Welcome to the fourth edition of The Figgis Forum; a fan-driven season preview for each PAC-12 team. In our last update, we were strollin’ the streets of Berkeley and today we’re heading 40 miles south to tech central in Silicon Valley. Through the palms lining Memorial Quad and over to The Farm, let’s see what fans have to say about Stanford.
All-Time Record: 635-450-49 (.582%)
National Championships: 1
Conference Championships: 15
Bowl Games: 28
Bowl Record: 14-13-1 (.518%)
Consensus All-Americans: 35
NFL Draft Picks: 256
1st Round Draft Picks: 25
Weeks in AP Poll: 282
Weeks at #1: 0
All-Time Record: 47-32-1
Longest Win Streak: 11 Games (1900-1929)
Longest Losing Streak: 7 Games (1957-1963)
Largest Margin of Victory: 42-3 (1981)
Largest Margin of Defeat: 10-48 (2006)
Last Meeting: 2016 (W 52-27)
The Stanford Cardinal. Let’s start off by first addressing the elephant (tree) in the room that is the official unofficial mascot. From 1930 until 1972, Stanford was actually known as the Indians. This mascot was abolished after students lobbied the university president and they re-adopted the name “Cardinal” as they had been prior to 1930. Then in 1975, in classic Stanford band fashion, a few mascot candidates were jokingly displayed during a halftime performance. The candidates included a steaming manhole, a French fry and a tree. The tree received enough positive attention for it to become a more permanent fixture with the band and the rest is history. Now, back to football.
From the inception of the program until 1905, Stanford was fairly successful, regularly wining at least 70% of their games. Then from 1906 to 1917, in a nation-wide trend, football was replaced with Rugby due to concerns of the sport’s aggression. After reinstating the football program, and not playing in 1918 due to WWI, Stanford completed four consecutive four win seasons and a 7-2 campaign before hiring legendary coach and football icon, Glenn Scobey “Pop” Warner. After coaching the Cardinal for nine seasons, Pop Warner amassed a 71-17-8 record and to this day is the winningest coach in Stanford history. After the 1932 season, Warner left to become the head coach at Temple and later admitted regretting the decision. Claude E. “Tiny” Thornhill would close out the 1930’s for Stanford by going 25-4-2 in his first three years and then dropping to 10-21-5 in his last four.
The Cardinal started off the 1940’s with the programs second ever ten-win season (first without any ties), but struggled over the next few decades. From that ten-win season in 1940 until a 9-3 season in 1970, Stanford won more than seven games just once in 1951. By decade, the Cardinal went 39-28-2 in the 40’s, 50-47-4 in the 50’s and 46-51-3 in the 60’s.
The 1970’s brought more consistency as coaches John Ralston, Jack Christiansen, Bill Walsh (first stint) and Rod Dowhower would combine to go 65-36-4 in the ten year span including three 9-win seasons. The beginning of the 80’s brought a long and bleak period with a few bright spots for Stanford. After 17 consecutive years without a losing season, the Cardinal recorded 13 sub-.500 seasons in the next 20 years. Coach Paul Wiggin lasted four years from 1980-1983 going 6-5, 4-7, 5-6 and 1-10. Jack Elway, John Elway’s father, took over in 1984 and recorded just one winning season in the middle of his five years at the helm. Dennis Green was hired in 1989 and actually managed to improve each year going 3-8, 5-6 and 8-4 in 1991. After the ’91 season, Green left to become the head coach of the Minnesota Vikings and Stanford re-hired Bill Walsh for his second stint with the program. Walsh started by recording the first 10-win season since 1940, but promptly followed that up with back-to-back losing seasons in 1993 and 1994.
In 1995, Stanford hired a head coach who would later become a favorite among all Duck fans. The one and only, Tyrone Willingham. During his seven years as the head coach, Willingham stayed relatively close to .500 with a 44-36-1 record, capped with a 9-3 season in 2001 that led to Willingham being hired to coach Notre Dame. Stanford would then endure seven consecutive losing seasons before the run of success they are currently enjoying.
