The last time Stanford entered a season in this position -- facing a serious rebuild, skeptics circling -- it was in exactly the same position.
It was the late summer of 2012. Andrew Luck had departed, the depth chart was full of holes, the coaching staff had much to prove, and the Cardinal was No. 21 in The Associated Press preseason poll.
This year, coming off a five-loss season with questions on both sides of the line of scrimmage and on the sideline, Stanford is ... No. 21 in the AP preseason poll.
"It's a similar position in that we lost a lot of guys the outside world put a lot of value in," senior quarterback Kevin Hogan said. "People are sleeping on us, and that's fine."
There is good reason for the outside world's tempered expectations. The Cardinal defense, dominant for so many years, has a vulnerable front and inexperienced secondary. The right side of the offensive line is unproven. And the coaching staff must prove it can maximize the offensive personnel after issuing numerous mea culpas during the 2014 season.
But dig deeper, and there is potential for a major upside surprise:
Oregon must replace Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Marcus Mariota and several defensive playmakers. Cal's defense is unproven. USC looks leaderless after coach Steve Sarkisian made his personal problems public. UCLA has a new quarterback, as does Arizona State.
Back in 2012, Stanford responded to the preseason skepticism by winning the conference and the Rose Bowl.
A repeat hardly seems out of reach.
"We'll let the naysayers say what they'll say," cornerback Ronnie Harris said. "We'll be ready" when the season starts.