hogan had quite the career at Stanford with 36 wins and 75 touchdowns over his four-year career. Two names have emerged in the battle at QB as senior Ryan Burns and sophomore Keller Chryst are expected to compete for the starting job. Whichever one eventually wins the job will have the benefit of having an All-American halfback in Christian McCaffrey.

McCaffrey had a season for the ages last year as he broke the single-season all-purpose yardage record set by the great Barry Sanders and became the first Stanford running back to rush for over 2,000 yards in a single season. The Cardinal RB finished as a Heisman finalist and is one of the few favorites to take home the coveted award this season.

The one thing that may derail Stanford’s bid for a repeat is a tough schedule that features road games against UCLA, Washington, Arizona, and Oregon – all teams that are expected to finish in the top half of Pac-12. Throw in a non-conference road game against rival Notre Dame and the Cardinal have a schedule that few teams envy.