ESPN Insider's "20 teams that can win it all" series is previewing each of the top 20 teams in Brian Fremeau's five-year program metric, with the help of ESPN's Stats & Information group (for a full explanation and links to all of the previews as they are published, click here). This is the entry for Stanford.
The Stanford Cardinal program has seen many highlights throughout its history, but the last two years may be the best the program has ever experienced. The Cardinal won 10 or more games in consecutive seasons for the first time in nearly a century (last done in 1914-15), played in a bowl game for the third consecutive season for only the second time, and set a new club standard by finishing in the top 10 in the AP poll in consecutive years.
For head coach David Shaw, getting this team to meet that high achievement bar in his first year speaks well to his abilities, but the real feather in his coaching cap will be if he can get his 2012 Cardinal club to compete for a BCS title berth without having the benefit of Andrew Luck under center.
So what are Stanford's chances to attain that BCS goal? Let's take a closer look to find out.
Why Stanford can win it all
The Cardinal have the makings of a strong rushing attack
One of the reasons the Cardinal have a shot at succeeding is, as great as Luck was, Stanford was always a run-first team under his tenure (the highest pass-run ratio by the Cardinal in his three years was a 45-55 split in 2011). That's right -- the passing attack that helped display the talents of a No. 1 pick wasn't even getting a simple majority of the plays.
That can be the case again this year, as Stanford returns its top three leading rushers from a 2011 campaign that tallied a total of 2,738 yards, the third-most in school history. All-Pac-12 running back Stepfan Taylor is the go-to ballcarrier, but the team's depth here is so great that it led to the Cardinal making ESPN Insider Travis Haney's list of potential sleeper teams in 2012.