Stanford vs. Kansas State Betting Odds, Picks, Prediction: Take Underdog on Moneyline in College Football Opener (Sept. 4)
Icon Sportswire / Getty Images. Pictured: Austin Jones
- Kansas State is a short favorite over Stanford on Saturday afternoon in a neutral site game to kick off the 2021 college football season.
- Last year's Stanford team was uncharacteristic of a David Shaw group, with a porous defense and little rhythm on offense.
- Roberto Arguello breaks down why he likes the moneyline in Kansas State vs. Stanford below.
Stanford vs. Kansas State Odds
Stanford and Kansas State clash Saturday afternoon in the 2021 Allstate Kickoff Classic at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. These teams are each coming off four-win, up-and-down seasons in 2020.
The Cardinal started 0-2 but then rallied to win their final four games in thrilling fashion as their four wins came by a combined 10 points. The four-game win streak to close the season was even more impressive when considering that COVID-19 restrictions in Santa Clara County prohibited them from practicing or playing at Stanford over the last month of the season.
The Cardinal once tried practicing in an empty parking garage for privacy in Seattle, but they were Paul Blarted out of the garage by a security guard and performed their practice at a public park filled with mud and duck feces. The Cardinal nonetheless pulled the upset at undefeated Washington and finished the season 4-2 after a thrilling double-overtime win at UCLA.
Stanford Football is practicing at the Downtown Bellevue Park
— WestCoastCFB (@WestCoastCFB) December 4, 2020
The Wildcats also started with a loss in their opener in 2020 before beating Oklahoma on the road in the first of four straight wins. However, starting quarterback Skylar Thompson suffered an injury in the third game of the season, and the Kansas State offense was never the same with freshman Will Howard filling in. Thompson returns this season as QB1 in his fifth year.
While Howard wasn’t spectacular, the defense sputtered down the stretch as they struggled with tackling, and the Wildcats lost five straight games to end the season at 4-6. Kansas State is looking to rebound after an ugly 69-31 loss at home against Texas to end last season.
The Wildcats were particularly active in the transfer portal, and they hope to improve their defense with this new blood as they only return two starters defensively.
After winning at least eight games in each of his first eight seasons as Stanford’s head coach, David Shaw’s team went a disappointing 4-8 in 2019 as they struggled with injuries on the offensive line and all over the defense.
Stanford became a much more pass-happy team in 2019 than they had previously been in the Shaw era, but they reverted to running the football more frequently behind the Tunnel Workers Union in 2020. The offensive line is expected to be the team’s best unit again in 2021, and the stable of talented Cardinal running backs should complete one of the best rushing attacks in the Pac-12.
The Cardinal lose several key players from 2020 as quarterback Davis Mills, receiver Simi Fehoko, and center Drew Dalman each were selected in the NFL Draft. Left tackle Walker Little and cornerback Paulson Adebo were also drafted in the first three rounds, but both of these players opted out of the 2020 season.
Mills was one of the three Stanford players who was sidelined after a false-positive COVID-19 test just an hour before last season’s opener at Oregon. The two quarterbacks who split time in his absence then, Tanner McKee and Jack West, are both expected to play on Saturday.
The Cardinal offense hopes to keep things easy on the two inexperienced quarterbacks and will run the ball early and often against the Wildcats. The offensive line loses one of the best centers in America with Dalman going pro, but the rest of the line besides the center position (Drake Nugent) has experience.
The Cardinal also have to replace right tackle Foster Sarell, but highly-touted recruit Myles Hinton played as the sixth offensive lineman last year and should fit nicely into the starting unit at right tackle.
Stanford is incredibly deep at running back as they are led by Austin Jones, but Nathaniel Peat, E.J. Smith (son of Emmitt), and Casey Filkins give them a deep and versatile group.
Captain wide receiver Michael Wilson is out for a few weeks, but Stanford has several other big targets on the perimeter including Brycen Tremayne, Elijah Higgins, and John Humphreys.
Expect the Cardinal to continue throwing jump-balls in the end zone.
Tight end Tucker Fisk will also play a role as a physical run blocker and pass catcher. While Stanford lists two starting tight ends and two backups who all stand at least 6-foot-4, Fisk is the sturdiest by far and weighs in at 285 pounds. The Cardinal expect to use him not only on offense but also on defense for the first time in the fifth year senior’s career as he is also listed as a backup defensive lineman.
At quarterback, many Cardinal fans have hoped that David Shaw would name sophomore Tanner McKee the starter because he is the more highly-touted recruit, and he was ranked behind only Trevor Lawrence and JT Daniels among pocket passers before going on a two-year LDS mission to Brazil.
Senior Jack West has made two starts and has a better understanding of the complex Cardinal offense, but McKee projects as the player with higher upside and more eligibility. Shaw is expected to name a starter before kickoff.
To beat Kansas State, the Cardinal need their offensive line to consistently win in short-yardage situations while their quarterbacks manage the game and limit turnovers.
The strength of the Stanford defense is its linebacking group. The Cardinal were decimated by injuries with this unit each of the last two seasons as they were forced to play former walk-ons and ill-prepared underclassmen too frequently. The Cardinal now have depth at all four linebacker positions and are much more strong and athletic than they have been there recently.
