Stanford could take a step back

Can Kevin Hogan lead the Stanford Cardinal to back-to-back Pac-12 titles? AP Photo/Jeff Chiu

Statistician Bill James used to say that one of the ways to tell a great team from a good team is that the great team will win more of its games by a large number of points.

Using that rule of thumb as a barometer, the Stanford Cardinal were a good team rather than a great team last season. They had 10 games decided by a touchdown or less, and eight of their wins were by seven or fewer points -- two factors that were largely overshadowed by the team's many accomplishments, including a surprise overtime win over Oregon, a Pac-12 championship and Rose Bowl victory.

That is probably why the Cardinal are being viewed as a top-five-caliber outfit in 2013, yet this shows Stanford has little margin for error. It also means the Cardinal could very well take a step back from last year's level if they can't correct issues in some key areas.