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, Hopkins was 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
San Jose 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 48.5 (-110)