In the game of football there is that old saying “offense wins games, but defense wins championships.” Unfortunately, Stanford‘s two defeats to Utah and USC prevented the talented Cardinal team from representing the Pac-12 in the BCS Championship, but it is that same exceptional talent that kept the two loss Cardinal in the mix. Ranked number five in the nation, it’s hard to imagine Stanford’s potential snubbing if the playoff system was used this season.
The Cardinal know how to play in big games, having faced 7 top 25 opponents, finishing 7-0, which included beating Washington, Oregon State, Oregon, UCLA, Notre Dame and ASU twice; once at home and once on the road for the PAC-12 Championship in Tempe. The level of competition this Cardinal defense has faced in 2013 has prepared them for the Michigan State offensive attack they will face in Pasadena. Having already played on such a stage last year, winning the Rose Bowl in 2012, the butterflies will not be present for this Cardinal defense. Expect the Cardinal to come out the gates ready to rock on defense.
In the second half of the 2013 College football season the Stanford Cardinal have stepped up big on the defensive side of the ball. Led by senior linebackers Shane Skov and Trent Murphy up front, this Stanford front seven are tough, experienced and athletic. It is imperative that the Cardinal defensive line gets a push up front. It will not be easy, as Michigan State’s offensive line has vastly improved this season. Protecting Quarterback Connor Cook is their job, and they have done it well this season. On the other hand Stanford’s defensive front is known for getting after the quarterback, totaling 40 sacks this season, executing primarily with a standard rush from the 3-4 set.
Disrupting the passing game of Michigan State is key for the Cardinal defense. It will be a big stage for Trent Murphy, Henry Anderson, and Josh Mauro to get in the face of Cook and force him to make mistakes that Safety Ed Reynolds and the Cardinal defensive backs can capitalize on. Jeremy Langford is another weapon for the Spartan offense, as he complements Connor Cook in Michigan State’s offensive attack with his speed and athletic ability. Langford finished 2013 with 1,338 yards rushing and 17 touchdowns. It will be the job of senior captain Shane Skov and the Cardinal linebackers to neutralize Langford, keeping him from reaching that second level, and utilizing his speed in the open field.
Skov has been a beast of a linebacker for the Cardinal this season, displaying his athletic ability and incredible instincts, Skov has a knack for being around the football. Those instincts and sideline to sideline speed will also be vital for Skov when spying Connor Cook on 3rd downs. Cook is a tall lanky quarterback who can create outside the pocket, and if the pass rushers for Stanford are on their jobs, and are able to force Cook to scramble expect Skov and the Cardinal linebackers to swarm towards the football. The speed and ferociousness of the Cardinal defense could be overwhelming for a Spartan offense whom have not seen the likes of the Cardinal defense.
I smell roses and the Cardinal should too.