Picks, Predictions and Prognosis for Every Week 2 Pac-12 Football Game
Week 1 in Pac-12 football was punctuated with surprises, both good—Washington's 38-6 rout of Boise State, for example—and bad—Oregon State's 49-46 loss to Eastern Washington, which dropped the Beavers from the rankings.
The Week 2 slate is considerably weaker top-to-bottom. Only Oregon, USC and Washington State face BCS conference competition—and the latter two face each other in the first conference game of the season. The Ducks travel to face Virginia.
Otherwise, there are four Championship Subdvision and three Mountain West Conference opponents on the docket. Avoiding the upset is the Pac-12 theme of Week 2. To that end, the conference's teams are heavy favorites across the board.
Record Against The Spread in 2013: 6-4
All lines courtesy of VegasInsider.com.
Sacramento State at Arizona State (-35)
Thursday, Sept. 5 | 10 p.m. EST
Arizona State opens its season with a Big Sky Conference member for the second straight season. Last year, the Sun Devils blasted in-state counterpart Northern Arizona, 63-6. Sacramento State is an interesting opponent, given the Hornets have beaten Pac-12 opponents each of the last two seasons: Oregon State in 2011, and Colorado last year.
However, those Beaver and Buffalo teams went on to win a combined four games. This ASU squad is a possible Pac-12 championship contender.
Sun Devil head coach Todd Graham said during Tuesday's Pac-12 coaches teleconference respect is key in the team's season opener, according to Kevin Gemmell of ESPN.com's Pac-12 Blog.
"You should respect this game. You should respect your opponent. Otherwise, you're going to get humbled."
After a record seven teams went down to Championship Subdivision opponents a week ago, expect the Sun Devils to come out focused and handle business easily.
Prediction: Arizona State 59, Sacramento State 13
Weber State at Utah (-23)
Saturday, Sept. 7 | 2 p.m. EST
Much like Todd Graham with his Arizona State team, Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham said he used last week's multitude of FCS-over-FBS upsets as a wake-up call.
"We had a team meeting and put those scores up," Whittingham said on Tuesday's teleconference call, according to Kevin Gemmell of ESPN.com's Pac-12 Blog. "That got [the players'] attention.
"Hopefully we got that message through," he continued. "Assessing by [Monday's] practice, we did."
The Utes carry the momentum of an important win against Utah State and quality practices into Saturday's matchup. The Wildcats should allow co-offensive coordinator Dennis Erickson to test more facets of the playbook with talented quarterback Travis Wilson, as well as hash out the Utes' crowded backfield situation.
Weber State is coming off a season-opening win over Stephen F. Austin, but will be hard-pressed to have the same kind of offensive success it had in the 50-40 shootout. The Utah defensive front won't allowed 315 yards rushing, as Stephen F. Austin did last week.
Prediction: Utah 42, Weber State 14
Oregon (-23.5) at Virginia
Saturday, Sept. 7 | 3:30 p.m. EST
There isn't a matchup featuring two more contrasting styles on the Week 2 Pac-12 docket than this. Oregon wants to push the tempo to unparalleled heights, while Mike London's Virginia Cavaliers opt to grind the game down through defense and a methodical rushing attack.
Virginia's strategy worked against BYU last week, but the Cougars were just reintroducing a hurry-up system—Oregon has perfected it over seven years.
The early kickoff after a cross-country trek might impede the Ducks' quick-strike attack initially, but the Cavalier offense will struggle to sustain drives against a talent-rich Oregon defense. When the deluge comes, it won't be pretty for Virginia.
Prediction: Oregon 45, Virginia 14
Portland State at Cal (-27)
Saturday, Sept. 7 | 2 p.m. PT
The debut of Sonny Dykes' Bear Air offense showed potential against nationally ranked Northwestern last week. Saturday's matchup with a Portland State defense that ranked No. 106 among FCS teams in points surrendered last year should give Dykes ample opportunity to fine-tune his scheme.
True freshman quarterback Jared Goff should have no trouble picking apart the Viking secondary, coming off a very promising debut. Goff will also have a heavy dose of the rush on which to rely.
Dykes said during Tuesday's teleconference that establishing the run game was a priority. Expect plenty of carries for Brendan Bigelow, Cal's explosive running back.
Prediction: Cal 52, Portland State 10
Central Arkansas at Colorado (-14)
Saturday, Sept. 7 | 8 p.m. EST
Colorado, fresh from a 41-27 win over Colorado State, is after its first win streak in nearly three years. Nothing has been a gimme for CU in recent years, and Saturday's affair is no exception.
The Buffs lost their last time out against an FCS opponent, dropping a 30-28 decision to Sacramento State last September. In Central Arkansas, CU draws a team ranked in the top 10 of the FCS poll.
CU's defense must find a way to disrupt UCA quarterback Wynrick Smothers. Smothers is coming off a 27-of-31 passing performance in the Bears' 58-7 season-opening rout of Incarnate Word.
