Picks, Predictions and Prognosis for Every Week 3 Pac-12 Football Game
Week 3 in the Pac-12 Conference more than compensates for a lackluster second week. All 12 teams are in action. All but one face Bowl Subdivision opponents. Eight take on BCS conference competition, including Oregon State and Utah, who meet in the second league game of 2013.
The Pac-12 and Big Ten meet in something of a Rose Bowl series, pitting eight teams—four per conference—against each other. UCLA's trip to Nebraska begins the slate with a bang, and Arizona State-Wisconsin cap an exciting Saturday in similar fashion.
The SEC also comes calling in Week 3, when Tennessee pays a visit to Oregon.
Last Week: 5-3
Record Against the Spread in 2013: 11-7
All lines courtesy VegasInsider.com. All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.
No. 16 UCLA at No. 23 Nebraska (-4)
Saturday, Sept. 14 | noon ET
UCLA's 2012 coming out party came when Nebraska visited the Rose Bowl. Then a freshman, quarterback Brett Hundley played with veteran savvy, scoring four touchdowns to pace a 36-30 Bruin win.
Hundley is a year older and more experienced, and a potential Heisman Trophy contender. His play on the national stage Saturday will set the foundation for his non-campaign campaign.
Nebraska struggled against similarly skilled Wyoming quarterback Brett Smith, who had 472 total yards against the Huskers. A similar big night from Hundley will buoy the Bruin offense.
Of course, the Cornhuskers have their own potential Heisman candidate quarterback in senior Taylor Martinez. UCLA head coach Jim Mora praised Martinez during Tuesday's Pac-12 coaches teleconference.
Mora said limiting the plays Martinez can make using his mobility is crucial and something he said the Bruins did not do well in the first half against Nevada quarterback Cody Fajardo.
An instant classic is on the horizon, but UCLA has enough firepower to exploit the Husker defense and more on its own defense to make the necessary stop or two late.
My Prediction: UCLA 38, Nebraska 35
No. 5 Stanford (-30) at Army
Preparing for Army's triple-option offensive attack on a short week of practice is never easy. Neither is traveling across the country for an early kickoff, though Stanford head coach David Shaw dismissed the latter during his teleconference call on Tuesday.
"They're college kids," Shaw said in reference to Saturday's wake-up call.
In many circumstances, that might negate the coach's point—how many readers were awake before noon on a Saturday during college? Then again, how many were Stanford football players?
Preparation should be no problem, especially for the outstanding Cardinal defense. As Stanford football outsider David Lombardi notes via Twitter, Stanford's linebacker corps outweighs Army's offensive line on average.
Stanford should have no trouble stuffing out the triple option by simply overpowering it.
My Prediction: Stanford 42, Army 7
Fresno State (-10) at Colorado
Saturday, Sept. 14 | 2 p.m. ET
In a historically miserable season for Colorado football, there may have been no point lower than the Buffaloes' 69-14 deconstruction against Fresno State.
For the Bulldogs, it was a launching pad into a season that included a share of the Mountain West Conference championship.
"That night it just, bam: This is the team we can be," Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr said at MWC media day in July. "To be a Pac-12 school like that, it was pretty cool."
The outcome was memorable for CU as well, though in a much different way, as head coach Mike MacIntyre explained during Tuesday's Pac-12 coaches teleconference call.
"To say that game doesn't [stay in players' minds], they'd be lying," MacIntyre said. "Hopefully that will motivate them to prepare this week."
Colorado is a much improved team, thanks primarily to an energized offense. The nation's leading receiver, Paul Richardson, goes head-to-head with reigning MWC Defensive Player of the Year Derron Smith in what should be a fun game-within-the-game.
Expect a shootout in Boulder, but don't be surprised if Carr finds a way to make key plays late against a young Buffalo defense.
My Prediction: Fresno State 48, Colorado 41
Boston College at USC (-17.5)
Saturday, Sept. 14 | 3 p.m. ET
USC head coach Lane Kiffin and Boston College head coach Steve Addazio are on two very different planes currently. Kiffin is embroiled in controversy, each week providing a snap judgment of his tenure.
