The Stanford Cardinal and the San Diego State Aztecs open their respective seasons in Stanford Stadium on Friday night (9 p.m., FS1). The Cardinal is favored by 14 points in the majority of sportsbooks, while the consensus total is 48.5.
Stanford, last seen losing 39-37 to TCU in the Alamo Bowl, enters the 2018 season with expectations to compete with Washington for the Pac-12 North title. They boast a dynamic offense that sees numerous starters return, including Heisman Trophy runner-up Bryce Love at running back and K.J. Costello at quarterback. However, senior center Jesse Burkett will not be present due to an undisclosed injury.
Additionally, Stanford’s once-reliable defense is now full of holes, particularly in the secondary with the departures of Justin Reid and Quenton Meeks. There’s also a slew of undisclosed injuries to cornerback Alijah Holder and safeties Malik Antoine and Brandon Simmons that will only further test Stanford’s depth in that department. The Cardinal’s front seven is mostly young and unproven.
San Diego State has the capability of taking advantage of Stanford’s shaky stoppers. They move the ball on offense primarily on the ground, and after two straight years of having a 2,000-yard ball-carrier (Donnel Pumphrey in 2016 and Rashad Penny in 2017), they might make it three with junior Juwan Washington, who’s averaged 6.6 yards per carry in two seasons as an Aztec.
The potent San Diego State running game sets things up for precision quarterback Christian Chapman, who tossed 35 TDs compared to just 11 INTs a year ago. The supporting cast on offense, which was fairly young last season, should improve with experience.
The Aztec defense was also a young unit in 2017, yet they were 23rd in the nation in points per game allowed. Maturity might make them even better, but they won’t be good enough to keep Stanford out of the end zone all night.
The Aztecs have been a solid proposition of late, covering in four of their last five contests. Also, the Oddsshark.com computer has San Diego State winning outright, and that system has picked 64 of the last 100 Division I college football games correctly. Taking the 14 points with San Diego State is the right way to go.
An Over play (48.5) is recommended as well. Stanford has a Heisman candidate in Love and a solid signal caller in Costello that should average over 30 points per game in 2018. Meanwhile, the Aztecs should face little resistance from an unreliable Cardinal defense.
Prediction: San Diego State wins, 34-27
The play: San Diego State +14 and Stanford/San Diego State OVER 48.5 for one unit each.