San Jose State (0-0) at (21) Stanford (0-0)|
Friday, August 31st, 10:00 p.m. (et)
The Sports Network
By Phil Neuffer, Associate College Football Editor
GAME NOTES: For the first time since 2009 someone other than Andrew Luck will
start under center for Stanford, as the 21st-ranked Cardinal open the season
on Friday night against San Jose State.
San Jose State had a much better 2011 campaign as compared to head coach Mike
MacIntyre's first season. However that does not look as impressive considering
the Spartans went 1-12 in 2010. Still the 5-7 mark the team posted last year
was the its best since 2008. This will be the fourth straight season in which
San Jose State opens against a nationally-ranked team.
Stanford is coming off back-to-back seasons that ended with BCS berths. Last
year the Cardinal shook off the loss of head coach Jim Harbaugh to go 11-2 and
reach the Fiesta Bowl. The Cardinal lost in the contest in a shootout (41-38)
with Oklahoma State that needed overtime to decide. However this season the
team may have taken a even bigger hit with star quarterback Andrew Luck gone
to the NFL. Luck was a two-time Heisman Trophy runner-up and was 31-8 as a
Stanford has to be pleased with how well first-year head coach David Shaw did
with last season's team and there is still enough talent on the roster for the
Cardinal to compete in the Pac-12.
The 2011 season started in the same place, as the Spartans traveled to
Stanford Stadium on opening weekend last year as well. San Jose State will
obviously want to improve on that performance when it was outclassed 57-3.
Just like that game, Stanford has dominated against the Spartans in the all-
time series. The Cardinal are 50-14-1 against its in-state foe. San Jose State
has not won at Stanford Stadium in the last eight tries.
San Jose State's offense will be adjusting to a new quarterback this season
after former starter Tate Forcier quit school after transferring from
Michigan. That's not exactly good news for an offense that ranked second-to-
last in the WAC in rushing (101.8 ypg), total offense (378.7 ypg) and scoring
offense (24.5 ppg) last season.
Taking over for Forcier will be former Nevada reserve David Fales, who won the
starting job over Dasmen Stewart and Blake Jurich. Fales spent last season at
Monterey Peninsula College where he was efficient completing 62 percent of his
pass attempts for 4,365 yards and 37 touchdowns.
I think David is definitely ready to handle it and he has good weapons around
him," McIntyre said, "He's not going to do everything by himself."
There will be no shortage of pass catchers for Fales to throw to, as Noel
Grigsby, Chandler Jones and Jabari Carr each return as starters to the team.
Grigsby, a junior, had the best 2011 campaign catching a team-high 89 passes
for 886 yards. Also adding to the deep talent in the passing game is the
return of All-WAC tight end Ryan Otten (52 receptions, 739 yards, 5 touchdowns
The offensive line needs to replace some key parts but is lucky to be anchored
by All-WAC left tackle David Quessenberry.
On defense San Jose State excelled in creating turnovers, ranking fourth
nationally in turnovers gained in 2011. It is a trend they hope to continue
despite having only five returning starters on the unit.
The most experienced unit is the defensive line which returns senior defensive
end Travis Johnson and sophomore defensive tackle Travis Raciti. Johnson has
29 career starts and is third among returning FBS players with 27.5 career
tackles for loss and tied for second with 19 career sacks.
The linebacking corps has fewer returning starters but still has a great deal
of experience. Keith Smith is the primary focus for the group as he has
amassed 220 tackles over the last two seasons. Senior safety James Orth (78
tackles, four interceptions in 2011) will be a great cornerstone for the
The 2011 Stanford offense set a school record with 561 points. The Cardinal
also ranked eighth in total offense (489.3 ypg) and fifth in passing
efficiency (169.46). However that was with Luck under center. Now the Cardinal
need to find a way to be effective offensively without him.
After Brett Nottingham seemingly had the inside track to replace Luck after
serving as his replacement last season, it was junior Josh Nunes who was named
the starter for 2012. Nunes is a blank slate that has seen action in only four
games over the last two seasons.
With an unknown under center, the spotlight will fall on running back Stepfan
Taylor. The senior rushed for 1,330 yards as a junior. It was the second-
highest single season total for a Stanford back in school history. He is
currently ranked fourth all-time in career rushing yards at Stanford.
The Cardinal lost Griff Whalen, Chris Owusu and Coby Fleener in the offseason.
Ryan Hewitt, a fullback, is the lead returning receiver (34 receptions, 282
yards). Zach Ertz (27 receptions, 346 yards) is the most experienced wide
Fifth-year center Sam Schwartzstein is returning to an offensive line that has
three total starters back from last season. The Cardinal allowed the seventh
fewest sacks in the nation last season and also blocked for the third-highest
team rushing total (2,736 yards) in program history.
While the offense will certainly have a new look, the Stanford defense should
be very much the same. The Cardinal were a stellar defensive unit especially
against the run (84.4 ypg).
Leading the seven returning starters on the defense is the talented
linebacking corps headed by Chase Thomas. Thomas is an outside backer who
creates a ton of problems in opposing team's backfields. Thomas had 17.5
tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks last season.Trent Murphy (40.0 total tackles)
also returns on the outside and a lot is expected of Shayne Skov, who is
coming off a knee injury.
Ben Gardner and Terrence Stephens both return as senior starters on the
defensive line. Gardner had 10.0 tackles for loss last season.
"Our front seven is about as deep as you will find in the conference. When
everybody is healthy and everybody is rolling, you might want to compare them
to most teams in the nation with Thomas and Murphy on the edge," Shaw said of
his defense after the spring game."
This matchup should be little more than a tune-up for the Stanford defense and
a chance for the offense, and the rest of college football, to get used to a
new man under center for the Cardinal.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Stanford 35, San Jose State 7
08/31 10:31:57 ET