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NCAA College Football Week 1 Upset Picks: Stanford Struggles Again

Alex Kilpatrick

by Alex Kilpatrick in College Football

Aug 30, 2018 · 8:12 AM PDT

Navy football
Navy Midshipmen have a lot on their plate this week, including a trip out to Hawaii. Photo by Chad Runge/Released.
  • We have two NCAA college football upset picks for you for Week 1
  • Make sure to bet against the two schools with a lot going on in Week 1

With just a few days until college football’s week one kicks off for real, we need to find some upsets on the odds sheet. How about two schools with busy students and tough games on the schedule?

Stanford Struggles Again in Week 1

Team Spread Moneyline
Stanford -14.0 (-110) -630
San Diego State +14.0 (-110) +415

A very healthy spread, especially considering that Stanford lost this game straight up last year. San Diego State loses star running back Rashad Penny, but losing a key running back hasn’t stopped them before. Rashad Penny himself was preceded by Donnel Pumphrey, and Juwan Washington performed as well as you could expect.

If we can expect SDSU to be up to its usual standard, what can we expect from Stanford?

Stanford’s Week 1 Problem

Week one scheduling is a tough balance. It’s the easiest week in which to schedule an out-of-conference game, so AD’s are left with two choices. They can pick up a lower-ranked team to score a probable win and avoid early season hiccups, or they can schedule a prestigious team and hope to buff their playoff resumes.

Between 2007 and 2013, Stanford played the Bill Walsh Legacy game against San Jose State, and the Cardinal defeated their Mountain West opponent every time.

Stanford is somewhere in the middle. Between 2007 and 2013, they played the Bill Walsh Legacy game against San Jose State, and the Cardinal defeated their Mountain West opponent every time. Scheduling conflicts ended that series, so Stanford played Northwestern, Kansas State, and USC in the following three Week 1’s.* The Cardinal did not cover the spread in any of those games.

*I’m considering the USC game as Stanford’s week one game, because playing Rice in Australia before Labor Day is extremely Week 0. 

Year Opponent Spread Result
2017 USC Stanford +4.0 L 42-24 (ATS Loss)
2016 Kansas State Stanford -14.0 W 26-13 (ATS Loss)
2015 Northwestern Stanford -12.0 L 6-16 (ATS Loss)

Add in the Week 2 loss to San Diego State and you have a pretty clear pattern of early season struggles. I don’t want to cast aspersions, but I think this could be down to differences in student life at Stanford and their opponents. Perhaps Stanford students have a little bit more on their plate early in September than SDSU students?

Whatever’s going on, Stanford has a bad recent history with Week 1 games, and SDSU is a great pick for an upset.

Navy is a Road Favorite, and it’s a Long Road

Team Spread Moneyline
Navy -10.5 (-105) -400
Hawaii +10.5 (-115) +300

There’s some debate on what’s harder: travelling east or west. There’s no debate that travelling to Hawaii is very difficult, and the Rainbow Warriors have previously made up for it by being a bad football team. This year, however, they might not be bad, as evidenced in their Week 0 game against Colorado State:

Colorado State isn’t a great team, and certainly not a consistent team, but Hawaii outperformed expectations here. They were 17-point underdogs going into this game and covered a few times over. They also did it with cool shovel-pass stuff that will make life difficult for Navy’s defensive coordinator. How do you install an approach to something that new, with that little time? And how do you fit that all into a midshipman’s already busy week?

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