The possibility of Saturday's contest becoming a quarterback duel is very real. Connor Wood is coming off his own impressive start to the season, last week going 33-of-46 with three touchdowns. If he gets a more consistent showing from running back Christian Powell, that will open the field for the "big-money catch plays" head coach Mike MacIntyre said were sometimes missed on Sunday.
Central Arkansas poses a legitimate threat of adding Colorado to the list of FBS trophies for the FCS this season, but the Buffs should do enough to weather the challenge.
Prediction: Colorado 31, Central Arkansas 24
Hawaii at Oregon State (-23)
Oregon State became the conference's cautionary tale in preparation of a Championship Subdivision opponent. The Beavers should bounce back in Week 2, and do so in a big way.
OSU's offense was humming against Eastern Washington, racking up 527 yards of total offense and a whopping 422 in the air. Scoring points against Hawaii shouldn't be an issue, but what vexed the Beavers in Week 1 was what head coach Mike Riley called during Tuesday's coaches teleconference a "completely out-of-sorts" defensive effort.
"We were misaligned defensively," Riley said, via Ted Miller of ESPN.com. "We made crucial technical errors...simple football mistakes."
An inconsistent pass rush allowed EWU quarterback Vernon Adams to score six touchdowns. In Hawaii, OSU is facing an offensive line that struggled to protect quarterback Taylor Graham against Week 1 opponent USC. The Trojans sacked Graham seven times.
The Beavers lack the same kind of talent that USC has in its pass rush, but Hawaii is a worthwhile opportunity for proven commodity Scott Crichton to getting going.
Prediction: Oregon State 41, Hawaii 17
Arizona (-17) at UNLV
Saturday's trip to UNLV is technically a road game for Arizona, but don't be surprised if Wildcat fans vastly outnumber Rebel supporters in UA's first appearance at Sam Boyd Stadium since winning the 2008 Las Vegas Bowl.
UA rolled 35-0 past a Norther Arizona team that, coincidentally, beat these UNLV Rebels in 2012.
Saturday marks the return of running back Ka'Deem Carey, who was serving a one-game suspension last week. Carey was the nation's leading rusher a season ago.
He rejoins a backfield well equipped to attack UNLV via the rush, much in the same way Minnesota did in the Rebels' 51-23 season-opening defeat.
The Golden Gophers 221 yards on 38 carries, with six ball carriers sharing multiple carries. UA figures to attack in the same manner with Carey, running backs Daniel Jenkins and Jared Baker and quarterbacks B.J. Denker and Javelle Allen.
Despite registering its first shutout since 2008, the Wildcat defense still has much to prove after a disastrous 2012. Containing the talented Rebel backfield of quarterback Nick Sherry and running back Tim Cornett means stifling any hope of an upset UNLV might have.
Prediction: Arizona 56, UNLV 24
Washington State at USC (-21)
Cody Kessler is on course to start for the Trojans against Washington State. Kessler saw the majority of first string practice reps, Scott Wolf of the Los Angeles Daily News reports.
That's one mystery solved for the Trojans. Another is if USC is more likely to be a passing or rushing offense against the Cougars.
The Trojans struggled to pass with much consistency against Hawaii last week. Moreover, Washington State surrendered 6.4 yards per carry for nearly 300 rushing yards in its Week 1 loss at Auburn.
USC has one of the most talented wide receiving duos in college football with Heisman Trophy-caliber Marqise Lee and sensational sophomore Nelson Agholor. However, they may not come into play until Justin Davis and Tre Madden—and perhaps Silas Redd, if an Associated Press report of his return comes to fruition—establish the run.
Washington State must capitalize on opportunities, something it failed to do down the stretch in its loss at Auburn. The Cougar offensive line must also protect quarterback Connor Halliday from an aggressive Trojan pass rush out of defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast's 52 set to avoid turnovers.
Halliday was picked off three times by an Auburn defense that made two interceptions the entire season prior. Conversely, the Trojans came away with four interceptions a week ago.
USC may not be full strength yet offensively, and WSU has the talent to hang around for a few quarters. The Trojans should assert themselves in the second half en route to a double-digit-point win.
Prediction: USC 34, Washington State 21
San Jose State at Stanford (-20)
The Cardinal barely escaped last year's matchup with San Jose State. Stanford knows firsthand how dangerous this Spartan team can be, so to that end, expect a focused and methodical effort from the outset of its season opener.
Stanford boasts one of the best pass rushes in college football. Trent Murphy, Henry Anderson, Ben Gardner and Co. will bring a consistent flurry of pressure on SJSU quarterback David Fales, giving the 2014 NFL draft prospect minimal space to operate.
An offseason as the undisputed starting quarterback should have Kevin Hogan running the Cardinal offense more fluidly than it ever operated in 2012.
Stanford begins its contention for another Pac-12 and possibly national championship with a convincing win over a quality opponent.
Prediction: Stanford 38, San Jose State 13