Week 1 Pick: San Diego State Aztecs vs. Stanford Cardinal
San Diego State Aztecs (0-0 SU, 0-0 ATS) vs. Stanford Cardinal (0-0 SU, 0-0 ATS)
College Football Week 1
Date/Time: Friday, August 31, 2018 at 9PM EDT
Where: Stanford Stadium, Stanford, California
TV: Fox Sports One
Point Spread: SDSU +14.5/STAN -14.5
Over/Under Total: 49
The San Diego Aztecs make the long northbound in-state trip to take on the Stanford Cardinal in a week one matchup. In week three of last season, the Aztecs scored a historically-important win over the Cardinal, 20-17. It speaks to a lack of history for the Aztecs program but also underlines how the long-suffering Aztecs have somewhat quietly forged a very solid recent history. The Cardinal were 9-5 last season, and there are signs for optimism after not really being a huge overall factor in the conference. Already in his eighth season, David Shaw looks to make the Cardinal relevant again—starting here with a tough week one home spot.
These teams have some things in common—especially on offense. The power run-game takes precedent, with the Aztecs having become a recent factory of top backs, while Stanford features the best one in the nation with Bryce Love. But Stanford is known for defense, even in a conference where there are some great offenses. The Aztecs also have become a defensive powerhouse, albeit in the less-daunting Mountain West Conference. The Aztecs are to be respected following three straight seasons with at least ten wins. The Cardinal already found out the hard way. Can they make amends?
The Revenge Factor
These opponents have no significant history to share, though last season’s results surely resonate, especially with all the returners for Stanford on both sides of the ball. Bryce Love was his normal productive self, even against a stingy SDSU defense that returns 6 starters for this season. The Aztecs, last season led by current Seahawk Rashad Penny, also had a field day on the ground. And they’re looking for more of the same from Juwan Washington, who managed to squeeze out 749 yards on nearly ten yards a carry last season. San Diego St. has become a landing spot for some difference-making backs and more questions loom than normal on Stanford’s defense, so we’ll see…
Powers of Perception (Or Misperception?)
We have certain built-in biases. We see a consistently good Pac-12 team like Stanford at home against a team in the Aztecs who have really never made a ripple in the big picture in college football. Stanford has the leading Heisman candidate, while the Aztecs just saw their main weapon depart, leaving them with a third-year starting QB who is struck with a stubborn case of mediocrity and an unproven cast of weapons. The mind runs with the story.
Yet, the Aztecs have excelled at what they do, granted in a different context in the MWC. Going up against New Mexico and San Jose State instead of Washington and USC will make any team look better. But even from a naked-eye perspective, San Diego State has been really good. QB Chase Chapman isn’t going to get anyone’s blood pressure rising, but he’s efficient and effective in his own way. He doesn’t screw things up while getting the ball into the hands of more-athletic people. The O-line looks to be very tough again. Head coach Rocky Long, who is an unsung savior of this program, has his formula clicking with a high-octane run game and a defense that pounces on any mistake. With big Noble Hall and Chibu Onyeukwu up-front, difference-makers like OLB Rodney Lakalala in the middle, and blossoming safety playmaker Tariq Thompson, look for more good things on “D” from the Aztecs in 2018.
I understand the feeling behind people having a rosy outlook on Stanford. Bryce Love is a monster. Top weapons like JJ Arcega-Whiteside, Trenton Irwin, and Kaden Smith all return behind a line that could contend to be the best in the conference. But any issues on defense figure to be a stylistic issue against this San Diego offense. A D-line that was occupied by beasts suddenly seems a lot less formidable. Players like Joey Alfieri figure to be tough in the middle, while spots around him fall into the “questionable” zone. A team that has become a running menace as the Aztecs have over the last few seasons presents matchup issues galore. In a lot of ways, this looks to be a good competitive football game once again.
Take the Aztecs and the 14.5 Points
Yeah, we get it. The Cardinal are going to take care of business this time around. They’re at home. Bryce Love is coming out with a big opening statement. The Aztecs come up short from time to time and in a lot of less-threatening situations than this. It’s just hard to shake the image of the Aztecs having a lot of success against an even better Stanford front-seven than the one we will see on Friday or how Stanford had so little to offer offensively in between the big Bryce Love runs in last season’s game.
After scoring just 17 last season against the Aztecs in 2017, I envision more matchup issues this time around for the Cardinal. Meanwhile, there’s still a lot of talent there on offense for the Aztecs, enough to put up some points against a Stanford defense that has been in a slight state of regression for a few seasons. I mean, yeah, it’s the Aztecs. The Aztecs are the Aztecs by virtue of the very fact that they don’t deliver when in big spots. It’s just asking a lot of Stanford to cover a number this big.
Scott’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: I’m betting on the San Diego Aztecs plus 14.5 points. Don’t have multiple betting accounts to shop for the best spread? Visit our list of the best sites for betting sports!
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