NONE OF THIS MAKES ANY SENSE! A fanbase maligned for failure to be, yknow, a fanbase, besieges us with an unceasing stream of people who want to do a Q+A. It's not just RuleOfTree, it's GoMightyCard, and The Bootleg!
It's like every single Stanford fan has their own blog. And their own app. And their own disruption of a staid industry! It seriously took me like 30 minutes to C+P all the answers here. SO MANY ANSWERS! We have Jack Blanchat and Nick Dempsey of ROT. We have Hank Waddles (pleaseberealnamepleaseberealnamepleaseberealname) of GoMightyCard. We have Mark DeVaughn of TheBootleg.
They bring the noise, they bring the funk, they bring the intelligent discussions of all things Stanford. We've had some fun with Stanford fans this week. We had some interaction over at ROT, like this post on Leland Stanford Jr or this post of why we're all Stanford rejects (I know I am!).
So, enjoy the answers and many thanks to every Stanford fan ever for answering these questions. GO BEARS!
1. Kevin Hogan, great QB or the greatest QB?
Jack Blanchat: Great QB! [thumbs up emoji]
Nick Dempsey: Hogan's biggest problem is that he does not go through his wide receiver progressions. I would be willing to bet that on most passing plays he has already decided who he will throw the ball to before the snap. Compounding this problem is that Hogan stares down the receiver he is throwing the ball to which gives the defense plenty of time to get to the receiver before the ball does.
This season, the Cardinal do not have an impressive running game that opposing defenses have to adjust to. The result is that defenses can afford to give plenty of help in the secondary to cover Montgomery or even Cajuste. Because Hogan does not go through his progressions if the defense takes away his primary read, then they have effectively blown up the play. When this happens Hogan is forced to throw a bad pass into coverage, scramble, throw the ball away, or take the sack.
Hank Waddles: Hmm. Even though I've never described Kevin Hogan as a great quarterback, I've certainly spent a fair amount of time and energy defending him. What frustrates people about Hogan are his weaknesses. He has a tendency to lock onto his primary receiver, kind of in the same way that the sun has a tendency to rise in the East. This problem leads directly to his second problem - he's guaranteed to make at least one bad play per game, either a poorly thrown ball or a bad decision, that costs his team points or gives points to the opponent. On the other hand, he led his team to consecutive Pac-12 Championships (and was the MVP of the 2012 Pac-12 Championship game) and Rose Bowl appearances. A quarterback who does that can't be all bad, right? Recently he's been running the ball a bit more, either on read-option plays or quarterback draws, and that added dimension to his game has helped. He will almost certainly be the starting quarterback next season as well, as he didn't partake in the Senior Day festivities last week (he's an academic senior with another year of eligibility remaining), and this week David Shaw said that if he returns he will be the starter. Stanford fans waiting to see Keller Chyrst will likely have to wait until 2016.
2. Is anyone ever going to tell David Shaw to stop calling plays in the red zone?
Jack Blanchat: Man, we just landed on a comet. Anything is possible. But realistically, he'll probably be the play-caller until kingdom come. I wouldn't be surprised if he adds someone to the offensive coaching staff after this season's offensive disaster, but that's speculation at this point. It's pretty clear that Shaw has some... issues with red-zone play calling.
Nick Dempsey: Sadly, no, which is unfortunate because Stanford either needs new offensive players or a new play caller. Shaw seems to keep dialing up plays that require personnel (like massive linemen and hard hitting RBs) he doesn't have.
Hank Waddles: Since he's the head coach, probably not, but I don't think Stanford's red zone issues can be blamed entirely on play calling. Stanford has no consistent run threat - and no big, bruising back like Toby Gerhart or Stepfan Taylor or Tyler Gaffney - so it's no surprise that the offense has had trouble moving the ball once the field becomes constricted. Also, the 2014 Cardinal is the least disciplined team in recent memory. Countless drives have been sabotaged by false start, illegal motion, and holding penalties in the red zone. You can blame all those problems on Shaw because he's the head coach, but it isn't just about bad play calling.
3. Usually you plug new players in at RB and offensive line and continue running the offense seamlessly. Why have both units regressed notably this year?
Jack Blanchat: This year's offensive line has four new starters, and they haven't lived up to expectations at all. They all came to Stanford as four- or five-star recruits but have really struggled physically and mentally all season long. When you cut out the thing that's been Stanford's big advantage over teams the last few years - high-quality offensive line play - the entire offense breaks down and the Cardinal becomes very average. The running back situation is a little more complicated. Some people lament the lack of a 220-pound power runner, but I think the bigger problem has been personnel mismanagement. I'm all in on Barry Sanders as an every-down runner, and the coaches aren't for one reason or another.
