Hope & concern: Stanford

Every team has hope heading into the offseason. And every team has concerns.

Ergo, we're going to run through the conference and look at the chief matters -- on the up and downside -- for each Pac-12 team.

Next up:


Biggest reason for hope: The QB is pretty good, but he's not the only star.

Andrew Luck, we all love him. Sure top pick of the 2011 NFL draft, instead, returns to school to get his degree and enjoy, you know, the best years of his life before everybody is nipping at him, wanting a piece of the action. Best QB in the nation, for sure. Heisman Trophy frontrunner. A threat running or passing. Holes in his game? We give up. But Stanford isn't a top-10 team just because it has a great QB. How did John Elway's career go on the Farm? The Cardinal also have two first-team All-Pac-10 linemen back, a deep backfield, the best collection of tight ends in the nation, a sure-fire first-team All-Pac-12 linebacker and a couple of likely all-conference defensive backs. The Cardinal might work its way into the national title hunt because it's not a one-star constellation.

Biggest reason for concern: Who brings the weekly dose of crazy?

The most obvious question for the Cardinal is its defensive line, which lost two of three starters and is low on star-power. But, really, what most Stanford fans are worried about is that intense, eccentric and ruthlessly competitive coach Jim Harbaurgh is now up the road with the San Francisco 49ers. Stanford fans mostly liked the promotion of former offensive coordinator David Shaw, but he's a sharp, polished, Stanford graduate. He ain't nuts. The question is: Might that be a problem? Didn't it seem as though Harbaugh's often manic personality and obsession with an unyielding, hard-nosed brand of football were uniquely motivating forces for a program with a decidedly white-collar image? Shaw is a smart guy, so he's repeatedly emphasized that the Cardinal culture will not change. We shall see.