Conversely, Addazio has injected life back into a Boston College program lulled into a malaise at the end of Frank Spaziani's time there. The Eagles are 2-0 and coming off an impressive conference win; the Trojans are 1-1 coming off a disappointing conference loss.
The 17.5-point line is a reminder that when it comes to USC football, perception and reality are not always in line. Remember, this was a team that scored just seven points a week ago against Washington State.
Kiffin's decision to hand his offense over exclusively to Cody Kessler could generate a bit more offense, but the Trojans are at a point where covering 17.5 would be a challenge on an empty field.
USC's defense is among the nation's most talented and should sour San Clemente, Calif. native Chase Rettig's Southern California homecoming. The outstanding secondary must, and likely will, limit opportunities for standout BC wide receiver Alex Amidon.
But the Trojans are 0-2 against the spread this season and will be fortunate to secure a win against the reinvigorated Eagles—let alone cover 17.5 points.
My Prediction: USC 17, Boston College 13
Tennessee at Oregon (-20)
Saturday, Sept. 14 | 3:30 p.m. ET
Butch Jones faces the first major test of his short Tennessee career, and it's a doozie. Oregon's hyper-tempo offense has scored 125 points in just two games, using a wide variety of weapons to confound and exhaust opposing defenses.
Of course, neither Nicholls State nor Virginia has defensive talent like Daniel McCullers or A.J. Johnson, but the Vols' collective conditioning will be put to the test. And Tennessee is unlikely to benefit from seven takeaways, as it generated last week against Western Kentucky.
Oregon has a way of ending games in the first quarter. Tennessee has to be diligent and avoid struggling—playing the Ducks' tempo is a bit like being trapped by a python. The more one struggles, the tighter its stranglehold.
Look for the home team to cruise, but don't expect "Pac-12" chants from the Autzen Stadium crowd. This is just business as usual for a program seeking a national championship.
My Prediction: Oregon 56, Tennessee 21
No. 19 Washington (-7.5) vs. Illinois (in Chicago)
Saturday, Sept. 14 | 6 p.m. ET
Illinois matched its 2012 win total with an impressive 45-17 beating of Cincinnati last week. The kick-start new offensive coordinator Bill Cubit has given the Illini offense has created a national buzz around the program not seen since Juice Williams was in Champaign.
Similarly, Washington's 38-6 rout of Boise State has the Huskies looking very much like Pac-12 title contenders.
Quarterback Keith Price answered concerns about his regression in 2012 with an outstanding debut. The next lingering question the Huskies must address is its play away from Seattle. Last year, UW was 2-5 in road and neutral field games.
Saturday's game is only neutral field insomuch as it's not at Memorial Stadium. Regardless, the Huskies are too talented and too experienced for the Illini magic to extend another week. Shaq Thompson and the swarming UW defense are too aggressive for Nathan Scheelhaase to have the time and space to throw he's enjoyed in the first two weeks.
My Prediction: Washington 41, Illinois 24
Southern Utah at Washington State (-35)
Saturday, Sept. 14 | 6:30 p.m. ET
Washington State plays on the Palouse for the first time this season, coming out of a challenging two-game set to open 2013 with a satisfying 1-1 mark. The Cougars played well in their road games at Auburn and USC—as head coach Mike Leach noted to FOX Sports Radio's Prime Time, Washington State could have gone 2-0.
Nevertheless, the Cougars begin a two-game home stand that should end with them matching last season's win total and halfway to reaching the program's first bowl in a decade. The Big Sky Conference's Southern Utah comes calling first. The Thunderbirds had the No. 109-ranked pass defense in the Championship Subdivision a season ago. That does not bode well against the air raid spread attack.
After winning last week without a defensive touchdown, quarterback Connor Halliday will be itching to unload on an overmatched Thunderbird secondary.
My Prediction: Washington State 51, Southern Utah 14
No. 4 Ohio State (-15) at Cal
Saturday, Sept. 14 | 7 p.m. ET
Cal went to the Horseshoe last season and nearly derailed Ohio State's perfect season before it really got rolling. Running back Brendan Bigelow ran all over the Buckeye defense in a performance that had Pac-12 pundits buzzing this offseason about his potential.
