Return of Bryce Love Makes Stanford 2018 Playoff Contender

Matthew Jordan

Tuesday, January 16, 2018 3:15 PM UTC

Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2018 3:15 PM UTC

The deadline for underclassmen to declare for the NFL Draft has come and gone and Stanford is one clear winner with the return of star running back Bryce Love, the 2017 Heisman runner-up.

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It’s never too early to think about the 2018 college football season and Heisman Trophy race, right? The deadline for underclassmen to declare for this year’s NFL Draft passed on Jan. 15, and no question that Stanford was one of the big winners because star running back Bryce Love is returning to Palo Alto even though the 2017 Heisman runner-up had a good shot of being a first-round pick.

Thanks in large part to Love, the Cardinal won the Pac-12 North Division this past season but lost to Southern Cal 31-28 in the conference championship game. Stanford finished 9-5 overall after a wild 39-37 loss to TCU in the Alamo Bowl in which the Cardinal blew a 21-3 lead. Despite missing one game with an ankle injury and being hampered in a couple of others, Love set a Stanford record with 2,118 yards rushing, an FBS record with 13 runs of at least 50 yards and topped the 100-yard mark 12 times. Love’s 8.1 yards per rush was the best in FBS history, erasing the record of 7.8 that Nebraska’s Mike Rozier set in 1983. Christian McCaffrey who?

Some college football players aren’t really student-athletes but Love is: He’s a biology major and aspiring pediatrician with an interest in stem cell research. That no doubt played a huge role in returning to Stanford. The Cardinal also return sophomore QB K.C. Costello, who took over as the full-time starter later in the 2017 season. The former five-star recruit showed signs of being a star at times (Notre Dame game, for example). Most of the offensive line is back.

The Cardinal lost four underclassmen to the 2018 draft: defensive tackle Harrison Phillips, tight end Dalton Schultz, safety Justin Reid and cornerback Quenton Meeks.

Currently at Bovada, the Cardinal are +3300 to win the national championship. Easily their top competition to win the Pac-12 North again would be Washington, which returns QB Jake Browning and star RB Myles Gaskin. Stanford has to go to Seattle on Nov. 3, to Notre Dame out of conference, faces Pac-12 South favorite USC on Sept. 8 and visits Oregon on Sept. 22. It’s a very tough schedule. So tough that a Pac-12 title should assure a spot in the College Football Playoff even with one loss.

At 5Dimes, Love is a +1500 fourth-favorite for the 2018 Heisman behind Georgia’s Jake Fromm (+1200) and D’Andre Swift (+1400), and Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor (+1400). Stanford has had one Heisman winner: QB Jim Plunkett in 1970.

Here’s Stanford’s 2018 schedule with times TBA:

  • 9/1 vs. San Diego State
  • 9/8 vs. USC
  • 9/15 vs. UC Davis
  • 9/22 @ Oregon
  • 9/29 @ Notre Dame
  • 10/6 vs. Utah
  • 10/13 BYE
  • 10/18 @ Arizona State
  • 10/27 vs. Washington State
  • 11/3 @ Washington
  • 11/10 vs. Oregon State
  • 11/17 @ Cal
  • 11/24 @ UCLA
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