Pac-12 Football Predictions for 2011: Which Teams Win in Week 1?

Michael TierneyAnalyst IMay 29, 2011

Pac-12 Football Predictions for 2011: Which Teams Win in Week 1?

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    With about three months to go, every Pac-12 game played in the first week is analyzed.

    Game dates, analysis and predicted scores are provided. 

    Game time/TV coverage is listed if available.

    The best P-12 football game: Oregon vs. LSU (at Cowboy Stadium).

    Close P-12 FBS games: Fresno State vs. Cal, Colorado at Hawaii and UCLA at Houston.

    Close P-12 FBS/FSC game: Eastern Washington at Washington.

    The least interesting P-12 game: Idaho State at Washington State.

    Other predictions: (1) Every team in the P-12 will have one or more losses this year. (2) USC will spoil every other team's record. (3) The winner of the the first annual Pac-12 Title Game will play Nebraska or Michigan State in the Rose Bowl.

Montana State at Utah

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    Montana State at Utah

    Thursday, Sept. 1, 2011

    5:00 p.m. (PST) on TBA

    Game Prediction: 

    Utah 31 – Montana State 10

    Kyle Whittingham hired Norm Chow who dumped the spread for a multiple look. Quarterback Jordan Wynn now takes snaps under a new center (Zane Taylor is gone), while his shoulder is still recovering from offseason surgery. To add to Wynn's bad wing, Utah's best running backs, Eddie Wide and Matt Asiata, have graduated. They accounted for 70 percent of last year’s offense. True freshman RB Harvey Langi will have to fill in.

    Last year’s wide receivers Shakey Smithson, Jereme Brooks and Caleb Schlauderaff are gone, so opponents will be keying on Langi. Only five players return on the Ute's defense. The defensive line and backfield both have one starter returning. The Bobcats will try exploiting holes and pray this game will not be a total blowout.

    Fortunately for Utah, their first opponent is FCS Montana State, at home. This is a Utah win, but don't expect to see it on national TV.


UC Davis at Arizona State

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    UC Davis at Arizona State

    Thursday, Sept. 1, 2011

    7:00 p.m. (PST) on TBA

    Game Prediction: 

    Arizona State 49 – UC Davis 6

    Arizona State has serious talent with defensive end Junior Onyeali and middle linebacker Vontaze Burfict. But list is short of big stars (NFL-level) on the Sun Devils offense or defense, and lack-of-depth is why this team underachieves every year.

    Middle linebacker Vontaze Burfict will lead the defense in his senior season before becoming one of the NFL's top prospects. Perhaps Arizona State’s second biggest star, cornerback Omar Bolden, is lost this season to an ACL tear in his knee. Bolden was huge in the backfield during 2010. Another one of the team’s biggest stars, defensive tackle Lawrence Guy, declared early for the NFL draft.

    Wide receiver Kerry Taylor's loss will be felt. The team is also without their other star wide receiver T.J. Simpson who has a torn ACL. Senior wide receiver Mike Willie was out this spring after shoulder surgery, and the losses take away quarterback Brock Osweiler’s top targets. Osweiler will start since last year's starter, Steven Threet, is now out of football due to concussions. They will have to rely on running back Cameron Marshall to carry the load.  

    Arizona State will dispatch FCS opponent UC Davis with ease, but once again, you won't find this game on national television. Look for Arizona State to bully up the score on hapless UC Davis on local TV. 




     


Minnesota at USC

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    Minnesota at USC

    Saturday, Sept. 3, 2011

    12:30 p.m. (PST) on ABC

    Game Prediction: 

    USC 48 – Minnesota 6

    Minnesota has new unsigned head coach Jerry Kill, a new coaching staff, a new quarterback, a new offensive line and a new season. Last year’s loss to the FCS South Dakota Coyotes was partially due to the terrible defensive line play and a lack of a pass rush. Minnesota finished dead last in the nation in that department, and their special teams play was a disaster. To top it off, the Gopher's top running back, DeLeon Eskridge, has up and left the team, and their tight end, Tiree Eure, as well. The Gophers have had injuries and sloppy summer.

    The Trojans are still the team to beat in the South. USC's offense looked a little lackluster this spring due to numerous injuries on the offensive line and in the receiving corps. The significant defensive improvement with Monte Kiffin's defense also contributed to Matt Barkley's spring struggles.

    The injuries will heal by summer and the USC offense will be at full strength. The three-pronged attack of Barkley, Tyler and Woods will be bolstered by running backs D.J. Morgan and Dillon Baxter. The Trojans have a full stable of the nation's best wide receivers in Brandon Carswell, Markeith Ambles, Kyle Prater, George Farmer, De'von Flournoy and others. With the offensive line back to strength, this offense will score points with ease like the 2008 team did.

