San Diego State at Stanford
August 28, 2018
By Brian Edwards
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Stanford will be in revenge mode for its opener Friday vs. San Diego State in Palo Alto. The Aztecs captured a 20-17 win over the Cardinal as 8.5-point home underdogs last season.
As of Tuesday morning, most betting shops had David Shaw’s club installed as a favorite of 14.5 or 15 points, while the total was at 49 or 49.5. San Diego State was at +450 on the money line (risk $100 to win $450).
Stanford has posted double-digit win totals in five of Shaw’s seven years at the helm. The Cardinal finished 2017 with a 9-5 straight-up record and a 7-7 against-the-spread ledger. They lost four of their five games by 11 combined points.
Stanford returns nine starters on offense, six on defense and lost only 16 lettermen. After losing at San Diego State to fall to 1-2 last season, the Cardinal won eight of its next nine games, including wins at 20th-ranked Utah (23-20), vs. ninth-ranked Washington (30-22) and vs. ninth-ranked Notre Dame (38-20).
The victory over Pac-12 North rival UW gave Stanford the division title by winning the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Huskies. The Cardinal dropped a 31-28 decision to USC, but they nonetheless covered the number as 3.5-point underdogs. K.J. Costello found his roommate Kaden Smith for a pair of sensational touchdown catches in the second half. However, a huge goal-line stand by the Trojans in the fourth quarter proved to be the difference.
In the Alamo Bowl, Stanford allowed a big first-half lead to get away in a 37-35 loss. Just like the Pac-12 Championship Game loss to USC, though, Shaw’s team hooked up its gambling supporters as a three-point underdog to the Horned Frogs.
Stanford has never lost three consecutive games on Shaw’s watch, a streak that’ll be on the line Friday night. In addition, the Cardinal is unbeaten in 24 games as a double-digit home favorite during Shaw’s tenure, going 13-10 ATS. However, we should note that they are just 1-5 ATS in their past six games as double-digit home ‘chalk.’
Stanford probably has the nation’s best running back in Bryce Love, who chose to bypass the NFL to finish his degree at the prestigious academic institution. Despite being bothered by a high-ankle sprain in the team’s past seven games that had him sidelined at Oregon State and parts of other games, Love still rushed for 2,118 yards and 19 touchdowns with an 8.1 yards-per-carry average.
Cameron Scarlett provides an excellent back-up option for Love. Scarlett ran for 389 yards and eight TDs with a 4.3 YPC average. The junior RB also had six catches for 174 yards and 1,008 yards in the return game.
Costello made seven starts at QB as a redshirt freshman. He connected on 58.8 percent of his throws for 1,573 yards with a 14/4 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Costello underwent offseason hip surgery but is good to go for Friday’s lid-lifter.
Keller Chryst, who went 6-0 as a starter in 2016 after taking over the QB job at midseason, tore his ACL in a bowl-win over North Carolina two years ago. After losing his job to Costello midway through last year, Chryst left for Tennessee as a grad transfer. Therefore, there’s no experience behind Costello so it’s imperative that he stays healthy.
With an offensive line that’s ranked tops in the Pac-12 and fourth in the country in Phil Steele’s preseason magazine, Costello’s chances of holding up are good. Being able to hand off to Love certainly helps that cause, as does the arsenal of weapons at his disposal.
Smith is poised for a monster campaign after earning first-team All-Pac-12 honors as a redshirt freshman. Steele’s preseason mag has Smith as a preseason second-team All-American tight end and has J.J. Arcega-Whiteside as a fourth-team All-American. Arecega-Whiteside, a junior WR, had 48 receptions for 781 yards and nine TDs in 2017. Trenton Irwin had 43 catches for 461 yards and two TDs.
On paper, Stanford looks to have one of the nation’s most prolific offenses. On defense, Shaw’s teams have never given up more than 22.7 points per game. This unit is undergoing a youth movement on the defensive line after losing a lot of talent, most notably second-team All-American Harrison Phillips.
Senior CB Alijah Holder will anchor the secondary. He has 21 career starts but is listed as ‘questionable’ vs. SDS due to an undisclosed injury. Senior LB Bobby Okereke joins Holder as a preseason first-team All-Pac-12 selection in nearly every publication. Okereke had 94 tackles, four sacks, 3.5 tackles for loss, four QB hurries, one interception and one pass broken up in ’17.
Rocky Long has done a masterful job at San Diego St. since taking over for Brady Hoke in 2011. He’s compiled a 64-29 record, going 32-9 with wins totals of 11, 11 and 10 in the past three campaigns.
SDS went 10-3 SU and 8-5 ATS last season. The Aztecs return seven starters on offense, seven on defense and lost just 16 lettermen. They have produced incredible turnover margins over the past three years (+7 in ’17, +14 in ’16 and +22 in ’15!). SDS was +1,114 yards in total offense vs. its opponents last year.
Senior QB Christian Chapman will make his 30th career start Friday night in Palo Alto. Chapman completed 60.1 percent of his passes for 1,873 yards with a 13/4 TD-INT ratio last season. He has a 35/11 career TD-INT ratio.
SDS has had RBs eclipse the 2,000-yard rushing mark in back-to-back years and had a pair of 1,000-yard rushers in 2015. Donnel Pumphrey ran for 2,133 yards (6.1 YPC) in ’16 to become the NCAA’s all-time leader in career rushing yards (6,405), and then Rashaad Penny produced 2,248 rushing yards and 23 TDs with a 7.8 YPC average last season.