But the rest of the defense assuredly has its issues. Cornerback Kyu Blu Kelly and defensive lineman Thomas Booker are impact players at their respective positions, but the Cardinal lack proven playmakers alongside them in these position groups. Stanford will be without starting safety/nickel corner Jonathan McGill and also corner Salim Turner-Muhammad as they will miss time with substantial injuries.
In order to beat Kansas State, the Cardinal must limit the Deuce Vaughn damage and prevent him from making explosive plays. Limiting quarterback Skylar Thompson’s ability to gash them on the ground will also be imperative as defensive coordinator Lance Anderson’s defenses have struggled to contain dual-threat quarterbacks recently.
After going 8-5 in coach Chris Klieman’s first season in Manhattan in 2019, the Wildcats regressed to 4-6 in 2020 as the Thompson injury and poor tackling were too much to overcome down the stretch in the Big 12.
The Wildcats lost just one player to the NFL draft — defensive end Wyatt Hubert — while adding a plethora of impact players through the transfer portal, especially on defense. Expect this Wildcats team to be much more dangerous this season if Thompson can remain healthy.
The offense will go as far as Vaughn and Thompson take them this season.
The offensive line should be a powerful run blocking group, but they have issues in pass protection, particularly against speed rushers off the edge. The left side of the line, led by tackle Cooper Beebe and guard Josh Rivas, is straight up nasty, and the Wildcats should run behind them all day against a Stanford defense that ranked near the bottom of the NCAA against the run last year.
The tight ends for Kansas State are deep with starter Nick Lenners, USC/Illinois transfer Daniel Imatorbhebe, and Danny Wheeler. Captain Malik Knowles leads the receiving group, and he will need to make big plays this season to stretch defenses and create space for Vaughn and Thompson on the ground. The rest of the receiving unit isn’t spectacular, and another impact receiver, Chebastin Taylor, will be on a snap count on Saturday as he recovers from an injury.
If Thompson can consistently get around the corner against the Stanford defense, the Wildcats will have a great chance of winning, but if he is forced to make plays from the pocket, Stanford has the edge.
The Wildcats are stout up the middle on the defensive line as they are led by Eli Huggins and senior transfer and captain Timmy Horne at defensive tackle. On the edge, Khalid Duke and Bronson Massie are both solid pass rushers, but they need to improve against the run.
The linebackers are less experienced and will need to improve their tackling dramatically after a poor 2020 season. The Wildcats will mix transfers and less experienced players at linebacker as they hope to improve upon the ninth ranked Big 12 defense in yards per play allowed (6.11).
The secondary loses impact corner Kiondre Thomas, but they remain a strength as their corner duo of Ekow Boye-Doe and Julius Brents will be one of the best in the Big 12.
Stanford vs. Kansas State Matchup Analysis
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Stanford Offense vs. Kansas State Defense
Kansas State Offense vs. Stanford Defense
Pace of Play / Other
Stanford vs. Kansas State Betting Pick
These teams are well-coached and won’t turn the ball over much, so this game will come down to which offense is more successful in the red zone and which defense steps up and makes plays, and I give the edge to the Cardinal.
Stanford has better talent overall defensively, and their improved depth and athleticism at linebacker will be what propels them to victory in this matchup. This improved athleticism and depth isn’t being accounted for by many who look at the recent Stanford defense on paper, and this will yield value in week one.
Nonetheless, the Stanford defense was one of the best tackling teams in the country last season whereas Kansas State struggled mightily in tackling. While Stanford’s defense graded poorly both against the run and pass last season, they did step up and make winning plays against Oregon State and UCLA to seal victories in crunch time.
Stanford’s linebacking corps — if coupled with improved quarterback play — give their future of over four wins (-110) fantastic value. The Tree play four of their last five games at home, and there are a solid amount of winnable games beforehand, too.
Stanford also has the edge on Kansas State in special teams as the Wildcats have two starters listed at both kicker and punter. Defensive end Thomas Booker had a huge extra point block to give Stanford a one-point win in the Big Game over California last season, and you can expect Pete Alamar’s special teams unit to be consistent again this season.
The Cardinal offensive line, like the Wildcats offensive line, will have success run blocking, but the difference between these two units is that Stanford’s line has two tackles who will play on Sundays and can protect against speed rushers off the edge. Per Pro Football Focus, the Stanford offensive line ranked second in the Pac-12 in pressures allowed (25.4%).
Overall, I like Stanford to win and love the value on them as underdogs at +135 on DraftKings. David Shaw has proven multiple times in his tenure that his Cardinal teams can be effective early in the season before they pick a quarterback because of their consistency running the football and their ability to limit turnovers.
The Cardinal beat Kansas State in their previous 2016 matchup with Ryan Burns as the starter, and although he didn’t finish the season as QB1, the Cardinal put him in position to manage the game and get a 26-13 win.
Expect the Cardinal to keep things simple for their inexperienced quarterbacks again as their offensive line and linebackers lead them to a victory in Arlington.