Rice Owls (0-0 SU, 0-0 ATS) vs. Stanford Cardinal (0-0 SU, 0-0 ATS)
College Football Week 1
Date/Time: Saturday August 26th, 2017. 10:00PM (EST)
Where: Allianz Stadium Sydney, NSW
by Jay, NCAA Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: RICE +31/STAN -31
Over/Under Total: 50.5
For the 2nd year in a row, a Pac-12 team will attempt to kickoff the college football season in Sydney, Australia when the Stanford Cardinals take on the Rice Owls this Saturday night. Last year, Cal and Hawaii squared off in front of the Aussies in a high scoring 51-31 shootout in favor of the Golden Bears. On Saturday, the Pac-12 will take center stage again as Stanford kicks off a Pac-12 title campaign against the Owls at Allianz Stadium. Stanford is currently listed as huge 31 point favorites over an Owls team that is coming off the heels of a 3-9 season from a year ago.
Stanford returns a ton of talent on both sides of the ball this year and this will perhaps be the first time the Aussies have seen a high caliber defense in the land down under. Last years game was an offensive 82 point shootout between Hawaii and Cal which rarely displayed any defensive talent. Last year was also not a good showing for the Owls defense that gave up 504 yards per game on average. Only 5 other FBS teams in the country allowed more yards last season which resulted in Rice giving up a lucrative mark of 37.3 points per game. Obviously things have to be better for David Bailiffs group this year if they are going to challenge some of these high caliber teams like Stanford.
The jury is still out on the Rice defense and if we will see improvement this season. The good news is that nearly all the starters are back including the entire defensive line. The bad news is still the fact this is not a very talented team and should I mention last years defensive stats again? I am will go out on a limb and predict the Owls will be better this season yet still fail to crack the top 100 in the FBS. Therefore if Rice is going to compete, they will have to do so by making plays on offense. The offense has returning players from the entire offensive line along with running back Samuel Stewart. Stewart had a few big games last year but still struggled due to limited running room on a consistent basis. Stewart gives the offense hope whereas sophomore quarterback Tyner Jackson is an enigma awaiting deliverance. Jackson got in some snaps last year behind Tyler Stehling but it was never pretty and the potential inability to throw the football is the main reason why the Cardinal is laying 31 points in this game.
Stanford Coach David Shaw builds his teams to be tough in the trenches and that is why Stanford has had so much success in an offensive driven conference. After an uncharacteristic 2015 season, the defense was improved in 2016 and has the signs to be even better this season despite losing Solomon Thomas. I am not quite sure how good this Stanford defense will be but they are a matchup nightmare for Rice. As stated before, Tyner Jackson is not going to throw the football against this Cardinal defense and good luck running the football against this unit as well. I just do not see how Rices offense is going to have any success in this game.
Offensively, Stanford lost star running back Christian McCaffrey to the NFL but most of the offense is back. I dont want to underestimate the loss of McCaffrey because he helped the offense in so many dimensions. However, Shaw will likely skew his gameplan to favor the run in typical Stanford fashion behind tailback Bryce Love. Love was excellent last year in backup duties averaging 7 yards per carry and he has breakout potential for 2017 based on the way he finished the season. Additionally, quarterback Keller Chryst has proven that he can lead the Cardinal offense as long as the running game is working as planned. When Stanfords rushing attack broke down last year so did the rest of the offense and I assume that has been an area of focus over the offseason. Stanford needs Chryst to be the guy that can carry the team in all situations. Only time will tell but for this Saturdays matchup against Rice, Stanford will be good either way. Expect Stanfords defense to really shine in front of the Aussies which leads to a convincing win.
Jay’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Stanford -31
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