Two things we love: The New York Times and college sports blogs. So, the paper’s “The Quad” college sports blog is a natural match for us here at the Daily Axe. When “The Quad” published a post previewing Stanford’s prospects for the upcoming college football season (and put the Cardinal at #25 in the country, no less) we checked it out. It’s short but eloquently precise. 5 likes, 5 dislikes. Beautiful.
What do we think about the Quad’s analysis? Well, 4 out of the 5 dislikes specifically and exclusively address the defense (the other dislike, unsurprisingly, is the loss of Toby in the backfield). Summarized, the four defensive dislikes are:
- Defensive line (in the new 3-4)
- Defense overall
Well, “The Quad” hit every single aspect of the defense. Harsh, New York Times (to be fair, Paul Myerberg of the Pre-Snap Read wrote the post). But they definitely have a point. As phenomenal as the offense was during the 2009 campaign, the defense often fell apart. Consider the Arizona game, when the Cardinal posted 26 first downs, 434 passing yards, 584 total yards, and averaged 7.7 yards per offensive play. They still lost, 43-38 to the Wildcats, in a heartbreaker made all the worse by the heartbreaker on the hardwood against Arizona in Maples Pavilion 4 months later.
(If you watched that entire video, you are cold and heartless. I was at that game: it was extraordinarily painful.)
Anyway, the football defense can improve, and the Times is right in pinpointing the D as the Cardinal’s biggest weakness. We will see if the defense is as weak as many observers believe it will be. If it’s any indication, EA Sports’s NCAA Football 11 also believes that the defense will have trouble. (Word to the Wise: play as Sione Fua in the game on defense. Yeah, with the fresh-out-of-the-box game he’s just “DT #92″, but come on. We all know EA Sports isn’t coincidentally making virtual players that look exactly like their real-life counterparts.)
We don’t want to doubt Owen Marecic in any way–he’s a straight-up football player and Jim Harbaugh says that Owen has a 3.98 GPA. But he will have to prove that playing both ways won’t detract from his play on either side of the ball. On the bright side: again, Owen’s a straight-up football player, and he’ll have 3 other linebackers, rather than just 2, with him after the switch to the 3-4 base defense. One of those linebackers will be sophomore phenom Shayne Skov, who was one of the nation’s top recruits in the Class of 2009 and has only gotten better during his time on the Farm.
We suspect that linebacker and defensive line will not be nearly as big a problem as the secondary will. The unit simply got torched last year, and it will be difficult for Stanford to carry legitimate Rose Bowl ambitions into the thick of the PAC-10 season if the cornerbacks and safeties haven’t improved since 2009. Here’s hoping that they indeed have.