STANFORD – Stanford’s loss to No. 5 Notre Dame was a worthy end to an ugly month and the worst season in 15 years.

The Cardinal finished 3-9, his worst record since 1-11 in 2006 under Walt Harris, and lost his last seven games after upset Oregon. The last four losses, culminating in the Fighting Irish’s 45-14 losses on Saturday, were: 52-7 to Utah, 35-14 to Oregon State, and 44-11 to Cal.

The lack of competitiveness in November seems to signal serious problems for a program that has been a Pac-12 title contender for a decade but is now 11-19 for the past three seasons.

“Too many mistakes, too many mistakes,” said Stanford coach David Shaw. “That will be our focus for the next year.”

Here are three main reasons Stanford regressed and whether there is any hope that the results will be different in 2022:

Stanford became the first team since USC in 2011 to face 12 opponents from the Power Five conferences. It was particularly unfortunate at its crossings with the Pac-12 South – it had to face Utah and Arizona State (combined record: 17-7) instead of Arizona and Colorado (combined record: 5-19).

The schedule won’t necessarily get any easier next year. Playing Utah and Arizona State instead of Arizona and Colorado, the Cardinal will play five of its nine conference games in 2022, after playing five of nine at home in 2021.

The schedule without a conference might not be easier either. While this year’s team played in Vanderbilt, Kansas State in a neutral location and Notre Dame at home, the team will host BYU next year and travel to Notre Dame. It is home to an FCS team, Colgate, to kick off the season, which should at least give Stanford a good start.

Injuries are part of the game, but Stanford seemed particularly hard hit this season. Safety Jonathan McGill, the unofficial MVP of the spring, only came back for the last two games (and intercepted a pass in both competitions) as high school started 10 different players. But the biggest problems were on the offensive.
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QB Tanner McKee missed two games and played his two worst games on his return, and Stanford lost two of his top three running backs, all four top receivers, and two of his three top tight ends at different times than the offense has been held 14 points or less in six of the last seven games.

The Cardinal is likely to end up among the top five of 130 FBS teams on both rushed offense and rushed defense.
The defense changed their base lineup from a 3-4 to a 4-3 late-season and did slightly better, but five of the six defensive linemen in the two-deep against Notre Dame were senior or graduate students. On the offensive, the entire line and all four scholarship running backs can return, but they still have a lot to do.

“There are some things here that we have done very well in the past that we need to do better,” said Shaw. “We have to (have to) optimize and change some things. So we’re not going to stagnate and rest on the things we’ve done in the past. We’ll get back to work. “