With Penny gone, Juwan Washington is poised to take over the bulk of the ground load. Washington, a 5’7” junior, ran for 758 yards and seven TDs with a 6.0 YPC average in ’17. He’ll run behind an o-line that’s ranked No. 1 in the Mountain West Conference and No. 34 in the nation in Steele’s preseason mag.
The wide-receiver position is a major question mark, though. Chapman’s favorite target Mikah Holder has departed, leaving senior WR Fred Trevillion as the most experienced player in this group. Trevillion had just 12 catches for 327 yards and two TDs in ’17. TE Kahale Warring had 18 grabs for 248 yards and three TDs last year.
Long calls the defensive plays, but he has given Zach Arnett the DC title. The Aztecs have fielded four straight salty defenses, giving up 19.8, 16.4, 20.2 and 20.2 PPG (from 2014-17 in order). Seven of this unit’s top-10 tacklers are back including senior LB Ronley Lakalaka, a first-team All-MWC choice last season when he produced 82 tackles, five QB hurries, three sacks and 2.5 TFL’s.
Steele’s MWC Unit Rankings has the Aztecs with the league’s third-best defensive line, No. 1 group of LBs and third-best secondary. The d-line is ranked No. 51 in the country, the LBs are No. 22 in the nation and the special-team units are 29th. Washington and Penny both had two TDs apiece on kickoff returns last year.
During Long’s tenure that’s set to begin its eighth season, SDS has posted a 10-8 spread record in 18 games as a road underdog. The Aztecs are 5-5 ATS with one outright victory in 10 games as double-digit underdogs under Long. This is their first spot as double-digit ‘dogs since losing 37-21 at Penn St. as 14-point puppies in September of 2015.
Kickoff is scheduled for Friday night at 9:00 p.m. Eastern on Fox Sports 1.
**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**
-- Stanford owns a 21-21 spread record as home favorite during Shaw’s tenure.
-- Mississippi State star QB Nick Fitzgerald has been suspended for Saturday’s season opener vs. Stephen F. Austin due to a violation of team rules dating back to March. Sophomore Keytaon Thompson will get his second career starting nod. He led the Bulldogs to a 31-27 win over Louisville at the Taxslayer Bowl after Fitzgerald dislocated his ankle in the Egg Bowl last season.
-- Syracuse is a six-point favorite Friday night at Western Michigan. This is the first time the ‘Cuse has been a road ‘chalk’ since Dino Babers became HC in 2016. The Broncos, who are 4-8 ATS in their 12 games as home underdogs over the past decade, is in its first such spot under second-year HC Tim Lester. WMU went 1-3 in its last four games of ’17 after starting QB Jon Wassink (14/4 TD-INT) went down with a season-ending injury. The Broncos were 5-3 with Wassink but their 6-6 finish kept them out of the postseason after going 13-1 in ’16. This will be an early 6:00 p.m. Eastern kick on CBS Sports College.
-- As of Tuesday morning, Michigan State was favored by 23.5 points over Utah State. These teams will collide in East Lansing at 7:00 p.m. Eastern on the Big Ten Network. The Spartans have won at least 10 games in six of the past eight years, winning at least 11 five different times. After a shocking 3-9 debacle in ’16, Mark Dantonio’s program returned to form with a 10-3 SU record and an 8-5 ATS mark last year. MSU returns 10 starters on offense and nine on defense. The Spartans went 4-1 ATS as home favorites in ’17. Utah State has limped to a 7-12 spread record in 19 games as a road ‘dog during Matt Wells’s tenure. The Aggies finished 6-7 both SU and ATS last season, losing in overtime to New Mexico St. at the Arizona Bowl. Since 2010, Utah State has dropped 11 straight road games to Power Five foes. The Aggies are 1-14 against current Big 10 schools with the lone win coming at Wisconsin in 1968.
-- Speaking of the Badgers, they were favored by 36 points Tuesday morning for Friday’s home game vs. Western Kentucky. The total was 51. Kickoff is slated for 9:00 p.m. Eastern on ESPN. Paul Chryst’s team has the best offensive line in the nation and probably the second-best RB (behind only Love) in Jonathan Taylor, the sophomore who produced 1,977 rushing yards, 13 TDs and a 6.6 YPC average on his way to earning second-team All-American honors in ’17. The Badgers won’t have two starting WRs who are suspended, Quintez Cephus and Danny Davis.
-- Duke will host Army at 7:00 p.m. Eastern on ESPNU. The Blue Devils were 13.5-point home ‘chalk’ as of Tuesday, while the total was 45.5. The Black Knights went 10-3 SU last year but lost star QB Ahmad Bradshaw, who rushed for 1,746 yards and 14 TDs while averaging 7.2 YPC. They bring back only three starters on offense, but eight starters return from a stop unit that gave up only 22.0 PPG. Duke will be in revenge mode after losing 21-16 at Army last year.
-- Colorado and Colorado State will square off in Denver at 9:30 p.m. Eastern on CBS Sports College. As of Tuesday, the Buffaloes were 7.5-point favorites with a total of 65. The Rams lost 43-34 to Hawaii this past Saturday as 17-point home favorites. CU has won three in a row over CSU and prevailed in eight of the past 10 encounters, including last season’s 17-3 victory.
Follow Brian Edwards' sports gambling opinions on Twitter at @vegasbedwards.
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