    In-the-know Trojan fans already sense what Pac-12 foes will discover against USC's much improved defense. These ultra-talented players are finally understanding Monte's defensive scheme after year two. Oregon and Stanford will also understand how the Trojans improved when they spoil the bowl aspirations of the top two in the North. Minnesota will be totally over-matched in this opening game against USC shown on ABC.

UCLA at Houston

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    UCLA at Houston

    Saturday, Sept. 3, 2011

    12:30 p.m. (PST) on FSN

    Game Prediction: 

    Houston 34 – UCLA 27

    In 2009, Case Keenum was the No. 1 quarterback in the NCAA with 5,671 yards passing at a 70.3 passing percentage and an unheard of 44 touchdowns. Keenum started 2010 the same way passing for 274 yards and five touchdowns in a 68-28 rout of Texas State. Keenum suffered a concussion in Week 2 against UTEP and couldn't play the second half.

    Keenum did start at UCLA despite the concussion but went down with a season-ending knee injury in that game. Keenum was granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA this year, and he will be looking to pass for 300 yards and five touchdowns versus UCLA in their home opener at Robertson Stadium in Houston.

    Keenum's favorite target is senior wide receiver Patrick Edwards, the 2010 Offensive Player of the Year. Edwards has 202 career receptions for 2,755 yards and 23 touchdowns. Houston's ground attack will be lead by running back Bryce Beall. He will share duties this season with Michael Hayes and Charles Sims, the 2009 CUSA Freshman of the Year. Offensively, Houston will be explosive. Defensively, they will be porous.   

    UCLA does face a tough test to start the season. Last year Rahim Moore and Akeem Ayers both had an interception versus Houston. Their replacements will have to double that effort in Texas in order to win this game. Kevin Prince was UCLA's quarterback last year when UCLA played Houston at home. Prince completed 50 percent of his passes with an interception last year. He will have to improve to get the win. UCLA also fumbled twice in that game last year, but that is another statistic that will have to improve for this road game.

    It is hard to say how many offensive adjustments to the offense Coach Neuheisel will make. UCLA's offense struggled in 2009 and regressed in 2010, so some improvements must be made. Quarterbacks Kevin Prince and Richard Brehaut combined to complete just 51 percent of their passes for 5.4 yards per attempt with 12 INTs to just nine TDs.

    These statistics allowed defenses to focus on stopping UCLA's running game.  The offensive line graduated three starters and continues to battle injury concerns, so it looks like the Bruins will have to rely on their defense. Offensively UCLA will not be too much better than last year. Defensively they will be stingy.

    This game will be close and might be televised on the Fox Sports Network. It may be one of the better games of the weekend, but the home team should have the advantage.

Oregon Versus LSU (Dallas)

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    Oregon versus LSU (Dallas)

    Saturday, Sept. 3, 2011

    5:00 p.m. (PST) on ABC

    Game Prediction: 

    LSU 34 – Oregon 31

    What do Oregon and LSU have in common?

    A. They both have 12:1 Vegas odds of making it to the BCS championship game.

    B. Both teams will be ranked in the top five when they meet.

    C. Both teams have tons of speed, talent, coaching and national spotlight.

    All answers are correct but those BCS odds will change for one team after Sept. 3rd. Why does this game seem like déjà vu? 

    Because LSU will try to accomplish what the last three ranked OOC opponents Boise State, Ohio State and Auburn have been able to do to the Ducks. What was Oregon thinking when they scheduled LSU?

    LSU and Oregon meet at the site of the Tigers’ last game of 2010, in Arlington, Tex. for the Cotton Bowl where they demolished touted quarterback Ryan Tannehill and Texas A&M. This five-hour drive is almost a home game for LSU. Despite tons of preseason over-hype, the Tigers defense will control the game with their defense.

    Oregon’s defensive losses (DT Brandon Bair, DT Zac Clark and DE Kenny Rowe along the defensive front, as well as LB Casey Matthews, LB Spencer Paysinger, Sr. and CB Talmadge Jackson III), may be enough to allow LSU to exploit RB Spencer Ware’s running abilities and improve QB Jordan Jefferson’s passing attack. The indefinite suspension of cornerback Cliff Harris really hurt the Ducks as well.

    Yes the Ducks have new replacements, but this is a top-rated SEC team, not Portland State. LSU arguably has the best defense in the country. Oregon's losses at wide receiver and along the offensive line will make a difference.