Nick Dempsey: Stanford had to replace a lot of players on the offense and I don't think the replacements were comparable. Stanford has plenty of running backs but none of them have the same style, and power of a Tyler Gaffney or Toby Gerhart. Furthermore, Stanford had 4 new offensive linemen headed into this season. That is a very difficult transition to make for any team.
Hank Waddles: I think most observers underestimated the time it would take for four new offensive linemen to come together and play as a unit. Even though they all had some playing experience, either in spot starts or as added linemen in Stanford's various jumbo packages, it's a different thing to be one of the starting five. Kevin Hogan has felt pressure unlike anything he saw the last two years, and the running game has also been affected. As for those running backs, it's beginning to look a lot like there were just a few misses in recruiting. Remound Wright, Kelsey Young, and Barry Sanders are all good backs, but each is limited in one way or another. If we could put them in a blender and combine their talents into one running back, the resulting player would be unstoppable. Without the blender, they're each severely limited. The running back to watch, though, is true freshman Christian McCaffrey. He's gotten more touches in recent weeks, and I expect him to have a big day in his first Big Game.
Mark DeVaughn: Stepfan Taylor and Tyler Gaffney picked up where Toby Gerhart left off. David DeCastro and Jonathan Martin became first-round picks, but it was their replacements who moved piles to Pasadena. Stanford won the same amount of games (23) in the two years that followed Andrew Luck's departure as they did in his final two seasons. But that ability to replace graduated talent finally ran out in 2014. The offensive line lacks the earthmoving ability of previous units, while David Shaw's preferred ground game strategy does not fit the current running backs' skills.
Since the Harbaugh/Shaw run of success began, some of the best offensive linemen in school history have come and gone. But never did they exit in masse like they did before this season. Four full-time starters left. Left tackle Andrus Peat remains a top pro prospect, but the players tasked at stepping in for center Khalil Wilkes (Graham Shuler) and right guard Kevin Danser (Johnny Caspers) have been especially ordinary. Shaw labeled the group NFL-caliber prior to the season. That comparison turned out to be extremely premature.
Stanford lacks a running back who can both break tackles and excel between them. Incredibly, no Cardinal tailback has accounted for 100 yards in a game. That's not for a lack of talent. Christian McCaffrey and Barry J. Sanders have proven to be effective runners. They excel in space. McCaffrey averages over seven yards per-carry, yet he's earned only 21 rushes all season. Sanders has the team's longest run from scrimmage (44 yards) and averages over six yards per-carry, yet he's never carried the ball more than seven times in a Pac-12 game. For whatever reason, Remound Wright (4.4 yards per carry) leads the team in rushing attempts.
4. What's the deal with fan attendance?
Jack Blanchat: Attendance problems aren't unique to just Stanford, but add in certain facts - 1) it's a small school 2) the alumni base is spread out nationally 3) it's in an area that doesn't care a whole lot about college football and 4) the home schedule sucks this season - and it all adds up to a very bad look on gameday.
Nick Dempsey: I actually read this question in Jerry Seinfeld's voice. But seriously, most of the attendance issues come down to numbers. Stanford only has about 7,000 undergraduates (By comparison Cal has about 25,000 undergrads). Low numbers like that also generally mean a smaller amount of alums as well. This results in a smaller fan base, generally. When you combine a small fan base with a disappointing season, and you get an abysmal turnout.
Hank Waddles: Wow - I commend you for finding an angle that's never been addressed before. Stanford fans don't always fill the stadium. Next question.
5. What's your favorite Big Game Week tradition?
Jack Blanchat: I have always been partial to the solemnity of the Bearial. I'm also a huge fan of winning the football game.
Nick Dempsey: Honestly, I really enjoy the humorous trash talk and the generally good-natured ribbing both sides dish out. There is clearly a mutual respect but it is always fun to take a week and lob some trash talk at each other followed by a friendly handshake afterwards.
Hank Waddles: I just heard about a new tradition, or at least a tradition that started after I left campus. Apparently there's a Big Game train whistle that's blowing on campus every hour, on the hour, all week long. It's not as cool (or as dangerous, or as environmentally irresponsible) as the old Big Game Bonfire, but it still sounds pretty cool.
