Shayne Skov is one of the best run stoppers in the country. And the Stanford Cardinal will have to find a way to replace his production -- which is no easy task.
But it can be done. Here are some reasons why the Cardinal rushing defense, which ranks second nationally yielding just 36 yards per game, will be OK moving forward.
They have a bye this week: It couldn’t have come at a better time. Instead of a quick turnaround and having to prepare for UCLA right way, the Cardinal get an extra week to get their linebackers in order. Who will step in? How will the rotation work? Who’s moving from left to right and right to left? Inside to outside and outside to inside? These are all questions they have 12 days to answer instead of five.
The D-Line is intact: In Stanford’s 3-4 scheme, the linebackers have to make the plays, but it’s the defensive line that does all the dirty work up front. That’s the benefit of the formation. The offensive linemen have to address the three up front – sometimes two or three are committed to the nose guard alone (and Terrence Stephens is off to a great start). A good defense starts at the point of impact, and with Stephens, Ben Gardner and Matt Masifilo all playing well, the Cardinal can afford to take this hit.
Depth and lots of it: The three starters, Chase Thomas, Max Bergen and Trent Murphy, have all shown a great ability to shed blocks quickly. Whoever gets the call to fill in for Skov has a very talented cast around him. And because the Cardinal had such one-sided victories in their first two games, a lot of different players got valuable game experience that comes in handy during times like this.
The schedule favors Stanford: Of their next six opponents (that would be the six leading up to the Nov. 12 game against Oregon), only one ranks in the top 30 in rushing offense nationally. UCLA checks in at 28th with 215 rushing yards per game. Outside of the Bruins, it’s Colorado (103rd, 90 ypg), Washington State (60th, 159.7), Washington (64th, 148.3), USC (79th, 131.3) and Oregon State (67th, 144.5). Collectively, those six average just 148.1 yards per game. By the time Oregon comes to town, the replacements will have a half a season (in addition to the first three games) of experience under their belts.