The Stanford Cardinal open their season Saturday night at
home, and we've got game analysis along with a free pick for the contest
against the San Jose State Spartans.
David Shaw will be the last FBS head coach to get a look at
his team when the Stanford Cardinal take the field this week, and just like his
previous two seasons at the helm, he'll see the San Jose State Spartans on the
other sidelines Saturday night at Stanford Stadium.
Kickoff for the Bill Walsh Legacy Game is 11 PM (ET), the
final matchup on the Week 2 college football betting card. The Cardinal are 26.5 point favorites after
opening a half-point lower. Likewise, early sports betting action has moved the total a half-point, though down from 49 to 48.5.
Ranked No. 4 by the coaches and No. 5 by the writers,
Stanford hits the turf for the first time since a 20-14 win and cover vs. Wisconsin in the Rose
Bowl to finish off a fine 12-2 campaign. The victory over the Badgers was part of an 8-game win streak to close
2012, covering six of the eight, and Stanford will be facing a Spartans team
that also closed with eight consecutive wins before extending that to nine last
week against Sacramento State. The
Cardinal have beaten San Jose
State five straight and
own a 51-14-1 advantage in the series that dates to 1900.
Take a look at our thoughts on Stanford's Season Win Total Odds.
Cardinal Look To
Avoid Scare Like 2012 Clash
The College Football odds for Saturday are eerily similar to last year's
matchup when Stanford closed -26.5 with a 49.5 point total. The opener for both schools, San Jose State put a scare into the Cardinal who eked
out a 20-17 victory. It was the first
game for Stanford in the post-Andrew Luck Era, and the Spartans had several
opportunities to pull off a shocker over the then-No. 21 Cardinal before
ultimately falling short.
That was then and this is now, though, and then Stanford had
Josh Nunes at quarterback. By midseason,
he had given way to Kevin Hogan who guided the Cardinal to their final six wins
of '12 and now returns for his junior season with a very good offensive line in
front of him. The Cardinal will have to
replace talented tailback Stepfan Taylor, a 5th-round pick in the NFL by the
Arizona Cardinals, along with big tight end Zach Ertz, a 2nd-round choice by
the Philadelphia Eagles.
Anthony Wilkerson and Tyler Gaffney are expected to share RB
chores, at least to start the season. Wilkerson had 50 carries for 224 yards and a score a year ago; Gaffney
is returning to the gridiron after spending 2012 trying to make it in the
Pittsburgh Pirates farm system. He was
Stanford's 2nd-leading rusher in 2011 behind Taylor, scoring seven times and averaging
over six yards per carry. Keep your eyes
on Charlie Hopkins as the new featured TE in the Cardinal attack. Recruited to Stanford for the defensive line,
converted to TE this spring and is a load at 6-6, 265.
Shaw could afford that conversion with a very talented and
experienced defense. Stanford returns eight
starters from a unit that ranked 11th in scoring a year ago (17.2 ppg) and 20th
in total defense. Ends Henry Anderson
and Ben Gardner are backed by LB's Trent Murphy and Shayne Skov while safety Ed
Reynolds leads the DB's.
Spartans Coming Off
Shutout Win In Season Opener
State is in the
early-days of its own 'post era' with Ron Caragher taking over head coaching
duties from Mike MacIntyre, now running the Colorado Buffaloes. Caragher made his debut last week in the
Spartans' 24-0 blanking of Sacramento
State, covering the
20-point spread but not generating near the offense that was expected with a
54.5 point total. It may be his first
head coaching matchup with Stanford, but he knows plenty about this rivalry
having played prep ball in San Jose
before being recruited to UCLA as a QB in the late-80s.
Caragher is changing the offense up at San Jose State, which
no doubt helped hold the scoring down last week for a squad that was 28th in
2012 putting up nearly 35 a game. David
Fales, a senior out of Salinas,
returns at pivot after throwing for nearly 4,200 yards, 33 TD and leading the
country with a 72.5% completion percentage. But that was out of MacIntyre's pistol set, and Caragher had Fales under
center for last week's victory vs. the Hornets.
Fales was slow to drop back on several snaps and completed
just half of his attempts (16-32) in the win, half of those to Chandler Jones,
the team's third-leading receiver from 2012. He also has his favorite two targets from last year, Noel Grigsby and
Jabari Carr, so once the group gets the offense down, we could see the Spartans
return to form that had them sixth in passing under MacIntyre. Continuing that education against a defense
like Stanford's will be a true test for Fales who some suggest will be a late
1st-rounder in the next NFL draft. There
is experience on the O-line, led by Nick Kaspar.
It has become cliché to say a football game will be one in
the trenches, so excuse me if I insult your intelligence by saying that is
where this game will be won...and covered. Stanford will come out ahead on the scoreboard, but when it comes to placing our College Football picks, I'm not one inclined
to lay nearly four touchdowns on anyone. Ultimately, I'm going to side with the two defenses bending, but not
breaking that scoreboard barrier. Stanford 33-14 is how I see it.
My free pick: Under