Your Ultimate Guide to Stanford Football 2022: Part 3 – Schedule Breakdown + State of the Program
Welcome to the final installment of our mega-preview of 2022 Stanford Football! In parts one and two, we broke down the Cardinal roster. To close it out, we’ll go over the schedule, make our predictions, discuss recruiting and give our take on the state of the program.
Game-by-game predictions breakdown
Week 1: Colgate
Jibriel Taha (JT): We finally start off against an FCS school! Stanford will record their first win since early October 2021, warming up for a big game the following week. 1-0.
Ells Boone (EB): The Cardinal take care of business and allow for backups and guys who do not usually see the field to get some playing time. 1-0.
Week 2: USC
JT: The Cardinal’s most important game of the year. An experienced Stanford squad has a chance to knock off a star-studded, transfer-filled USC roster in primetime on ABC. This early in the season is the best time to face this USC squad, but I don’t think the Cardinal defense will do enough to win the game. 1-1.
EB: Lincoln Riley’s first test as head coach at USC. Stanford keeps it close, surprising many national pundits, but in the end does not have enough to combat the Trojans’ starpower. 1-1.
Week 3: BYE WEEK
JT: Don’t get me started. Having a Week 3 bye is utterly ridiculous.
Week 4: at Washington
JT: I am not very high on Washington this season, and with Stanford coming off of a bye week, this is a winnable game. I think this will be a tight matchup between these two “academically prowess” institutions, but it will go the Huskies’ way. 1-2.
EB: Coming off of a bye week and making this the first game of a 10-game stretch, this is the most pivotal match-up of the season for the Cardinal. Lose here, and we could see a similar losing streak to last season. Win here, and a bowl game is still very much in play. I think Stanford goes on the road and takes down a Huskies team that is breaking in a new coach. 2-1.
Week 5: at Oregon
JT: Like Washington, I’m not as high on Oregon as most people. Yes, these two squads always play spoiler to one another, but I just can’t sit here and pick the Cardinal to come out on top in Eugene this year. 1-3.
EB: Even with a new head coach in Dan Lanning, the Ducks will be seeking revenge for last season’s upset. In the end, the Cardinal front seven is unable to prevent this from becoming a track meet and Oregon rolls. 2-2.
Week 6: Oregon State
JT: The Beavers are one of the best coached teams in the conference, but the Cardinal have the advantage talent-wise. It’s one of the many games that look like tossups that Stanford has to win if they want to go bowling. I like the Cardinal getting a victory in their first game with students on campus. 2-3.
EB: The first home game with students on campus comes all the way in Week 6! With student attendance (hopefully) matching last year’s opening home game, Stanford does what it needs to do to take down the Beavers. 3-2.
Week 7: at Notre Dame
JT: How about they announce Stanford and Notre Dame to the Big 10 in primetime on NBC? Anyway, this is the toughest game on Stanford’s schedule. 2-4.
EB: All of Stanford’s lost recruiting battles with the Fighting Irish over the last few years come back to bite them as Notre Dame wins handily in South Bend. Bowl game still in play. 3-3.
Week 8: Arizona State
JT: The Sun Devils had a disastrous offseason, but still have quite a bit of talent on the roster. Another one of those must-win home games, and I like the Cardinal to get it done. 3-4.
EB: Back at home, and against a depleted Arizona State roster, Stanford overpowers the Sun Devils and gets to four wins. 4-3.
Week 9: at UCLA
JT: I think this UCLA team has the best chance of swiping a conference championship game appearance from Utah, USC or Oregon. Dorian Thompson-Robinson, like last year, will lead the Bruins over the Cardinal. 3-5.
EB: Of all the games Stanford is not favored to win, this is the one I think they steal. Thompson-Robinson has been a menace for the Cardinal defense over the past few years, but Lance Anderson cracks the code at the Rose Bowl thanks to a switch to the 4-3 base set. The Cardinal are a win away from bowl eligibility. 5-3.
Week 10: Washington State
JT: This game feels similar to the Oregon State game — right now, it looks like a tossup. This is a tough pick, especially with Washington State having extra rest coming into it, but I’ll take the Cardinal at home. 4-5.
EB: Back at home yet again, Stanford makes it 3-0 with students on campus and clinches a spot in a bowl game. 6-3.
Week 11: at Utah
JT: The Cardinal march into Salt Lake City hoping to avenge last year’s 52-7 embarrassment on the Farm. The preseason Pac-12 favorites will take care of business, but not as comfortably. 4-6.
EB: Utah is the best team in the conference and, despite having this one circled on its calendar due to last year’s dismal performance, Stanford just cannot hang. 6-4.
Week 12: at California
JT: The Cardinal march into Berkeley hoping to avenge last year’s 41-11 embarrassment on the Farm. But this time they are successful. I’m not high on this Cal squad at all, and the Cardinal have to find a way to get the Axe back. 5-6.