    LSU will be gunning for the SEC championship and two big keys for the Tigers are their 4-3 defensive tackles. Michael Brockers is a 6'6", 255 lbs. top talent and 6'1", 280 lbs Josh Downs is every bit as good. Oregon's new starting guard Ryan Clanton and new Center Karrington Armstrong won't stop these two great players and LSU will stack the box all day long. 

    This is the best game of the opening weekend, and it will go down to the wire. The location swings this game LSU's way by the smallest of margins. The big game will continue to elude Oregon. This will be ABC's prime-time game shown nationally.

Colorado at Hawaii

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    Colorado at Hawaii

    Saturday, Sept. 3, 2011

    7:15 p.m. (PST) on ESPN2

    Game Prediction: 

    Hawaii 28 – Colorado 24

    2010 Result in Boulder, CO: 

    Colorado 31 - Hawaii 13

    Hawaii finished 2010 with a 10-4 record tying Nevada and Boise State for the WAC’s best record. The Warriors led the nation in passing offense and finished the season ranked in the top 25, but quarterback Brian Moniz loses his two favorite receivers, their leading tailback, and four-of-five on the offensive line. But they'll still put a better team on the field than Colorado, especially at quarterback. 

    The Buffaloes, 5-7 in 2010, beat the Warriors last season, but they begin 2011 with new head coach Jon Embree and his new staff. Quarterback Tyler Hansen (more career interception than touchdowns), needs weapons to emerge at receiver. Colorado will have to replace a few great players lost to the NFL draft as well. The Buffs will lean on running back Rodney Stewart, but Hawaii knows this. This game will be a lot closer than anyone imagined and we would love to see Colorado win, but Hawaii will take the victory.

    This close game will be watched on ESPN2.


Idaho State at Washington State

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    Idaho State at Washington State

    Saturday, Sept. 3, 2011

    TBA (PST) on TBA

    Game Prediction: 

    Washington St. 17 – Idaho St. 6

    Anyone who predicts, "Washington State will not finish last" isn't saying much. That is because Colorado will because the Buffaloes' non-conference play includes Hawaii, Cal, Colorado State and Ohio State without a season bye. Washington State plays Idaho State, UNLV and San Diego State followed with a bye. Washington State will have three wins by October, whereas Colorado will have one over Colorado State (Buffaloes only win?).

    Back to the opener, Washington State will win a hard fought game over FCS Idaho State played at Pullman, Washington. Quarterback Jeff Tuel will have a few decent skill-position players to work with, but this win will not be televised.

    The Cougars coach, Paul Wulff is looking at tenuous job security if the does not get four wins this season. The same could be said for Cal coach Jed Tedford. But no coach in the country is walking the plank more than Rick Neuheisel at UCLA.


Sacramento State at Oregon State

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    Sacramento State at Oregon State

    Saturday, Sept. 3, 2011

    TBA (PST) on TBA

    Game Prediction: 

    Oregon St. 31 – Sacramento St. 3

    Oregon State has a tough schedule this year. They will travel to Wisconsin, Arizona State, Utah, Cal and Oregon. They play Arizona, BYU and Stanford at home. Those games are likely losses for the Beavers. Fortunately they open with Sacramento State and play UCLA, Washington State and Washington. Those are likely wins.

    Quarterback Ryan Katz continues to improve, but receiver James Rodgers' knee injury will limit his success this year. Jacquizz Rodgers' departure to the NFL will impact the Beaver's running game and the loss of defensive tackle Stephen Paea cannot be overstated. The same can be said for linebacker Gabe Miller and center Alex Linnenkoh.  

    For this game, the Beavers' second-string will be in by the third quarter. Coach Mike Riley won't hammer FCS Sacramento State. He has too much class for that. Shown on local TV.

Northern Arizona at Arizona

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    Northern Arizona at Arizona

    Saturday, Sept. 3, 2011

    TBA  (PST) on TBA

    Game Prediction: 

    Arizona 38 – Northern Arizona 10

    Another FBS versus FCS yawner. This one won't be televised nationally, and the score may be even more of a differential than 28 points. I would rather talk about Arizona's bowl chances. In two words: Sun Bowl. Luckily for Sun Bowl officials, they get a fairly local team.

    Arizona will finish fifth in the Pac-12 with a probable 7-5 record. Their losses will all be to ranked teams (Oklahoma State, Stanford, Oregon, Arizona State, and USC if they are allowed to be ranked). Arizona may even pull off the win over Arizona State should Sun Devils quarterback Brock Osweiler struggle or join the Sun Devil injured ranks along with star cornerback Omar Bolden (who may be out for the entire season). Should Arizona beat Arizona State and USC sanctioned, Arizona could meet Stanford in the Pac-12 Championship Game, something no-one expects.

