Friday Night will have the most extensive slate of games of the season, until the day after Thanksgiving. While this slate doesn’t have any major primetime games, there are plenty of things to watch for and many games that could carry large implications later in the season.
There’s a lot to look forward to so let’s break down watch to watch for on Friday night.
Game of the Night
Stanford vs San Diego State is the best game in an otherwise ordinary slate of games Friday night. The Aztecs upset Stanford last season, thanks in large part to 175 yards rushing from Rashaad Penny, who is gone. Senior QB Christian Chapman returns and will need to play a big role in the San Diego State offense for them to have another 10 win season. The real key is RB Juwan Washington, the next in line of potentially awesome Aztecs running backs.
On the other side, last year in the loss, KJ Costello wasn’t starting at QB yet. The former top 5 recruit opens the year as the undisputed starter and has heisman candidate and 2017 runner up Bryce Love in the back field to help him out. This is a huge game for both teams as Stanford has PAC-12 title aspirations and will need to start the season strong while the Aztecs have aspirations of winning the Mountain West and representing the Group of 5 in a New Year’s Six bowl. An OOC win against a PAC-12 team will go a long way to helping their cause if they have a strong conference season.
QBs to Watch
Eric Dungey, Syracuse – Dungey fits Dino Babers offense perfectly and entering his senior season, having 26 games of experience under his belt, his task will be guiding the Orange to 6 wins. No easy task as Syracuse hasn’t been to a bowl since 2013. Dungey has thrown 40 TDs and 21 INTs with a 61.7 completion %. Western Michigan isn’t exactly known for it’s defense, so Dungey should have a good time Friday night.
Daniel Jones, Duke – the Junior QB started every game for Duke last season and throw two years has 30 TD, 20 INT. His previous experience will be crucial in helping Duke reach 6 wins in 2018.
Kelvin Hopkins, Army – Hopkins gets the nod over several other options, including senior Luke Langdon. Hopkins got some playing time as a backup last year to senior outgoing Ahmad Bradshaw. Army runs a unique triple option offense, one that Bradshaw ran to near perfection. The QB position is extremely important at Army because of the decision making that goes into each play, the way that they run the offense.
Alex Hornibrook, Wisconsin – junior starting QB Hornibrook had a success 2017 season, helping guide Wisconsin to a 12-0 regular season. His main job is to not screw up. Wisconsin is built on a strong rushing attack and defense. So as long as Hornibrook protects the ball and avoids turnovers, and makes the occasional big play, the Badgers will be fine in 2018.
KJ Costello, Stanford – Costello is the best QB prospect the school has had since Andrew Luck. He was the #3 pro-style QB coming out of high school and took over as starter half way through last season. Two key notes on Costello – he threw only 4 interceptions on 211 pass attempts and he has the sensational Bryce Love to do all the dirty work.
Doing a Heisman Watch column in August is probably stupid, however Stanford RB Bryce Love and Wisconsin RB Jonathan Taylor both deserve the recognition. We project both to finish in the top 4 of voting come December. Last season, Love finished second (to Baker Mayfield) and Taylor finished 6th. Love opted to return to Stanford for his senior season after an outstanding junior year that saw him run for 2,118 yards and 19 TDs. He averaged an astounding 8.1 yard per carry, which basically means he almost got a first down every time he ran the ball. Breath-taking numbers! Taylor wasn’t much worse – as a freshman in the Big Ten, he ran for 1,977 and 13 TDs. He averaged 6.6 yards per carry.
Pursuit of Respectability – Mountain West Edition
The Mountain West has a big opportunity Friday night to make a statement. As mentioned, San Diego State travels to Palo Alto and in a second MWC vs PAC-12 matchup Colorado State faces in-state rival Colorado. The Rams are coming off a miserable week 0 performance against Hawaii and will look to bounce back against a hungry Colorado team led by QB Steven Montez. Following a breakthrough 2016 season, Buffaloes took a step back last year missing a bowl for the 5th time in coach Mike McIntyre’s 6 year tenure.
Pursuit of Bowl Eligibility – ACC Style
It might sound crazy to talk about bowl eligibility in August but Syracuse and Duke are basketball schools, who occasionally play football games. On those occasions, it’s important they pick up wins where they can as the expectations in 2018 are right around 5-6 wins for each team, which means a slim margin of error.
Syracuse travels to Western Michigan, a team two years removed from a perfect regular season and Cotton Bowl appearance. But this isn’t the same Broncos team and the Orange have the aforementioned Dungey. Dino Babers has gone 4-8 each of his first two seasons at Syracuse so season 3 is make-or-break for his future with the Orange, and a road win to open the season, regardless of the opponent, will be a good aid in pushing towards 6 wins as the year goes on.
The other game features Duke hosting Army. We broke down both QBs earlier. Army is coming off their first 10 win season since 1996 and Duke played their 5th bowl game in 6 years, a streak they look to continue in 2018.