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No. 13 Stanford will not have to wait long this season to be overly-motivated in a game as the Cardinal will have revenge firmly on their minds when they welcome in San Diego State on Friday night to begin the year. Last season, Stanford suffered an early shock on the road when it was upset 20-17 by the Aztecs in late September, so it’ll be looking to avoid a similar fate two years in a row. 

Friday night’s opener will also serve as the official beginning of the Heisman Trophy campaign for senior running back Bryce Love, who opted to return to Palo Alto after rushing for 2,118 yards and 19 touchdowns in 2017. 

Viewing information

Date: Friday, Aug. 31 | Time: 9 p.m. ET
Location: Stanford Stadium — Stanford, California
TV: FS1 | Live stream: fuboTV (Try for free)

Storylines

Stanford: It’s exceptionally easy to become lost in the allure of Love and his run at the Heisman, and for good reason. But that shouldn’t be the focus going into the season opener. Rather, eyes should be on quarterback KJ Costello, who takes control of the offense after starting the final six games of 2017. As Stanford made a run toward the Pac-12 Championship Game, Costello proved he was much more efficient than Keller Chryst (who has since transferred), throwing for nine touchdowns and just two interceptions over the final three games of the year. It also helps Costello’s cause that Stanford returns its four top receivers, led by senior JJ Argeca-Whiteside, who hauled in 48 catches last season for 781 yards and nine scores. 

San Diego State: While we’re taking the focus away from the run game for Stanford, it’s the opposite for San Diego State. Rushing for 2,248 yards last season, including 175 yards to aid in the upset over the Cardinal, Rashaad Penny lit the college football world on fire en route to eventually becoming the No. 27 overall pick in the NFL Draft by the Seattle Seahawks. With Penny gone, the backfield workload for coach Rocky Long now falls to junior Juwan Washington, who turned in 759 yards and 7 touchdowns last season in relief of Penny. 

Washington has lofty expectations in front of him as the full-time starting running back for the Aztecs, attempting to become the third consecutive San Diego State back to crack the 2,000-yard barrier, which would join Penny and Donnel Pumphrey (2016). But with five returning starters on the offensive line, it seems like a goal that can be attained. 

Prediction, picks

Under the direction of Long, anything is possible when it comes to the Aztecs, as we saw in their upset of the Cardinal last season. But with a wealth of returning talent and vengeance on their minds, the Cardinal should emphatically announce themselves as a credible threat in the Pac-12 right off the bat with one of the more balanced attacks we’ve seen in the David Shaw era. Pick: Stanford -14.5

Which teams should you back on the first full weekend of the college football season? Visit SportsLine now to see the projected final score for every single FBS matchup, all from the model that nailed its final seven picks of the 2017-18 season and has returned over $4,000 in profit to $100 bettors over the last three seasons.

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