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Football looks to start season with a bang against Rice
Stanford begins the 2017 season in Sydney, Australia on Saturday against Rice. Last year, Stanford defeated Rice 41-17.(AL CHANG/isiphotos.com)

Football looks to start season with a bang against Rice

For all 129 teams of the Football Bowl Subdivision, the start of a new college football season brings newfound expectations and the dream of being crowned college football’s best team. Perennial powers and ambitious underdogs alike will soon embark on a long journey that all hope will conclude at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, this year’s home for the national title game.

The No. 14 Stanford Cardinal will begin that journey in unique fashion, as they take on the Rice Owls at Allianz Stadium in Sydney, Australia on Saturday.

“This is like a bowl game for us,” head coach David Shaw said. “There’s an incredible amount of planning goes into it.”

The Cardinal will attempt to start this year’s regular season the same way they ended last year’s: with a win against Rice.

Stanford handled the Owls with ease last season, racking up 373 rushing yards on the way to a 41-17 romp, and the Cardinal are a 31-point favorite in Vegas, but Rice head coach David Bailiff is certain fans will see a different Owls squad in 2017.

“We’ll be a different football team,” said Bailiff. “We’re a healthy football team and we played a lot of young ones last year, so I think we’ll be a lot better this season.”

Rice’s offense will be commanded by sophomore quarterback Sam Glaesmann, who has been given the tall order of playing his first collegiate football game against what is projected to be one of the nation’s best secondaries with two defensive backs on the Jim Thorpe Award Watch List in juniors Quenton Meeks and Justin Reid.

“Whatever they have out there, I just need to make my reads,” Glaesmann said. “Unless they’re an NFL player, they’re going to make mistakes sometimes, so you just have to take advantage of that.”

On the other side of the ball, the Stanford defense will look to establish itself as one of the best defenses in the nation on Saturday. Last season, the Cardinal allowed 20.4 points per game, good for 18th in the nation. With few departures and a deep depth chart, that number should only improve for Stanford.

“We come back with Harrison [Phillips] up front, who has a chance to be one of the better players in our conference and around the nation. Really good group of linebackers inside and outside with speed, athleticism, length and experience,” Shaw said. “Defensive backfield, I’m excited about that position as any position we have on our team. We think these guys have a chance to be one of the better units in America.”

As for the Stanford offense, all eyes will be on senior quarterback Keller Chryst, who went undefeated as a starter before tearing his ACL against North Carolina in the Sun Bowl. While Chryst has made a remarkably fast recovery from that injury and will start Saturday, it has yet to be seen whether he will be as mobile as he was in last year’s match-up with Rice – where he did this.

“He’s shown us no signs of any issues at all physically, there are no limitations on him right now, so we feel good about him getting ready to go play in Sydney,” Shaw affirmed.

On the ground, Saturday is a chance for Stanford to showcase its new and improved offensive line, along with the man they’ll be primarily blocking for, junior running back Bryce Love.

While Love, at least on the national stage, has lived in Christian McCaffrey’s shadow the last two years, the speedster is fully expected to have a breakout season for the Cardinal. Averaging seven yards per carry over his career, Love was able to show just how explosive he can be for moments last season, such as a 50-yard touchdown run against Rice.

“Every time Bryce has touched the ball for the last two years, there is a collective pause that happens on our sideline and the other sideline and there is a gasp that you can actually hear that anticipation because he is so explosive,” Shaw praised of his primary tailback.

But Love’s role will be much different this season, as when McCaffrey left, he took 253 carries with him: a workload that primarily falls on Love’s shoulders. The question of whether Love is durable enough to maintain the blistering pace he set in his first two seasons with a much heavier workload will start to be answered on Saturday.

Trying to stop him will be senior linebacker Emmanuel Ellerbee and the Rice defense, who has switched to a 3-4 defensive scheme this year. Ellerbee led the Owls with 118 total tackles last season and was recently named the Preseason Conference-USA Defensive Player of the Year.

An offseason full of speculation culminates in Sydney on Saturday. Kickoff will be at 7 p.m. PST and the game will be televised on ESPN.

 

Contact Sam Curry at currys ‘at’ stanford.edu.

About Samuel Curry

Sam Curry '20 is a sophomore desk editor for The Daily. Most of the time, people can find him cheering for all of the teams they probably hate, like the New England Patriots and the New York Yankees. Sam is a proud native of Big Timber, Montana, where he enjoys the great outdoors with his family and friends.