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The Stanford Cardinal: Previewing 2024 Prospects in the ACC

Stanford Cardinal—Band, Tree, Cheer
© Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY

Stanford University is one of the premier academic institutions in the world. Situated on prime real estate in Northern California's Bay Area, "The Farm" also plays host to occasional college football excellence and the quirkiest collegiate band in the United States.

Four Stanford alumni—Ernie Nevers, James Lofton, John Elway and John Lynch—are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Legendary Stanford quarterback Jim Plunkett won the Heisman Trophy in 1970 and is in the College Football Hall of Fame.

Stanford was a member of the Pac-12 Conference (which underwent several name changes) for more than a century. However, with radical conference realignment, the Pacific Coast's Stanford Cardinal (yes, it's singular "Cardinal") has joined the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Let's preview the Cardinal's inaugural ACC season and look back at a bit of Stanford's rich history.

The Cardinal's 2024 Schedule

Stanford faces a formidable lineup of opponents this season. According to the College Football Network, the Cardinal's strength of schedule ranks No. 36 out of the 134 FBS teams.

  • Aug. 30: TCU

  • Sept. 7: California Polytechnic State University

  • Sept. 20: at Syracuse

  • Sept. 28: at Clemson

  • Oct. 5: Virginia Tech

  • Oct. 12: at Notre Dame

  • Oct. 19: SMU

  • Oct. 26: Wake Forest

  • Nov. 2: at North Carolina State

  • Nov. 16: at Louisville

  • Nov. 23: at Cal

  • Nov. 29: at San Jose State

Four of Stanford's opponents are included in ESPN's preseason Top 25 poll—Notre Dame (No. 4), North Carolina State (No. 13), Clemson (No. 16) and Virginia Tech (No. 21). The Cardinal struggled last season, ending up with a 3-9 record. Given the strength of the schedule in 2024, it will be a challenge for Stanford to turn things around. Another 3-9 season has been predicted by 247Sports for the Cardinal, with victories against only Cal Poly, Wake Forest and San Jose State.

Stanford Cardinal—Players Taking the Field
© D. Ross Cameron-USA TODAY Sports

Key Cardinal Players

Coach Troy Taylor enters his second season at the helm in Palo Alto. His quarterback is 20-year-old junior Ashton Daniels, who started as the Cardinal's QB last season and threw for 2,247 yards, with 11 touchdowns and 8 interceptions. Four-star redshirt freshman wide receiver Emmett Mosley V looks to have a breakout season in 2024 and will likely be one of Daniels' principal throwing targets. Sophomore running back Sedrick Irvin was also a four-star recruit. He started three games as a true freshman and is slated to take over the full-time starting job. On defense, graduate student Zahran Manley returns after starting all 12 games at cornerback for the Cardinal in 2023. He had a key interception against Michael Penix Jr. in a closely contested game against the eventual national championship finalist Washington Huskies.

Stanford Cardinal QB Ashton Daniels
© D. Ross Cameron-USA TODAY Sports

That Crazy Band, 'The Play'

A major component of the allure and greatness of college football is the pomp and circumstance attendant to the games. Stanford's band is an integral part of this appealing aspect of college football. Known for its quirky antics, the band was involved in one of the most iconic moments in college football history:

The Eccentric Stanford Cardinal Band
© Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY

Known simply as "The Play," Cal made a remarkable kickoff return for a touchdown as time expired during the annual rivalry game with Stanford—known as "The Big Game." The Play occurred in the 1982 Big Game. Famously, members of the Standford band, thinking the Cardinal had won the game, were on the field as Cal scored after multiple laterals, with Golden Bears defensive back and return specialist Kevin Moen running through and over Stanford band members on his way into the end zone.

The dramatic audio of sportscaster Joe Starkey's frenetic call of the play is the stuff of legends. With his voice cracking, Starkey exclaimed, "Oh, the band is on the field!" In real time, he described the series of laterals and the eventual game-winning score as "the most amazing, sensational, dramatic, heartrending, exciting, thrilling finish in the history of college football!"

As noted above, Stanford and Cal are meeting on Nov. 23 in Berkeley, Calif. It will be the 127th playing of the Big Game.

1 Comment

Jun 27

The Tree 🌲🤣🌲

Michigan Football
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