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San Jose State
This is Stanford's first game of the season and everyone is hyping them up. Currently Stanford is a hefty 26 point favorite at 5 Dimes Sportsbook. Does Stanford deserve all this respect? While most of their dominant defense returns, they still have an iffy situation at quarterback and lost their top rusher and receivers from a year ago. But then again, maybe San Jose State is worse than we thought.
Let's look back to last year's game in which SJSU played admirably on both sides of the ball and only lost 20-17. Granted, the Spartans lost a lot of players (and coaches) from last year, but they still have their top quarterback and wide receiver. That has to count for something.
Even though SJSU won 24-0 last weekend, it was against Sacramento State, who is a mediocre FCS school. Not to mention, quarterback David Fales did not post very good numbers compared to last year. He completed just 50 percent of his passes, which is far behind any game he played in 2012 when he completed 72.5 percent for the season. Jason Simpson rushed for 135 yards, which is a good sign as he only saw 31 carries his first two years. However, there's no question San Jose State will have to be more efficient on the offensive end if they want to come close to Stanford again. Receivers Chandler Jones and Noel Grigsby will have big roles. The Cardinal have one of the best defenses in the nation, so don't expect a lot of points from the Spartans.
Offensively, Stanford isn't amazing, but they have the pieces to win games. Kevin Hogan still hasn't lost as a starting quarterback, although a lot of that has to do with his defense. Hogan still posted solid numbers toward the end of last season. Without Zach Ertz to toss the ball too, things won't be as easy for him this year. They also don't have one primary running back that's going to get all the carries with possibly five guys in line to receive touches this season. That will be an interesting situation to watch in itself, but with a dominant offensive line, whoever gets the ball should find holes.
The Spartans did have problems stopping the run in last year's matchup as Stepfan Taylor ran for 116 yards so that may be Stanford's best chance at opening this game up. Also, the element of surprise probably won't be there for SJSU after last year's close game.
San Jose State is a solid 13-3 ATS in its last 16 road games, but only 2-6 ATS in its last eight against the Pac-12. Most of Stanford's numbers are positive, especially an 11-1 ATS mark in its last 12 non-conference games. Of course, that one non-cover was against SJSU last season. The Cardinal is also 8-2 ATS in their last 10 meetings, so while the Spartans played tough last year, historically it hasn't been as close. In 2011, Stanford demolished this matchup with a 57-3 win. Can Stanford's offense do that this year behind Hogan? Time will tell.
These two played early last season with a 20-17 result. However, if we take each teams full body of work a year ago and run it through our model, we come up with a score of roughly Stanford 28-14. Stanford should be in better shape as far as talent lost and talent gained, but still, despite the weak schedule, this was an 11-2 San Jose team a year ago. There's still some talent there which, when combined with this being the opener for Stanford, could make San Jose a live dog, once again. This is not the type of game we'd ever use as a Key Release, but for the sake of making a prediction here, we'll suggest taking San Jose if the number here reached +28. San Jose +28 or more.
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