While the 2018 NFL Draft is far ahead in our minds, the opening kickoff of the 2017/18 College Football Season starts tonight, ahead of what promises to be yet another exciting, tumultuous campaign.
With the regular season at large beginning in earnest in a week’s time, few could be blamed for staying awake into the early hours of Sunday morning (3am BTSport 1) for the long awaited return of gridiron to our screens.
This is the second year Sydney’s Allianz Stadium will host the opening season fixture, with California victorious over Hawaii twelve months ago in the inaugural fixture.
Make no mistake, despite losing the prodigious, irreplaceable talent of Chritian McCaffrey to the NFL, Stanford (10-3) are the clear favourites in this fixture against the Rice Owls who endured a disappointing 3-9 in Conference-USA play a year ago.
Make no mistake, there still remains a plethora of draft eligible talent to keep an eye on this evening on both sides. David Shaw’s well established Palo Alto programme is so well versed in recruiting and developing talent on a continuous basis and the fruits of that rich Californian conveyor belt continue at a pace. Ten-year head coach David Bailiff continually moulds highly competitive rosters and despite an unremarkable struggle a year ago, returns a talented team looking to restore bowl eligibility for the first time since 2014’s Hawaii Bowl appearance, boasting intriguing, talented, standout individuals on both sides of the ball.
#20 RB Bryce Love*
Despite being very much in the shadow of McCaffrey last season, the then sophomore quietly shone in his own right, averaging 7 yards per carry and combining with the now Carolina Panther for no less than 2,386 yards. Love has the unenviable prospect of stepping into such illustrious shoes, but the junior has the ability to not just fill in but allow the programme to move on from McCaffrey, while personally establishing himself as the top running back in the PAC-12 but as a bona-fide 2018 NFL Draft prospect in his own right. I don’t expect the Cardinal to miss a beat in the run game, behind a talented offensive line.
#32 OLB Joey Alfieri
Big things are expected from the hugely talented outside linebacker this season and a drayhorse to fly up draft boards into the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft as the season progresses. It happens every year and Alfieri has every chance of being just that. One to keep a close eye on.
Keep eye on..
#73 C Jesse Burkett
#24 CB Quentin Meeks*
#66 DT Harrison Phillips
#8 FS Justin Reid*
#24 RB Sam Stewart*
Part of a deep running back corps that has the added benefit of an experienced, returning offensive line to operate behind this season. Stewart heads the backfield, coming off a hugely promising sophomore campaign where he was the school’s leading rusher with 479 yards, with an impressive 6 yards per carry in the process.
#58 LB Emmanuel Ellerbee
The lynchpin of the Owls’ 3-4 read and react defence whose outstanding 2016/17 campaign saw him stand out with 118 tackles, awarded with a much deserved selection on the First Team All-CUSA team.
Keep an eye on…
#66 LT Calvin Anderson & #51 LG Peter Godber
Both Anderson and Goober impressed as the 2016/17 campaign progressed and more importantly both return. If both impress going forward they will be names to watch in the 2018 NFL Draft mix.
BETTING LINE: (Oddshark)
STANFORD BY 30.5 PTS
STANFORD 27 – 6
COVER IMAGE: Marcio Jose Sanchez – AP