Bigelow has been unable to jump-start in head coach Sonny Dykes' Bear Raid offense. Dykes said during Tuesday's coaches teleconference establishing Bigelow is crucial.
That will particularly be the case against the Ohio State defense, which is out to rattle true freshman quarterback Jared Goff. Goff has been outstanding in his first two collegiate appearances, including a Week 1 showdown with another ranked Big Ten opponent in Northwestern.
However, Goff hasn't had a blitzing presence like Ryan Shazier bearing down on him, as he will Saturday. Protecting the young quarterback is paramount if Cal is to mount an offensive attack.
Whether it's Braxton Miller or Kenny Guiton leading the Buckeye offense, the Golden Bears will struggle to contain the visitors. Cal is allowing over 530 yards per game through its first two.
The offense may be able to keep Cal within striking distance for a few quarters, but the Buckeyes prove to be too much down the stretch.
My Prediction: Ohio State 41, Cal 27
Oregon State (-3) at Utah
Saturday, Sept. 14 | 10 p.m. ET
Utah is 1-0 in revenge games this season, having beat Utah State in the opener, 30-24. Last year's Ute loss in Corvallis, Ore. was among the most indicative of the team's offensive woes.
Oregon State's defense has taken a step back since 2012, while Utah's offense has taken a long stride forward. Wilson is playing with more confidence in his second season, both via the run and pass. Wilson's mobility could pose serious problems for a Beaver defensive front still finding its identity.
Oregon State quarterback Sean Mannion is also off to a strong start but faces his first major test in Utah. His continued improved accuracy must withstand a test against the always stout Ute defense.
Beaver head coach Mike Riley said during Tuesday's coaches teleconference Rice-Eccles Stadium is "a great college football environment." Indeed, the MUSS—Mighty Utah Student Section—will be raucous under the lights. They should see the Revenge Tour 2013 improve to 2-0, as well. Let's just hope they do so from their seats and not the field.
My Prediction: Utah 31, Oregon State 27
UTSA at Arizona (-24.5)
Saturday, Sept. 14 | 10:30 p.m. ET
UTSA head coach Larry Coker is working to build a big-time program, and in the early phases Roadrunner football has a bright future. UTSA is coming off a loss to Oklahoma State, but one in which it scored 35 points on the preseason favorite to win the Big 12 Conference.
Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez noted during his teleconference call Tuesday that the Roadrunners had success against the Cowboy defense far exceeding that of Mississippi State in Week 1. Rodriguez also praised Roadrunner quarterback Eric Soza, who is coming off a three-touchdown performance.
UA's defense is much improved from an awful 2012, allowing just 13 points through two games, but UTSA is the most talented of its three nonconference opponents. Nevertheless, the Roadrunners are hard-pressed to match the Wildcats' torrid pace.
All-American running back Ka'Deem Carey failed to disappoint in his return from a one-game suspension, running all over UNLV for 171 yards in just over two quarters of work. His presence gives Arizona a multidimensional look in the run game—though don't be surprised if UTSA loads the box with defenders to force B.J. Denker to pass.
Either way, Arizona should have no trouble scoring en route to a 3-0 start.
My Prediction: Arizona 49, UTSA 21
Wisconsin at Arizona State (-4)
Saturday, Sept. 14 | 10:30 p.m. ET
A fitting conclusion to a great Saturday of Pac-12 football, Arizona State-Wisconsin is your game of the week.
Wisconsin has spent its New Year's Day where Arizona State wanted to be each of the last three seasons—in Pasadena for the Rose Bowl Game.
Early season night games in Sun Devil Stadium have an aura to them that makes it especially unwelcoming to visitors. Maybe it's the extra few hours before kickoff ASU students have to spend on Mill Ave. Whatever the reason, Wisconsin is entering a hostile environment.
Stopping the run is critical for the Sun Devils. Wisconsin will bring a steady dose of running backs Melvin Gordon, Corey Clement and James White against an ASU front seven that was surprisingly mediocre against the rush last season.
If Will Sutton, Carl Bradford and Co. can limit the Badgers' three-headed backfield, it's up to Taylor Kelly and Marion Grice to make plays against a stingy Wisconsin defense.
My Prediction: Arizona State 27, Wisconsin 24
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