For the first time in school history, Stanford football was ranked in the preseason top five in the USA Today Coaches’ Poll released on Thursday. The Cardinal found itself sitting at No. 4, two spots ahead of the No. 6 position that an Andrew Luck-led team owned in the 2011 preseason coaches’ poll and also where the squad finished at the end of its Rose Bowl run last season.
Stanford comes into the 2013-14 season with a fearsome defense and an experienced offensive line, two units considered to be among the best — if not the best — in the nation. This offseason, the media has taken notice of the Cardinal’s bid as a legitimate national championship contender; ESPN, Sports Illustrated and CBSSports all listed Stanford as a top-five team.
The three programs ranked ahead of the Cardinal were No. 1 Alabama, No. 2 Ohio State and No. 3 Oregon. Defending national champion Alabama received 58 out of the 62 first-place votes. Ohio State, which went undefeated last year, received three, and Texas A&M, led by Heisman winner Johnny Manziel, collected one.
Five of Stanford’s 12 opponents for the upcoming season were ranked in the top 25. The Cardinal will play those five ranked teams — No. 21 UCLA, No. 25 Oregon State, No. 3 Oregon, No. 24 USC and No. 11 Notre Dame — in the span of six weeks to close out the season, providing yet another testament to the difficulty of the Cardinal’s back-end schedule.
Due to its opening bye week, Stanford will begin training camp on Aug. 11, later than most teams.
Want to learn about the rise of Stanford football? Check out “Rags to Roses,” available in the Amazon Kindle store now! Stanford Daily football beat writers Joseph Beyda, George Chen and Sam Fisher interviewed 30 current and former players and coaches to bring you the story of the Cardinal’s resurgence from 2006 to 2012. You can also check out the free excerpts here.