The Stanford Cardinal were ranked No. 21 to start the season, but after a loss to Northwestern in week one, they fell out of the top 25 and looked like a team that was going to be middle of the pack in the Pac-12. However, an impressive road win over the USC Trojans in Los Angeles has put the Cardinal back into the mix atop the Pac-12 North.
That said, here are five players that have been instrumental in Stanford's success so far.
Blake Martinez, LB, #4
The Tucson native and Canyon Del Oro alum is the quarterback of Stanford's defense. He lead the team in tackles last year with 102 and was an All-Pac-12 honorable mention. He wasted no time picking up from where he left off as he currently leads the team in tackles this year as well with 48 -- 25 more than anyone else on the team. He averages 12.5 tackles per game, which is the third best mark in the entire country, and also has the team's only interception. There's a reason why he was named to so many preseason award watch lists.
Martinez grew up as an Arizona fan, and it's too bad that the hometown kid isn't a Wildcat, but you can't blame someone for wanting to go to Stanford instead.
Kevin Hogan, QB, #8
Yes, he's still Stanford's quarterback. Hogan gets his fair share of criticism for being mediocre, but he's been solid this season. He's completed 63.4% of his for 938 yards (234.5 yards per game), and has seven touchdown passes to just two interceptions. One thing that stands out when you look at Hogan's stat line this year is his yards per pass attempt. His average last season was 7.9, but this season it has climbed to 9.3. The Cardinal are breaking off big chunks of yards through the air.
One weird thing is that, while it seems Hogan has been at Stanford forever, he has never faced Arizona because of the timing of the schedule. The last time Stanford played Arizona was in 2012, and Josh Nunes started that game over Hogan.
Christian McCaffrey, RB, #5
McCaffrey is Stanford's workhorse running back. He's averaging over 20 carries per game and is averaging 5.1 yards per carry. Last Saturday, he ran for 210 yards on 30 carries against Oregon State. We saw last week how vulnerable Arizona is against the run, and McCaffrey could have another huge game if the Wildcats forget how to tackle again. McCaffrey is also an effective receiver, as he is third on the team in receiving yards (157), and actually leads the team in receptions (13).
The Cardinal have Barry Sanders in their backfield too. He's had a relatively quiet season, but he too had a monster game against Oregon State as he had 97 yards on just seven carries, including two touchdowns, one of which was from 65 yards out. McCaffrey is the bell cow, but Sanders can come in a take one to the house if you're not careful.
Austin Hooper, TE, #18
We know how tight ends can give Arizona's defense trouble, and Stanford has a good one in Austin Hooper. Hooper was named to ESPN.com's All-Pac-12 preseason first team. Last year, Hooper had nearly 500 receiving yards, and this season he currently leads the team with 185. He's also second on the team in receptions (12), and is tied for the lead in receiving touchdowns (2). UTSA TE David Gordon had nine catches for 109 yards and a touchdown against Arizona's defense, and so it wouldn't be surprising to see Hooper have a huge game as well.
Peter Kalambayi, LB, #34
Blake Martinez isn't the only talented linebacker that Stanford has. Junior Peter Kalambayi is making his presence known around the Pac-12. Kalambayi was a reserve for Stanford last year, but still managed to have 32 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, and 6.5 sacks. In his first start against Northwestern this year, he recorded 12 tackles. For the season so far, he second on the team in tackles (23), and has two tackles for loss, a sack, and a forced fumble.
Stanford always seems to have talented linebackers, and this season is no exception.