The Stanford Cardinal begin life without QB Andrew Luck when they host the San Jose State Spartans Friday and they will need more than luck to cover a whopping point spread.
Stanford is favored by 24 points at most shops tracked by OddsShark.com and it faces a non-conference foe that has proven to be extremely tough as an underdog.
On top of losing Luck to the Indianapolis Colts, Stanford has to replace half its starting offensive line, last year's top three pass-catchers and three-quarters of the defensive backfield.
"More than half of the action at the sportsbooks we canvassed is still on Stanford, but dog bettors are pointing to San Jose State's recent history as a double-digit underdog as one reason to back the Spartans," said Jack Randall, a football handicapping analyst at OddsShark.com.
The Spartans are 10-2 ATS in their past 12 games as an underdog and 7-3 ATS when dogged by 10 points or more. Getting 24 points might be far more than they need to cover the number.
The Cardinal return 13 starters this season from a team that went 11-2 and lost the Fiesta Bowl to Oklahoma State last year. Stanford gets back six starters on offense, led by RB Stepfan Taylor (1,330 rushing yards last year), and seven starters return on a defense that ranked 26th in the country last year, allowing 338 YPG.
SJ State, meanwhile, gets just 11 starters back from a team that went 5-7 last year. And while that record might not impress, it was a great improvement from going 3-22 the previous two seasons combined.
The Spartans return six starters on offense, although they have to replace their starting QB and leading rusher, while five starters are back on defense.
Early action on this game has seen about two-thirds of play on the side come in on Stanford, but that had been bet down according to the college football consensus picks page at OddsShark.com. About 65 percent of play on the total had come down on the 'over.'
These teams met in Week 1 last year, with Stanford pounding the Spartans 57-3 and covering the point spread as 30-point favorites. Of course, that was a slightly different Cardinal team and the game was actually somewhat closer than that final score might indicate.
But on the season, San Jose State went 5-2 ATS on the road in 2011.
Free NCAAF Pick: Even with the losses in personnel, Stanford is the class in this matchup. It thrashed SJ State a year ago, but we're not sure that will happen again and we take the points.
All quotes were obtained first-hand unless otherwise noted.