    Arizona quarterback Nick Foles will probably hook-up with wide receiver Juron Criner for well over 15 touchdowns this season. Running back Keola Antolin may balance the offense with 200 carries. Foles will have 4,000 yards and 25 touchdowns which will help rank him high in next year's NFL draft.

    Where the Wildcats will struggle somewhat is on defense. The Wildcats face life without pass-rush specialists Ricky Elmore and Brooks Reed. In addition, safety Adam Hall and linebacker Jake Fischer are both battling back from knee injuries. Shown on local TV. 

Fresno State at California

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    Fresno State at California

    Saturday, Sept. 3, 2011

    1 p.m. (PST) on TBA

    Game Prediction: 

    California 27 – Fresno State 21

    If the up-and-coming second-string defense makes it on the field, Cal will have a lights-out defense. They include Gabe King and Deandre Coleman at defensive ends with Viliami Moala at the nose spot. For the linebackers, Chris McCain and Nick Forbes are backing up the inside with Cecil Whiteside and Jarred Price on the outside.

    Keenan Allen, Avery Walls and Stefan McClure are ready to step up to first-string and improve the defensive backfield. But until they do, this is an average defense. Cal's new transfer quarterback Zach Maynard had ho-hum numbers at Buffalo. This year Cal will have a ho-hum offense.

    Fresno State's quarterback Derek Carr has an arm. The Bulldogs have a one-two punch in running backs Robbie Rouse Milton Knox. Their pass-rush will be improved despite losing Chris Carter. But there are too many newbies in the backfield to match the new name tags on the offensive line. Cal's Coach Jed Tedford will open the 2011 season with a home opener (Candlestick Park), victory.

    This 1 p.m. game is not scheduled for TV, but look for the Fox Sports Network to pick it up. 

Eastern Washington at Washington

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    E. Washington at Washington

    Saturday, Sept. 3, 2011

    TBA (PST) on TBA

    Game Prediction: 

    Washington 17 – E. Wash. 13

    Usually, Washington hosting an FCS team would be an easy win, but the Huskies no longer have their leaders on offense or defense. Both Jake Locker and Mason Foster are gone playing on Sundays. Center Ryan Tolar, offensive tackle Cody Habben, strong safety Nate Williams and defensive tackle Cameron Elisara are no longer on the team either. These personnel losses for Washington makes this game a little more interesting. Even better, Eastern Washington won the FCS National Championship and finished first in the FCS Coaches Poll.

    When Washington plays Nebraska, Utah, Stanford, Arizona, Oregon, USC and Oregon State, the games won't be so interesting. In fact, Washington won't make it into the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl or any other bowl this year. Sophomore quarterback Keith Price will mostly hand off to Chris Polk this year, but every team that Washington plays will be loading the box. Polk will not get 1,000 yards rushing this season and will have more ice baths than the Coca-Cola polar bears.

    Washington wins this offensively challenged game shown on local TV.

San Jose State at Stanford

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    San Jose State at Stanford

    Saturday, Sept. 3, 2011

    TBA (PST) on TBA

    Game Prediction: 

    Stanford 55 – San Jose State 9

    First things first.  San Jose State does not have a chance, and it will be hard for Stanford to keep this game under a 50-point differential, this is just a money game for the Spartans. San Jose State is one of the worst FBS teams, they are visiting one of the best and this is just a money game for them.

    Sports Illustrated ranks Stanford just behind Oregon, Alabama and LSU in their May 24th rankings. Looking ahead to Nov. 12th, Oregon visits Stanford for a shocker, but this article is about the first week. Jim Harbaugh and other coaches are gone, however, last time I checked, I didn't see them on the field playing last season. The Cardinal has Andrew Luck, a great rushing attack and good replacement wide receivers. But Stanford will really utilize their experienced tight ends in their passing attack.

    Stanford's defensive line will be a concern, but you can count on quarterback Luck, running back Stepfan Taylor, wide receiver Chris Owusu, tight ends Zac Ertz and Coby Fleener, to just outscore almost all of their opponents. Local TV only. 

Predicted Week 1 Pac-12 Standings

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    Pac-12 North Standings After Week 1
    Team Conference Overall
    Washington State 0-0 1-0
    California 0-0 1-0
    Oregon State 0-0 1-0
    Washington 0-0 1-0
    Stanford 0-0 1-0
    Oregon 0-0 0-1
    Pac-12 South Standings After Week 1
    Team Conference Overall
    USC 0-0 1-0
    Arizona State 0-0 1-0
    Arizona 0-0 1-0
    Utah 0-0 1-0
    Colorado 0-0 0-1
    UCLA 0-0 0-1