Nov 12, 2011; Stanford CA, USA; Oregon Ducks head coach Chip Kelly (right) shakes hands with Stanford Cardinal quarterback Andrew Luck (12) before the game at Stanford Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jason O. Watson-US PRESSWIRE

Pac-12 Conference Football Preview: Stanford Cardinal (Part 1: Offense)

The Stanford Cardinal had a season to remember in 2011, even if it did not end with a BCS National Championship. It was a season that began with people talking about the returning starting quarterback, Andrew Luck. Before the 2011 season, Luck decided to skip out on the NFL for another year and return to Stanford for his senior year. During Luck’s senior year, Standford finished with a conference record of 8-1, but an overall record of 11-2. Their only conference lost came against the Oregon Ducks by a score of 53-30. They had an amazing win at USC where the Cardinal defeated the Trojans by a score of 56-48 in three overtimes. Stanford ended their 2011 season with a loss to the Oklahoma State Cowboys in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl by a score of 41-38 in overtime.

The Cardinal did fairly well on offense last season. Here’s a look at the averages they had per game and their rankings compared to the other schools in Division I:

  • Total: 489.3 yards (8th overall)
  • Passing: 284.8 yards (25th overall)
  • Rushing: 210.6 yards (18th overall)

Stanford lost a total of nine letterwinners (four starters) from their offense this past offseason. The most important of these letterwinners are David DeCastro, Jonathan Martin, Colby Fleener, and Andrew Luck. All four of these players were selected in the 2012 NFL Draft this past April. Luck (first overall pick) and Fleener (2nd round pick) were both selected by the Indianapolis Colts while DeCastro (1st round pick) was selected by the Pittsburgh Steelers and Martin (2nd round pick) was selected by the Miami Dolphins.

There is no question that the biggest loss for the Stanford Cardinal offense this year is Andrew Luck. Luck had Heisman-like stats in 2011, but finished third in the standings behind Trent Richardson and Robert Griffin III. Last season, he recorded 3,517 passing yards on on 288 completions with 37 touchdowns and only ten interceptions.

There is no answer yet to who will take over in the post-Andrew Luck era at Standford in 2012. The Cardinal have seven quarterbacks on the roster, but only three with game experience. These players consist of Brett Nottingham, Robbie Picazo, and Josh Nunes. Combined, these quarterbacks’ stats are 100 passing yards on nine completions with one touchdown and zero interceptions. If that is not disheartening enough, the only one of these players with more than five attempts is Nottingham with eight passing attempts.

It might be easy to say that the Standford Cardinal might lean more to the rushing attack in 2012. Despite the questions at quarterback, Stanford returns its leading rushing from 2012, Stepfan Taylor. Last season, Taylor recorded 1,330 rushing yards on 242 rushing attempts with ten rushing touchdowns. Taylor may need to be the player in which the Cardinal will need to lean on in 2012 because of the harsh transition at the quarterback position.

At the 2012 Pac-12 Media Day, Taylor was asked about if there will be any added pressure in 2012 due to all the losses on offense this offseason. He responded with:

“I don’t feel the pressure, I feel we have to just go out there and play our best game, every game.”

The Standford Cardinal will enter the 2012 season ranked 18th in the preseason polls.

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Tags: 2012 NFL Draft Andrew Luck BCS Nationa Championship Brett Nottingham Colby Fleener David DeCastro Heisman Indianapolis Colts Jonathan Martin Josh Nunes Miami Dolphins Oklahoma State Cowboys Oregon Ducks Pac-12 Pac-12 Media Day Pittsburgh Steelers Robbie Picazo Robert Grffin III Stanford Stanford Cardinal Stanford Football Stepfan Taylor Tostitos Fiesta Bowl Trent Richardson USC Trojans

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