Stanford Cardinal Open Season Against San Diego State

SAN DIEGO, CA - SEPTEMBER 16: Bryce Love #20 of the Stanford Cardinal eludes Jay Henderson #46 of the San Diego State Aztecs on a running play during the second half of a game at Qualcomm Stadium on September 16, 2017 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
SAN DIEGO, CA - SEPTEMBER 16: Bryce Love #20 of the Stanford Cardinal eludes Jay Henderson #46 of the San Diego State Aztecs on a running play during the second half of a game at Qualcomm Stadium on September 16, 2017 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images) /

The Stanford Cardinal begin the season at home and look to avenge a loss from last season against the San Diego State Aztecs.

Déjà vu is just one feeling coach David Shaw had when the Stanford Cardinal began spring practices. Just like in 2017, Shaw’s starting quarterback was being held out.

Last season, K.J. Costello suffered an injury against TCU in the Alamo Bowl, where Stanford fell after a late rally by the Horned Frogs stole victory away from them. Costello is back and healthy and looks to build on the success he had last season, after taking the job away from Keller Chryst.

But flashback before the start of last season, and you’ll remember that Chryst was in a similar position. He too missed spring practices after suffering a knee injury against North Carolina in the Sun Bowl. Chryst was Shaw’s top choice but lacked the poise early in the season.

Stanford Cardinal Football
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Stanford Cardinal Football

Chryst did not appear to have the confidence to lead the team and was got replaced by Costello after exiting a game against UCLA last year, after an apparent head injury.

A controversy then emerge, as to who would take over the Cardinal offense, which often tends to be a bit more on the vanilla side of things.

Without a doubt though, Costello was the man to lead, as Stanford looked better with him under center. As a new season gets underway, the hope is that Costello can avoid experiencing the same sort of pitfalls that derailed Chryst.

There isn’t anybody expected to challenge Costello for the starting role, as Chryst opted to transfer to Tennessee as a graduate. A redshirt sophomore, Jack Richardson, was the only quarterback available during spring practices for the Cardinal.

With a smash-mouth brand of football, expect a massive barrage of the running game from a senior looking to break the Heisman curse at Stanford. Bryce Love returns for his final season after opting to turn down millions to play on Sundays.

A preseason All-American, Love is an early favorite for the Heisman Trophy, after coming in second last behind Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield. With the ability to break off runs of 30-plus yards, Love is hoping he can remain healthy, after having a minor set back from an ankle injury suffered last year.

Love suffered the injury last season against Oregon and was unable to be productive from the start of the season. He battled towards the end, especially against USC in the Pac-12 Championship Game.

In the end though, the Cardinal did not muster enough against the Trojans.

Stanford needs Love to be at full strength to move the offense down the field efficiently, and open up the passing game. Most of the Cardinal offensive line returns from the previous season with Walker Little and Nate Herbig expecting to create room for Love to turn loose.

Ranked number 13, the Cardinal do not want to have another letdown against the Aztecs after the lights went out on the Cardinal offense (and Qualcomm Stadium) in an upset.

Christian Chapman is back for the Aztecs to call the plays. The senior led San Diego State on a late drive to beat then-number 19 Stanford last year.

His stats do not compare to Costello with only 13 touchdowns and four interceptions — but, he did have one luxury similar to Stanford.

Rashaad Penny led the nation last year in rushing yards and played a pivotal role for the Aztecs. Penny is now in the NFL, and the Aztecs believe Juwan Washington will fill the void after showing flashes of his potential in racking up 759 yards and seven touchdowns last season.

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The Aztecs also return five starters on the offensive line which could be problematic for the Cardinal defensive line.

In the past, the defensive line takes shape during the season when the right pieces fit. With a decent running game on hand, adjustments must come quick.

Stanford’s defense is the big question after Harrison Phillips left early for the NFL and then losing linebackers Kevin Palma and Peter Kalambayi. Gone too, are cornerbacks Quenton Meeks and Justin Reid. The Cardinal have managed in the past to fill the gaps, and is the one reason Stanford will be out from under the national spotlight.

Along with Love returning in the backfield, Kaden Smith and Trenton Irwin will feature as primary receivers for Costello. He will also have a deep-field target with JJ Arcega-Whiteside, whose size can box-out defenders to make plays.

Gametime starts at 6:00 tomorrow night, down on The Farm, with a telecast on FS1.

Picked to finish second in the Pac-12 North, the Cardinal cannot overlook the Aztecs, knowing the first Pac-12 game of the season will come the following week against USC. Washington is picked to win the division but don’t count out the Oregon Ducks as the new head coach, Mario Cristobal, injects new energy in Eugene.

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College football is back with plenty of excitement waiting upon the horizon and Stanford looks to improve after a disappointing run last season. The Pac-12 will be entertaining with old and new faces looking to make a mark for their respective teams.

And hopefully, Alabama will crash out.