Stanford football 2013: National title contenders?

USA TODAY Sports

The Stanford Cardinal look to elevate themselves from Pac-12 and Rose Bowl champions and try and get to the BCS title game in Pasadena. We asked David Lombardi of The Bootleg in the final part of our three-part Q&A!

To see part I of this Q&A, click here!

8. Are there weaknesses on this team outside of the receiving corps?

I wouldn't characterize the receiving corps as a "weakness" just yet. Those guys are untested, but as I said, the potential is there for Stanford to improve immensely on the outside. Based on what I've seen at practice, the tight ends -- believe it or not -- may actually be Stanford's biggest weakness at this point. Aside from that, the Cardinal are looking for steady play at both punter and punt returner. Daniel Zychlinksi and Drew Terrell were rock solid in those two roles last year, but they have both graduated.

9. Who will be the toughest matchup for Stanford on the schedule besides Oregon?

It's funny that you ask, because I wrote an article about this just last week. Despite the head-scratcher this weekend, I'm sticking with my guns and picking Oregon State. Mike Riley's veteran team will find a way to hum before Stanford comes to town. Visiting Corvallis is always tricky, particularly the weekend before Halloween (orange and black) with the home showdown versus Oregon looming. I can only imagine a dogfight at Reser Stadium come late October.

From a strict match-up perspective, I think Arizona State can give Stanford trouble. Will Sutton is a monster in the middle, and Khalil Wilkes will be playing only his third game as the Cardinal's center when the Sun Devils come rolling in.

10. What's your prediction for the season?

You know what, why not? Stanford has been trying for a national title since 2007 (yes, everybody laughed at the goal then), but they've been mighty close to reaching the BCS title game the past three seasons. The last (and only) time the Cardinal was this balanced was 2010, the year that Autzen Stadium killed the ultimate dream. Now, even though the offense isn't an Andrew Luck-like juggernaut anymore, Stanford's defense is built to run the table and Oregon must come to the Bay Area.

Still, the odds certainly aren't in Stanford's favor: An uncharacteristically bad day or two can easily derail a team that wins in relatively low-scoring fashion. But at the end of the day, the Cardinal will have the definite muscle advantage in every single one of their 2013 regular season contests, and that's saying something in an inherently violent game like football. The Farm Boys are strong, deep, and athletic enough to punish each and every one of the softer, flashier teams on their schedule. So, I think they will run the table to punch a return ticket to Pasadena on January 6. Jim Harbaugh, David Shaw, and sports performance director Shannon Turley formulated a grand plan six years ago. It's now had adequate time to fully blossom.

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