Mark DeVaughn: I love the Guardsman. It's the greatest buffet that doesn't involve food: The bands, the coaches and fans of each team all under one roof in San Francisco. How many other rivalries have that kind of event? I love how it involves the Big Game returning to its roots in the City, which hosted the first Big Game (page 8 for the game story). The last one I attended was in 2003. Larry Beil emceed. "Let's introduce the coaches," he said. "First, Buddy Teevens of Stanford!" Hello, chirping crickets and scattered gagging. The awkwardness ensued until Beil welcomed the former Fresno State quarterback-turned-Berkeley savior. "Welcome, Cal's Jeff Tedford!" Cue the thunderous applause. Pretty much said all you needed to know about the two programs at the time.
6. Is this year an aberration or perhaps Shaw's dominance starting to fade?
Jack Blanchat: I think it's probably a little bit of both. Some regression was inevitable after making 4 straight BCS bowls - eventually it gets hard to replace guys that you lose both on and off the field - but Shaw hasn't done a whole lot to inspire confidence this season. His play-calling and game management has always been pretty frustrating, but this year it was particularly problematic. On top of that, he's the guy who constructed this terrible offense, so that's a cause for concern. But it's worth noting that Stanford could have beaten USC, Notre Dame and Utah, and the season might look and feel a lot different if the Cardinal had pulled out one of those games.
Nick Dempsey: This is the big question a lot of Stanford folks are asking right now. If Shaw can continue to recruit well, and get current and future players to still buy into the program then with a few adjustments they should still be fine. If Stanford starts losing on the recruiting front, and doesn't make some adjustments, particularly with the play calling, then it could be the end of an era.
Hank Waddles: I don't think we have to worry too much about this program. Even though it's disappointing to be sitting at 5-5 in late November, and even though there are glaring problems with the offense, this team is STILL just a handful of plays away from being 8-2. The Cardinal dominated USC, but lost by a field goal, would've beaten Notre Dame were it not for a defensive miscommunication in the final seconds, and lost to Utah in double overtime. None of that changes the record, but I point it out for a little perspective. Also, there is still a lot of young talent in the program, and some have said that last year's recruiting class was the best in school history. Teams have ups and downs. Stanford Football will be just fine.
Mark DeVaughn: It's already faded. Our conference's history features a handful of coaches who successfully replaced "the guy." John Robinson, Terry Donahue and Mike Bellotti all succeeded coaches who - like Jim Harbaugh - departed for the NFL after leading their respective schools to unprecedented success. Shaw built on Harbaugh's foundation, yet he's 5-6 since last year's Pac-12 title game. He's 0-6 against his last six ranked foes. None of the aforementioned head coaches ever experienced that steep a decline so quickly. Serious doubts hang over this program's future and Shaw's abilities to keep Stanford on top.
I'm of the understanding that coaching is a three-pronged approach: motivation, preparation and hiring the right assistants to develop talent. Shaw has failed in 2014 on all three measures. He insisted earlier this month it wasn't his job to motivate his players. The Cardinal had two weeks to prepare for last week's effort against Utah, yet proceeded to somehow lose a game where it allowed seven points in regulation, a Stanford first since 1988. Shaw's chief offensive assistants - offensive coordinator Mike Bloomgren and quarterbacks coach Tavita Pritchard - have proven to be disastrous hires. Inexplicably, Shaw didn't even interview another candidate for the offensive coordinator position. Kevin Hogan produces mistakes no quarterback with two-plus years of experience should make. It's easy to connect the dots.
When will the Cardinal be ranked again? What is its offensive identity? How could a team whose defense allows fewer than 17 points per game be 5-5? These questions seemed impossible to ask just a few months ago. They stand as indictments on the head coach.
7. Stanford is favored by 6, per Vegas. Does that feel about right?
Jack Blanchat: Yeah, probably? Stanford has tended to play well against teams with bad defenses.
Nick Dempsey: Vegas' guess is as good as mine. First off, it's a rivalry game which are almost always hard to predict. Secondly, Stanford has been so inconsistent this year that it is difficult to determine which Stanford team is going to show up. Sometimes a Stanford team that fights hard in a close game shows up. Sometimes Stanford doesn't show up at all. If you get the Stanford team that played Oregon State then 6 is probably too low. If you get the Stanford team that played Arizona State then 6 is way too high.
