Where: Stanford Stadium, Stanford, California
The Andrew Luck era is over and No. 18 Stanford moves on with new quarterback Josh Nunes as it opens the season by hosting nearby neighbor San Jose State on Friday. The Stanford Cardinal were national title contenders the past two seasons with Luck lighting up scoreboards – Stanford scored a school-record 561 points last season – and Nunes is hoping to keep the victories coming in coach David Shaw’s second season at the helm. San Jose State Spartans is optimistically hoping to reach a bowl game for the first time since 2006 in its final season in the watered-down Western Athletic Conference. But ranked teams have long posted a problem for the Spartans, who have lost 19 consecutive games to ranked opponents since upsetting LaDainian Tomlinson and No. 9 TCU in 2000. Stanford won last season’s meeting 57-3.
ABOUT SAN JOSE STATE (2011: 5-7, 3-4 WAC): Junior college transfer David Fales is the starting quarterback and he has potent weapons in junior receiver Noel Grigsby and senior tight end Ryan Otten (52 catches). Grigsby set a school-record with 89 receptions, but had only two touchdowns. Senior De’Leon Eskridge, a transfer from Minnesota, is the main running back. Senior defensive end Travis Johnson (9.5 sacks last season) and junior linebacker Keith Smith (220 tackles the past two seasons) lead a suspect defense.
ABOUT STANFORD (2011: 11-2, 8-1 Pac-12): Nunes edged sophomore Brett Nottingham for the starting job in a battle that lasted until last week. Senior running back Stepfan Taylor is looking for his third consecutive 1,000-yard campaign after rushing for 1,330 yards and 10 touchdowns last season. Junior tight end Levine Toilolo (six touchdown catches in 2011) is a solid target and sophomore receiver Ty Montgomery appears ready to step up. Stanford is loaded on defense with senior outside linebacker Chase Thomas (17.5 tackles for losses) leading the way. Senior inside linebacker Shayne Skov is back after suffering a season-ending knee injury last season. Senior defensive end Ben Gardner (4.5 sacks) is the top lineman.
1. Stanford has won the last four meetings since suffering a humbling 35-34 loss to the Spartans in 2006. The Cardinal lead the series 50-14-1.
2. The Cardinal have won 23 of their last 26 home games.
3. San Jose State tied for the national lead by recovering 20 fumbles last season and its 33 turnovers forced tied for fourth nationally.
PREDICTION: Stanford 45, San Jose State 17