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College Hotline - Pac-12 football: Stanford game-by-game predictions for 2016

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    Stanford doesn’t have the toughest schedule in the conference. That honor, so to speak, goes to USC. But Stanford has the toughest early-season schedule — not only in the conference but quiet possibly the country.

    The Cardinal will face four ranked teams in the first six games, and that gauntlet doesn’t include Washington State, which probably should be ranked.

    By the evening of Oct. 15, Stanford’s season will be framed, its trajectory established: Navigate the first half with only a loss or two, and the Cardinal should be in the playoff hunt.

    Coach: David Shaw
    Season: Sixth
    Record: 54-14
    Win totals by season: 11-12-11-8-12
    Job security: Will leave when he wants to leave, and that’s not anytime soon.
    Notable: Since the formation of the Pac-8, only USC has won at least four titles in a five-year span. Stanford looking for its fourth in five.

    *** Previous installments:

    Arizona predictions
    Arizona State predictions
    Oregon State predictions
    Oregon predictions
    Colorado predictions
    Utah predictions
    Cal predictions

    Here we go …

    Sept. 2: vs. Kansas State (Friday)
    Result: Win
    Record: 1-0
    Comment: Not a classic Bill Snyder team. Stanford’s running game leads the way.

    Sept. 10: Bye
    Comment: Good placement for the September challenges, bad for all that lies beyond: The Cardinal will play 11 weeks without a break.




    Sept. 17: vs. USC
    Result: Win
    Record: 2-0/1-0
    Comment: Not convinced Trojans’ defense is up to the task, even with the big-game glare on Stanford’s rookie QB. Closer than last year, not as close as so many this decade.

    Sept. 24: at UCLA
    Result: Loss
    Record: 2-1/1-1
    Comment: Eight years of Stanford dominance ends as Josh Rosen and the Bruin defense power a breakthrough win.

    Sept. 30: at Washington (Friday)
    Result: Loss
    Record: 2-2/1-2
    Comment: Back-to-back roadies against ranked opponents, with a short week included? Yikes. The UW defense makes life tough for Christian McCaffrey and Co.

    Oct. 8: vs. Washington State
    Result: Win
    Record: 3-2/2-2
    Comment: Back home, with an extra day of rest, facing a Cougar team coming off Oregon. It’s over by the start of the fourth quarter.

    Oct. 15: at Notre Dame
    Result: Loss
    Record: 3-3/2-2
    Comment: The last two in South Bend have gone to the wire. This might, as well, and once again the Irish escape.

    Oct. 22: vs. Colorado
    Result: Win
    Record: 4-3/3-2
    Comment: The schedule eases and momentum kicks in.

    Oct. 29: at Arizona
    Result: Win
    Record: 5-3/4-2
    Comment: Tougher than it looks, but Stanford takes control in the fourth quarter with McCaffrey as the difference.

    Nov. 5: vs. Oregon State
    Result: Win
    Record: 6-3/5-2
    Comment: Easier than it looks, and it looks pretty darn easy.

    Nov. 12: at Oregon
    Result: Win
    Record: 7-3/6-2
    Comment: Home field hasn’t meant much in the series, and Ducks will be coming off a date with USC in the Coliseum. Close and low scoring as both quarterbacks struggle.

    Nov. 19: at Cal
    Result: Win
    Record: 8-3/7-2
    Comment: For the first time since ’11, the Big Game is in doubt midway through the fourth quarter. But the end result is the same as it has been for the past six meetings.

    Nov. 26: vs. Rice
    Result: Win
    Record: 9-3/7-2
    Comment: Regular season ends with a six-game winning streak and Stanford hailed as one of the hottest teams in the country. But two early conference losses established the ceiling.

    Coming next: The L.A. schools.

    * Follow me on Twitter: @WilnerHotline



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    by Jon Wilner
     

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