After waiting a week longer than most fans for their team to play its first game of the year, Stanford Cardinal fans are itching to see their No. 5-ranked squad open the 2013 campaign.
Stanford will kick off the year in the same way it did last in 2012 by hosting the San Jose State Spartans. The Spartans come in at 1-0 after defeating Sacramento State 24-0 last week. They will be looking for some revenge after falling just short of beating the Cardinal in last year’s 20-17 showdown.
Though San Jose State enters the game unranked, the team should not be underestimated. Quarterback David Fales is a strong NFL prospect, and he has great weapons on the outside in senior wideouts Noel Grigsby and Chandler Jones.
This group of offensive threats helped lead the Spartans to the sixth-best passing offense in the FBS with 332 yards per game through the air in 2012.
Luckily for Stanford head coach David Shaw, he has one of the top defenses in the nation at his disposal to halt the San Jose State offense. Linebacker Shayne Skov decided to return for his senior year, giving the front seven a huge boost, and safeties Ed Reynolds and Jordan Richards comprise one of the country’s best safety tandems.
The Cardinal should also have no problem shutting down the San Jose State running game. Stanford allowed only 97 yards per game on the ground a year ago, while the Spartans finished the season at No. 109 in the FBS in rushing offense last year.
On the other side of the ball, however, Stanford has its work cut out for it. With Stepfan Taylor, Zach Ertz, and
Levine Toilolo all moving on, quarterback Kevin Hogan will be forced to do more himself. The Cardinal still have one of the best front walls around, but lack explosive playmakers.
San Jose State finished the season at No. 18 in rushing defense last season, so this is a strong front seven. The Cardinal must establish the ground game early, likely with weapons such as Anthony Wilkerson, Barry Sanders Jr., and Tyler Gaffney, if they want to move the ball effectively and remain two-dimensional.
Despite the Spartans’ potent aerial attack and strong defense, the Cardinal certainly enter the game as favorites. It also doesn’t hurt that Shaw’s squad opens the season at home.
The game kicks of at 8:00 p.m. PT, so make sure to keep an eye on this matchup late tonight.