No. 25 Stanford hosts Northwestern in season opener

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              FILE - In this Dec. 1, 2018, file photo, Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald directs his team from the sidelines during the second half of the Big Ten championship NCAA college football game against Ohio State in Indianapolis. It seems no one is talking about Northwestern even though it won the Big Ten West last year. The chatter surely will start if the Wildcats beat the Cardinal on the road Saturday.  (AP Photo/Michael Conroy, File)
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Northwestern (9-5 last season) at No. 25 Stanford (9-4), Saturday at 4 p.m. ET (Fox).

Line: Stanford by 6.

Series record: Stanford leads 3-2-2.

WHAT’S AT STAKE?

Defending Big Ten West champion Northwestern looks to get off to a fast start after losing all three nonconference games a year ago. The main question for the Wildcats is at QB where senior TJ Green and Clemson transfer Hunter Johnson are battling for the starting job. Stanford can ill afford an early loss at home with trips to USC and No. 17 Central Florida, followed by a home game against No. 11 Oregon coming up next.

KEY MATCHUP

Stanford run game vs. Northwestern D. The Cardinal finished 122nd out 129 FBS teams in rushing last season and now have to replace Bryce Love. Stanford hopes Cameron Scarlett can provide a more balanced attack but that could be tough against a defense led by LBs Paddy Fisher and Blake Gallagher.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Northwestern: RB Isaiah Bowser. He rushed for 866 yards and six TDs on 197 carries as a freshman. He had 864 yards in the final eight games of the season, eighth most in the nation in that span.

Stanford: QB K.J. Costello. The Cardinal relied heavily on their passing game last year and Costello delivered. He threw for 3,540 yards (second most in school history) and 29 TDs (third most). He had 1,287 yards on passes thrown at least 20 yards downfield, the most of any returning QBs.

FACTS & FIGURES

This is second meeting between the schools in past 25 seasons with Northwestern winning a season-opener at home 16-6 in 2015. … The Wildcats have won eight straight road games. … Northwestern DE Joe Gaziano enters the season as the nation’s active leader in sacks with 21. … Stanford has won 11 straight home openers. … The Cardinal have won 21 straight nonconference home games since losing to Notre Dame in 2007. … Stanford CB Paulson Adebo led the nation last season with 24 passes defended. … Cardinal K Jet Toner missed just one kick last season, making all 54 PATs and 14 of 15 FGs.