This rise from the ashes started with the hiring of Jim Harbaugh in 2007. In his four seasons, Harbaugh went 4-8, 5-7, 8-5 and 12-1. The 2010 season marked the programs first 12-win season and first bowl win, a dominating win over Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl, since 1996. Harbaugh then left to coach the San Francisco 49ers and Offensive Coordinator David Shaw was promoted as the new head coach. Since his first season in 2011, Shaw has failed to reach double digit wins just once, in 2014. In his six years he has gone 64-17 and is just seven wins away from tying Pop Warner as Stanford’s winningest coach.
Fan Q & A
For the following section, I would like to thank Charlie from Rule of Tree for taking the time to answer my questions and give his perspective on the upcoming season.
What win total would constitute a successful season? What bowl game?
I think ten wins would constitute a successful season. This team doesn't have super high expectations, but all signs point to a better season than last. Plus, I think the schedule is a lot easier this year and am only nervous for USC. As for a bowl game, I think Stanford has a legitimate chance at making the Rose Bowl. If they win the North, Stanford will most likely go to a New Year's Six game as long as USC plays as expected and makes the playoff.
What win total would constitute a failed season? What bowl game?
In 2014, Stanford only won eight games, which seemed like a total nightmare, and it would be a huge disappointment again if the Cardinal only won eight games. Last year, Stanford played their bowl game in El Paso, and I really would be bummed to see Stanford play in the Sun Bowl again.
What are you most optimistic about this coming season?
With almost everyone returning, the secondary should be really exciting next year and should be one of the best groups in the country. Quenton Meeks and Alijah Holder really showed a lot of improvement as corners last year, and now as upperclassmen, they might dominate. Furthermore, Stanford can turn to plenty of other secondary options with so much depth.
What are you most apprehensive about this season?
There's no doubt that he defensive line is the biggest question heading into the season. It'll be impossible to replace Solomon Thomas, and frankly, the line wasn't that great last year. Stanford really might struggle to stop the run next year.
What do you expect to be the toughest game?
USC. It's early in the season and might be Keller Chryst's first game since tearing his ACL in the Sun Bowl, and Chryst will have an extremely difficult first game. Last year, Stanford beat the Trojans but without Sam Darnold behind center, so the Cardinal will have much tougher challenge this year in LA.
What could be a potential trap game?
Typically, our trap game is one of the Washington schools, but there's no chance David Shaw underestimates them this year, so now, Stanford fans should be wary of the Oregon State game. The Cardinal don't play the week before, but knowing Stanford's history, the always seem to take that bye week for granted. Plus, Stanford is playing at Cornwallis on a Thursday night: not an ideal playing situation.
Are there any injury or depth concerns heading into the season?
Keller Chryst's injury is worrisome; every player reacts differently to a torn ACL. As for depth, the defensive line will be an issue, and the Cardinal will need to turn to unproven players.
Who do you think will win each division?
USC should run the south, and the north should be decided on November 10th when Washington and Stanford face off. I favor Stanford in that matchup because not only am I biased but also because Washington lost sooo many starters and have to travel down to Palo Alto this year.
Who will come in last in each division?
Cal couldn't win with the first overall pick in the NFL draft and couldn't win with
a third round pick, so they'll be absolutely terrible without a NFL prospect leading the offense. Expect them to finish last in the north.
One game I'm looking forward to is Arizona vs Cal. It'll probably decide who the worst team in the PAC-12 is. Arizona finished last in the south, and they'll probably do so again in 2017.
How do you think your in-state rival will finish?
Cal vs Stanford isn't an exciting game anymore; the Cardinal have dominated as of late. Recently, Stanford's biggest rivalry has been with USC, and the two have cost each other chances at a national championship multiple times.
USC will be the PAC-12 favorites heading into this season, but they have many issues to answer this fall. Their best receiver is gone as well as most of their offensive line. Sam Darnold will have a bigger challenge this year, but I still think the Trojans win the south and are favorites to win the PAC-12.
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