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Kansas State Wildcats vs. Stanford Cardinal Point Spread - Pick

Kansas State Wildcats (0-0 SU, 0-0 ATS) vs. Stanford Cardinal (0-0 SU, 0-0 ATS)
College Football Week 1
Date/Time: Friday, September 2, 2016 at 9PM EST
Where: Stanford Stadium, Stanford, California
TV: Fox Sports 1
by Scott, NCAA Football Handicapper, Predictem.com

Point Spread: KSU +15.5/STAN -15.5
Over/Under Total: 50

The Kansas State Wildcats come out west to face the Stanford Cardinal on Friday in week one of the college football season. It’s a tough opening road game for the Wildcats against a Stanford team that was one of the better teams last season—Pac-12 champions. They also have one of the nations’ more-robust offensive weapons in Christian McCaffrey, who will be tough to stop. KSU is looking for better things and usually find it under head coach Bill Snyder. Coming off their first sub-.500 season in Snyder’s long tenure, look for the Wildcats to be gunning hard for better results this season.

Stanford lost some key pieces and aren’t the “lock” they normally are, as it will take a lot of work for them to match their form of last season. Though he wasn’t the most-flashy QB in the nation, Kevin Hogan leaves a void at QB, both in terms of play and leadership. His replacement looks to be Keller Chryst who is facing a challenge from Ryan Burns, though he looks to have an edge. If the name “Chryst” sounds familiar, it should. Keller is from a long-line of football success and was a highly-coveted recruit. And when dealing with young quarterbacks, you can’t ask for a better weapon to lean on than McCaffrey.

Kansas State has a QB battle of their own, with Jesse Ertz looking like he is going to reclaim the starting gig from his replacement Joe Hubener. The ground-game, led by Charles Jones and Justin Silmon need to get better and more consistent. Aerially, Dominique Heath, Deante Burton, and Winston Dimel also look to kick things up a notch this season. When breaking down talent for KSU, there is always an X-factor, with Snyder always finding diamonds in the rough from the junior college ranks and elsewhere. You never know for sure if a game-changing speedster or two won’t come out of the woodwork. It’s just that when looking for answers offensively, the last thing you need is a dicey line and the Wildcats look to have one. Other than center Dalton Risner, there is no experience up-front. They’re asking for a lot to go right here—better quarterback play, an enhanced run-game, and more of a vertical passing-game. It’s going to be tough with that line and no real difference-making playmakers having revealed their identities yet.

The Kansas State defense was bad last season, ranked 108th in the nation. They are hoping that inexperience and injuries were a big part of that. If some of that experience develops and they stay healthy, one should anticipate an upgrade this season. There are some difference-makers on this side of the ball—make no mistake. Up-front, look for Will Geary to stop the run on the inside, while Jordan Willis attacks quarterback from the end spot. How well they do depends on filling in a few spots up-front. The middle holds a lot of potential with excellent linebacker Elijah Lee, along with Will Davis, and Charmeachealle Moore. Safety Dante Burnett was a rising commodity before getting injured and he is now back, along with corner Donnie Starks. Help in the front-seven should make this group better, though there are spots throughout this “D” that need to be filled and we’ll reserve judgment.

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Stanford is replacing a multi-year starter in Hogan, so you never know until you know, but a lot of offensive tools remain. McCaffrey went off for a combined 2700 yards rushing and receiving last season. The points of concern might be in a less-nuanced running game this season, with the departures of short-yardage maven Remound Wright and Barry Sanders. In addition, three starters up-front need replacing. Maybe these issues aren’t that big of deal, with Stanford never really in a shortage of talent in either of those phases.

The new Stanford quarterback, and we’re assuming Chryst, though that could change, will have a nice aerial package with which to work. Among the better receivers are Michael Rector, Dalton Schultz, and Trenton Irwin. Francis Owusu looks to take another step forward through the air. And McCaffrey was a key option in the passing game and should continue to be this year as he goes for Heisman glory.

The Stanford secondary always seems to replenish and play well. With Dallas Lloyd and Zach Hoffpauir at safety, along with corners Alameen Murphy, Alijah Holder, and Quenton Meeks, they look to be a pretty formidable group. The middle lost key playmaker Blake Martinez, but expects good play from Kevin Palma, Peter Kalambayi, Joey Alfieri, and Jordan Perez. This all hinges on what happens up-front, with two ends lost from a 3-4 “D” that will now depend on youth and reserves to fill in those gaps. How that line fills out will likely end up determining whether this defense is the real deal or not.

Stanford needs to be careful in this spot. There is no connection to Kansas State. They’re the champions from what was a deep Pac-12 conference facing a team that couldn’t even get to .500 last season. It’s not a recipe for them to hit the ground running. Kansas State seems to find answers more often than not. With some interesting recruits and Snyder’s track-record, one should withhold judgment. With that being said, this is a really tough opener for KSU.

There are just enough moving pieces across areas of this Stanford team to induce a little trepidation. They look like a team that might need a few weeks to get clicking. Other than McCaffrey, there aren’t a ton of sure things on Stanford. At the very least, the KSU defense looks like it could be more robust this season and having playmakers on that line for the purposes of this match-up could be advantageous. With a little spark on that Wildcats offense, Kansas State could get back to being a respectable bunch again. At any rate, I see them preventing a lopsided loss in week one, as they cover the spread on the road.

Scott's Pick to Cover the Point Spread: I’m betting on the Kansas State Wildcats plus 15.5 points.

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