EB: Stanford may have not been able to avenge a defeat against Utah, but they will be raring to go to get the Axe back. The Cardinal take the Caltrain to Berkeley and ride back with something to show for it. 7-4.
Week 13: BYU
JT: Well the way I have it set up, this game will determine whether the Cardinal go bowling. BYU is a good team, but Stanford will keep it close. Ultimately, I think the Cardinal will come up short. 5-7.
EB: With students still on Thanksgiving break, a mostly pro-BYU crowd in Palo Alto spurs the Cougars to a win. Nevertheless, Stanford readies for a bowl game and its highest win total since 2018. 7-5.
JT: Stanford will be better than last year (I’m aware it’s a low bar), but a bowl appearance will require tremendous improvement on both the offensive and defensive lines. You can chart a very reasonable path to it happening on the offensive side of the ball, with the entire unit returning as upperclassmen in year two of a new position coach, but it’s really difficult to see it happening on the defensive line. The four main guys on what was one of the worst lines in the country must be replaced. If Stanford can’t stop the run, it doesn’t matter how good the secondary is.
The other gigantic factor hurting their bowl chances is this brutal schedule. Here’s how I see the path to bowl eligibility: beat Colgate, Oregon State, Arizona State and Washington State for four wins, and then take two of at Washington, at Cal and home against BYU to reach six. That’s a tall order, but it can be done with significant improvement in the trenches. Nevertheless, with what we know right now, I think Vegas is spot on by having the Cardinal at 4.5 wins.
EB: I am a firm believer in this team’s talent, and there are too many experienced guys on the offensive line not for them to figure it out. With improvement from that group, the Stanford offense can put up points with the best of them. However, the defensive front seven keeps the team from being truly competitive against the better teams on the schedule, setting the wins ceiling around seven or eight. With the amount of talent set to depart the roster after this year, a bowl game is necessary due to the step back we can expect next fall.
You have to hope the decline of Stanford football hit rock bottom when the whistle blew on Stanford’s 45-14 loss to Notre Dame to end last season. Can it get worse than getting outscored 173-46 in your last four games? We don’t think so, at least not this season.
This team is far better on paper than last year’s, as the roster has loads of talented players at skill positions on offense and a very good secondary on defense. The trenches are the massive question marks, but you can only go up from last year, and the offensive line has a clear path to significant improvement. But what does this program look like after 2022?
2023 is not looking promising. The bulk of the offensive starters will likely be gone, as well as key names from the secondary and linebacking corps. The young talent on the defensive line should start to shine, but that is the only position group right now that we think will be better in 2023 than in 2022.
The effects of COVID-19 on recruiting, as well as just starting the process of having early enrollees, still weigh heavily on the program and will gradually wear off. And while we predict a significant step back next year, we think the Cardinal will rebound in 2024 and should be able to be more consistent from then on, barring another major disruption to the program. To make that happen, however, Stanford needs to continue to recruit top-end quarterback talent as they have in recent years.
More on recruiting, the coaching staff have continued to recover from its 2021 recruiting class that was hurt by the pandemic. This current freshman class was rated No. 1 in the Pac-12 on signing day, and as of Tuesday the 2023 class (all verbal commits) is ranked No. 29 in the nation. The roster remains well-stocked on the offensive line and tight end position. Depth is being added to the defensive line.
The position where the Cardinal have struggled to recruit of late is the quarterback position. Historically under Coach Shaw, Stanford has had its pick of highly-rated quarterbacks to bring in. However, in the ‘22 class, Shaw and Tavita Pritchard missed on their top four QB targets with freshman Ashton Daniels eventually being the guy to sign with the program. In the ‘23 class, which still has time before the early signing period in December, the program has missed on all six quarterbacks it has offered. A team can only go as far as its quarterback. With a potential early departure from junior Tanner McKee coming after this season, the Cardinal could be in serious trouble if they cannot land an elite talent to fill in the ranks..
Looking even more into the future, the biggest question facing the program is conference realignment. Travel is not a major concern for football, as they only have to play one game on a weekend and then fly back. So, having UCLA and USC in a far better conference will be detrimental to Stanford from a recruiting perspective. Things would still be alright for the Cardinal, but hopes of getting back to national relevancy would be slim.
In the very plausible scenario Stanford manages to get itself into the Big Ten, the football program should get a boost. The Cardinal would be competing at the highest level of the sport with a ton more eyeballs. The lack of this attention at the moment is a negative for recruiting, and adding the Big Ten to the recruiting pitch should help the coaching staff recruit a notch above where they currently are.
But for now, we get ready for the 2022 season of Stanford football. Last year is the past, and this year’s slate is loaded with exciting opportunities. Given the expected departures in 2023, a bowl appearance is needed for us to consider this season successful. We’d expect more if the schedule was easier, but we are content seeking a clear step in the right direction — and a bowl appearance would be just that.