=== No. 5 Stanford opens season against dangerous Spartans ===
 
 Stanford, CA (Sports Network) - David Shaw and the Stanford Cardinal finally
 open their 2013 season, as they play host to the San Jose State Spartans.
 
 The fifth-ranked Cardinal are expected to vie for a Pac-12 championship and
 perhaps much more after posting a 12-2 record in 2012, capturing the Pac-12
 title and knocking off Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl. Shaw has earned back-to-
 back Pac-12 Coach of the Year honors, as his star continues to rise with each
 successful campaign on the Farm.
 
 San Jose State is not a team to overlook. The Spartans opened the 2013
 campaign last week with a 24-0 shutout of Sacramento State. Ron Caragher is in
 his first season at the helm and inherits a team that went 11-2 last year, the
 last in the Western Athletic Conference. With one of the nation's top signal-
 callers at the helm, San Jose State should be highly competitive in the
 Mountain West Conference.
 
 These two teams have met 66 previous times, with Stanford dominating the
 series, leading 51-14-1. The Cardinal have won each of the last five meetings,
 including a hard-fought 20-17 victory in last year's season-opener.
 
 One of the top quarterbacks in the country with little fan fare, David Fales
 is on everyone's short list to garner all-conference honors again in 2013.
 Fales led the WAC and was third nationally in 2012 with a 170.76 rating, as he
 completed 72.5 percent of his passes, for 4,193 yards and 33 touchdowns.
 
 Fales didn't exactly get off to a fast start throwing the football in the
 opener though, as he completed just 16-of-32 passes in the win, for 225 yards
 and two touchdowns.
 
 A potent offense a year ago, SJSU managed a modest 367 yards in the opener,
 with 142 yards coming on the ground. Tailback Jason Simpson was responsible
 for most of that, churning out 135 yards (6.4 ypc) and one TD. Wideout
 Chandler Jones was by far the most productive receiver for SJSU, hauling in
 eight balls, for 130 yards and one score.
 
 It doesn't get much better than pitching a shutout and is certainly something
 SJSU's defense can build on going forward. The numbers are impressive, albeit
 taken with a grain of salt considering the competition. The Spartans managed
 to limit Sacramento State to 278 yards of total offense, while recording three
 sacks and a pair of interceptions.
 
 Linebacker Keith Smith was far and away the most active defender, posting a
 game-high 18 tackles. Safety Simon Connette also finished in double digits
 with 10 stops. Linebacker Eugene Taylor had a big game, posting five tackles,
 with two TFL and two sacks.
 
 Stanford has taken an old-school approach on offense the last couple of years,
 as everything has come off the run.
 
 Keeping to that gameplan this season will be tougher as three-time 1,000-yard
 rusher Stepfan Taylor has moved on. Taylor was a work horse last season (322
 carries, 1,530 yards and 13 touchdowns). Anthony Wilkerson, who is slotted to
 replace Taylor, had just 50 carries for 224 yards in 2012.
 
 Still, success on the ground is expected with one of the best offensive lines
 in the nation. The Cardinal return four starters, including All-American guard
 David Yankey.
 
 "We will have a lot of guys play running back for us, and as long as our big
 guys can play well up front we will be productive," Shaw said.
 
 Caragher knows one of the top challenges will be trying to make plays against
 Stanford's offensive front.
 
 "Our guys need to play with good leverage, play with a good base," said
 Caragher. "If you play high in this game you get driven back. You've got to
 play with good pad level, good base and good leverage, so that doesn't
 happen."
 
 Tight ends Zach Ertz and Levine Toilolo hauled in a combined 93 passes for
 1,291 yards and 10 touchdowns last season. Obviously replacement Luke
 Kaumatule (6-7, 260) has big shoes to fill.
 
 Trying to adjust to the new receivers and a new backfield will be starting
 quarterback Kevin Hogan. The sophomore took over for Josh Nunes last season
 and went 5-0, completing 71.7 percent of his pass attempts for 1,096 yards and
 nine touchdowns.
 
 The strength of this year's Stanford team will come on the defensive side of
 the ball once again. The Cardinal led the Pac-12 in sacks (57.0) and tackles
 for loss (124.0) a year ago.
 
 "I think more than anything we pride ourselves on being physical and
 aggressive, so our offense helps us build that characteristic going up against
 them every single day," Linebacker Shayne Skov said. "But we want to emphasize
 that we do what we do and we want to emphasize our own strengths."
 
 With eight starters back on the field and just, many of which will contend for
 all-conference honors, more of the same is expected defensively from the
 Cardinal.
 
 Linebackers Trent Murphy and Skov are both Butkus Award contenders. Skov led
 the team with 81 tackles last season, 9.0 of which came behind the line.
 Murphy led the team with 18.0 tackles for loss and 10.0 sacks.
 
 Ben Gardner and Henry Anderson are both forces at defensive end. Gardner
 finished last season with 14.5 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks. Anderson was
 just behind him with 13.0 TFL and 5.5 sacks.
 
 Stanford's secondary has its share of star power as well. Ed Reynolds and
 Jordan Richards are both hard-hitting safeties that track the ball well.
 Richards had 68 tackles, three interceptions and 15 passes defended last
 season. Reynolds hauled in a team-best six interceptions.
 
 The Spartans shouldn't be taken lightly as they enter this contest with the
 same win streak (eight games) that Stanford does. That being said, Shaw has
 the Cardinal believing they can win a national championship. Stanford should
 make a strong first impression in that regard.
 
 
 
 
 09/04 11:29:49 ET