The Stanford Cardinal have emerged as a respectable force in the college football world over the last few years. The changing of the culture and approach to Stanford football started with Jim Harbaugh turning things around and David Shaw has continued to lead Stanford on the same path. The Cardinal play a physical style that manages to slow down high-powered offensive systems, including Oregon, which has led some to compare Stanford’s style to those typically found in the SEC. Any comparison to the SEC would normally be well received given the conference’s string of success on the big stage, but that is not something Shaw apparently wants to hear.
“I don’t necessarily take it as a compliment,” Shaw said this week, according to San Jose Mercury News. “We play the style of football I grew up with. It’s not because that’s the way they play at Alabama or LSU. That means nothing to us.”
The style of football Stanford plays would fit in with almost any generation of football. Shaw likes to draw comparisons to the teams that played in the 1980s, including the Joe Montana-era San Francisco 49er. Those are the similarities Stanford aims for, and it makes perfect sense given the connection between the Cardinal and 49ers. Not only is Harbaugh now coaching the 49ers, but Bill Walsh previously coached both teams as well.
“It’s the right way for them to play because they can’t recruit speed the way other teams recruit speed,” former UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel said, according to San Jose Mercury Times. “David would never tip his hat to the SEC. He and Jim went back to drawing board, and this style is the best fit. They built it brilliantly.”
Stanford opens their 2013 season this weekend after not having a game scheduled last week. The defending Pac 12 champions host San Jose State in a bit of a local rivalry game. Stanford enters the game as a favorite of course, but will have to use that physical style defense to shut down the Spartans’ passing game led by David Fales. Stanford narrowly escaped against San Jose State last season, winning 20-17. Fales passed for 217 yards and a touchdown in the game, which was tied at 17-17 entering the fourth quarter.