Hank Waddles: . Six points? On the one hand, sometimes it's kind of hard to imagine the Stanford offense scoring six points, let alone beating another team by six points, but they've actually done well against subpar defenses, posting easy wins over Washington State and Oregon State. The Cal defense might be just what Kevin Hogan and company need to wake up. We'll see.
Mark DeVaughn: I suppose. Cal has a lot of things going for it. Hogan has ONE touchdown pass on the road in 2014. Stanford turns the ball over more often than any other Pac-12 team, except Washington State. The Bears are motivated to avenge last season's 53-point loss. This one is more of a toss-up the more I think about it.
8. Cal's offense versus Stanford's defense should be a good show! How do you see that one turning out?
Jack Blanchat: Typically, Stanford's defense has played well against Air Raid attacks - Wazzu and Cal specifically - but they usually haven't boasted the rushing attack that this Bears team does. If Cal is able to get a good push in the run game, the Bears could have a relatively successful offensive day. However, the passing attack will probably still have some issues.
Nick Dempsey: Stanford handled Washington State's version of the air raid offense with relative ease. The question is, how much can we extrapolate from that game. I know the Bear Raid throws in a few tiny wrinkles (like actually running the ball) but I think the Stanford defense will hold up reasonably well against the Bear Raid. If they cannot handle the Bear Raid, however, it will be a very long afternoon for the Cardinal.
Hank Waddles: I'm really looking forward to that. The Cardinal defense did well against Washington State and their pass-heavy offense, so I'm sure they'll be up for the challenge. I think this matchup will decide the game, since I feel pretty good about Stanford's prospects on offense. Defensive end Henry Anderson is coming off the best game of his career, so I'm sure he's ready to back that up with another great effort in his final Big Game. If he can get after Jared Goff and come up with a couple sacks and force some mistakes, I think it could be a long day for the Cal offense.
9. Cal's defense versus Stanford's offense should cause John Heisman to roll over in his grave! How do you see that battle turning out?
Jack Blanchat: The Cardinal has had some success moving the ball against teams with bad defenses - Oregon State and Washington State, specifically - so I would expect Stanford to be able to do that again on Saturday. (Compared to most weeks, they may even look like the Greatest Show on Turf.) I'd probably expect the Cardinal to score right around 30 points.
Nick Dempsey: I don't know, when Stanford's offense is on the field I normally use that time to get another beer, use the restroom, or finish up some paperwork. But seriously, it is going to be ugly. Hogan and the Stanford offense have shown that they can move the ball well against bad defenses (I know huge bragging rights!). Right now, the Stanford offense is bad, but the Cal defense is worse so I give the advantage to Stanford in this matchup.
Hank Waddles: . As I said above, I think (or maybe I just hope) that the Stanford offense will come alive a bit on Saturday. Stanford's running game showed some signs of life against Utah's stingy defense, so I feel like there's at least a little bit of momentum building there. If things go well, the Cardinal might even be able to produce its first 100-yard rusher of the season. If the offensive line can protect Kevin Hogan, I think he'll also be effective. It won't be like last year's demolition, but it should be better than we've been used to seeing recently.
10. Who do you want to punch in the face?
Jack Blanchat: Man, I don't know. I practice peace and nonviolence in every aspect of my life. Namaste.
Nick Dempsey: Haha, well, no one. David Shaw's play calling however is enraging. On more than a few times I have wondered why Shaw doesn't just send the field goal unit out as soon as we cross the other team's 35 yard line.
Hank Waddles: Who should I punch in the face? How about the next guy who asks me about Stanford's attendance?
Mark DeVaughn: I've given this some careful thought. Mike Silver came to mind, but I pity anybody who predicted, in 2011 no less, Jeff Tedford would soon take Cal to the Rose Bowl. Oops! And dude, get over it: Blame the guys and gals with the AP Poll votes, not Mack Brown, for Cal missing out on the Rose Bowl in 2004. But Mikey deserves a nice pie in the face, not a punch.
No, the mugs just begging for a punch belong to Lew Wolff and John Fisher. I've about had it with the Oakland A's slumlord billionaire owners. Since 2000, the A's have achieved success sports franchises could never imagine. Yet what have they won? Zip! These owners cry poor, alienate fans and force the hand of the GM, all the while trying to move the club to San Jose. A Charlie Brown team with Lucy is the owner's box is no recipe for a championship. The last time the A's had competent ownership (the Haas family, forever connected to Cal-Berkeley), they won the World Series. Count me among Oakland fans who remembers those days well. We didn't land on Mount Davis. Mount Davis landed on us. I need a beer.