Although the 2013 season finished with a Rose Bowl loss to Michigan State, the Stanford Cardinal still came away as Pac-12 champs as well as posting a solid 11-3 record. However, three losses for David Shaw seems unacceptable these days as he has posted a 34-7 record in three seasons as the head coach.
On the other side of the field, the UC Davis Aggies finished the season with a mediocre 5-7 record. However, winning the final two games of the regular season may set them up for a bit of a momentum boost for the start of the 2014 season. Traveling to Stanford to begin the year seems like poor luck, however.
Stanford is led by junior quarterback Kevin Hogan who many expected to do big things in 2013, but fell short of expectations a bit. He did pass for a career-high 2,630 yards and 20 touchdowns while getting picked off an elevated 10 times. If he is going to be the leader of this team, he needs to be able to create more offense to take pressure off the defense. Leading wide out Ty Montgomery returns with his 61 catches for 937 yards and 10 scores while the run game is not so lucky. Losing Tyler Gaffney‘s 1,709 yards and 21 touchdowns will definitely hurt.
While Stanford returns their starting quarterback, UC Davis loses Randy Wright from the squad that went 5-7 last season. Wright passed for 1,712 yards and 11 touchdowns with just four interceptions and replacing him won’t be the easiest of tasks, especially since top wide out Tom Hemmingsen has also departed. Senior running back Gabe Manzanares returns as the top offensive threat after rushing for 1,285 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2013.
Defensively, the Aggies were not a top-tier unit in 2013. The Aggies ranked 63rd in the FCS in yards allowed per game with just over 388, but ranked 33rd in scoring defense, having allowed just over 23 points per contest. Stanford, on the other hand, has one of the best units in the nation. In 2013, the Cardinal ranked 10th in the nation in scoring defense and 16th in yards allowed per game.
UC Davis will travel to Stanford to take on the Cardinal at 4 p.m. EST on Saturday, Aug. 30. The game will be broadcasted on Pac-12 Network.
PREDICTION: UC Davis 3, Stanford 41
Connor Muldowney is a columnist for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @Connormuldowney, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google. You can also reach him at email@example.com.