Kansas St. @

(8) Stanford

Fri, Sep 2
Fox Sports 1
6:00 PM Pacific
Rotation: 151
Odds: Stanford -15, Total: 48

Game Analysis

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STANFORD (-15)  26   Kansas State  15

The star at Stanford is obviously RB Christian McCaffrey, who broke the NCAA record for all-purpose yardage last season, but don’t underestimate the value of departed four year starting quarterback Kevin Hogan. Hogan’s stats didn’t get a lot of notice because he didn’t put up big passing numbers. But, big passing numbers is not the way to judge a quarterback. Passing efficiency is how to measure a quarterback and Hogan averaged 9.7 yards per pass play or more in 8 different games last season, including the final 3 victories over Notre Dame, USC, and Iowa in the Rose Bowl. McCaffrey was great but Stanford’s rushing attack was 0.5 yards per rushing play better than average last season (5.6 yprp against teams that would allow 5.0 yprp to an average team) while the Cardinal pass attack was 2.5 yards per pass play better than average (8.5 yppp against teams that would allow 6.0 yppp), which ranked among the best in the nation. New quarterback Ryan Burns will do a fine job, as the coaching staff will work in a lot of easy throws to McCaffrey and Bryce Love, who combined to catch 60 of 69 passes thrown to them last season for an average of 13.0 yards per attempt. Stanford also uses the tight ends a lot, which is comforting to inexperienced quarterbacks.

The challenge for Burns will be throwing the ball down the field to take advantage of single coverage against teams that will no doubt put an extra safety close to the line of scrimmage to defend McCaffrey. If Burns can’t burn opponents with play action passes down the field then the Stanford rushing attack won’t be as effective. Opponents respected Hogan too much to put an extra man in the box too often and Burns will have to earn that same respect for the Cardinal offense to be close to as good as it was last season. Stanford was 1.2 yards per play better than average offensively last season but they figure to regress a bit without Hogan (I rate that unit at +0.7 yppl heading into this season).

The Stanford defense, meanwhile, should improve after what for them was a down season. Last year’s Cardinal defense was inexperienced and lost a lot of talent from the dominating 2014 unit that was from an incredible 1.7 yppl better than average. Stanford’s defensive rating was 1.3 yppl worse in 2015 at just 0.4 yppl better than average (5.6 yppl allowed to teams that would combine to average 6.0 yppl against an average defensive team). This year’s edition should be closer to the strong 2012 and 2013 defenses, but not nearly as good as 2014, as I expect significant improvement defending both the run and the pass.

If these teams played last season my model would have favored Stanford by 18 points but the Wildcats have closed the gap after their string of four consecutive strong seasons ended in 2015 with a disappointing 6-7 campaign.  Kansas State was out gained by over 100 total yards per game and by 1.4 yards per play after 3 consecutive seasons in which they were between +1.5 yppl and +1.6 yppl better than average (compensated for opponents faced). I trust that veteran coach Bill Snyder will make the necessary changes to get his team back to the positive side of the yards per play ledger and my algorithms forecast significant improvement on both sides of the ball for the Wildcats.

Improving on last year’s pedestrian offense will be pretty easy with starting quarterback Jesse Ertz likely to be a considerable upgrade from backup Joe Hubener, who had to step in last season after Ertz was injured on the first series of the season. I don’t think Ertz will be nearly as efficient as recent quarterbacks Colin Klein and Jake Waters were (an average rating of 2.5 yppp better than average from 2012 to 2014), as those two were blessed with having stud WR Tyler Lockett to throw to. But, Ertz should be about a yard per pass play better than last year’s pathetic -0.8 yppp rating. The rushing attack figures to be about the same (0.4 yards per rushing play worse than average) but overall I expect the offense to go from being 0.6 yppl worse than average to just 0.1 yppl worse than average this season.

The Kansas State defense will also rebound after a rare bad performance in 2015. Kansas State’s defense actually wasn’t as bad as the 6.4 yppl allowed would indicate, as the Wildcats faced a schedule of teams that would combine to average 6.1 yppl against an average team. Seven starters return and JC transfers have been brought in to plug holes (as is the tradition under Snyder) and I expect a return to levels pretty close to the 2012 to 2014 editions of the K State defense. Those teams allowed between 22 and 23 points per game each of those seasons while rating at between 0.7 and 0.6 yppl better than average. I rate this year’s defense at 0.5 yppl better than average.

Kansas State figured to be a much improved team and my ratings favor Stanford by just 10 ½ points in this game. Part of that lower than expected projected margin is based on the slow pace of this game, as fewer than 120 plays are predicted (140 plays is average excluding kneel downs). The slower paced the game, the harder it is for a big favorite to extend the lead and both of these teams play at a really slow pace. I’ll lean with Kansas State plus the points and the Under.

  • Team Stats
  • Game Log
  • Kansas St.
  • Stanford


  • Run Plays 38.3 29.7
  • Run Yards 186.0 113.7
  • YPRP 5.4 4.5


  • Pass Comp 14.0 18.0
  • Pass Att 29.7 29.3
  • Comp % 47.2% 61.4%
  • Pass Yards 189.7 198.0
  • Sacks 4.3 3.0
  • Sack Yards 19.3 20.0
  • Sack % 12.7% 9.3%
  • Pass Plays 34.0 32.3
  • Net Pass Yards 170.3 178.0
  • YPPP 5.0 5.5


  • Total Plays 72.3 62.0
  • Total Yards 375.7 311.7
  • YPPL 5.2 5.0


  • Int 1.0 1.0
  • Int % 3.4% 3.4%
  • Fumbles 0.3 1.3
  • Turnovers 1.3 2.3
  • Points 31.8 12.5
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