Season openers often bring the unexpected as teams work off the rust and work through the glitches. When both participants start rookie quarterbacks, as will be the case Friday when San Jose State visits No. 21 Stanford, the potential for mayhem soars.
The latest installment of the "Bill Walsh Legacy Game" could feature fumbled snaps, a pick-six, perhaps a dazzling touchdown pass or two.
And just think what might transpire in the second quarter.
"I feel good about 90 percent of what we're putting on the field," Cardinal coach David Shaw said. "We'll see about the other 10 percent."
San Jose State coach Mike MacIntyre echoed the sentiment, although he stopped short of attaching percentages. Neither coach named names, or positions, but the quarterbacks could figure prominently into the uncertainty.
Stanford's Josh Nunes and SJSU's David Fales aren't merely first-time starters -- they are essentially first-time players. Nunes has thrown two career passes; Fales hasn't thrown any at the major-college level, having transferred to SJSU from Monterey Peninsula College.
"I'm not nervous," Nunes said Monday. "But maybe a few butterflies will show up later in the week."
For both Nunes and Fales, the mission is the same: make sound decisions, complete enough passes to keep the defense honest and, above all, avoid turnovers. But their success in those vital areas will be based, to a large extent, on the respective running
If Stanford tailback Stepfan Taylor churns for 5 or 6 yards per carry, for example, Nunes should have a relatively pressure-free evening. SJSU's defense won't know what is coming or when it is coming and will have to blitz judiciously.
"What makes them go is their offensive line," MacIntyre said. "It blows open holes even I could run through."
At the same time, if SJSU's tailbacks are stuffed at the line of scrimmage, Fales will face long-yardage situations against Stanford's relentless pass rush.
In last season's meeting between these teams, the Spartans rushed for 27 yards, lost three fumbles and fell 57-3. Stanford started six possessions in SJSU territory and converted the opportunities into 31 points.
"They return a lot of players that played last year, so we know they're good," Fales said.
But past success isn't necessarily indicative of what will unfold Friday -- even when it comes to Stanford's vaunted running game.
The Cardinal is replacing two of the best offensive linemen in school history (guard David DeCastro and tackle Jonathan Martin); it plans to use true freshmen in the rotation up front (tackles Andrus Peat and Kyle Murphy); and it probably won't have injured fullback Ryan Hewitt, one of its most valuable players.
So maybe Stanford will have a tough time running the ball, allowing SJSU's blitzers to rattle Nunes and setting the stage for a taut finish.
Or maybe it will be 58-3.
"You never know how it will unfold," MacIntyre said. "Sometimes, an uncertainty can become your strength."