Former Los Angeles Lakers great and Basketball Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar once said “You can’t win unless you learn how to lose.” When it comes to picking Pac-12 Football games against the spread, this scribe learned to LOSE A LOT last season. Now a year wiser, I’m looking to improve on my abysmal 30-41-1 record (41.7 winning percentage) in 2018.
If Week 0 was an indication, yours truly is in for a breakout year.
Week 0 Pac-12 Picks: Arizona (-11 1/2) at Hawaii.— Ralphie Report (@RalphieReport) August 24, 2019
Khalil Tate vs. Cole McDonald. Two defenses that allowed over 430 YPG last season. Scoreboard operator will be busy. J.J. Taylor is the difference as Arizona wins, but Hawaii covers. (per @anthonykaz4)
A total of 11 games are on tap for Week 1, including a Pac-12/SEC battle at AT&T Stadium, the 94th edition of the Holy War and another Rocky Mountain Showdown at Mile High.
Here is my first installment of selections for the “true” opening week of Pac-12 play. Tread lightly.
Thursday, August 29
UCLA vs. Cincinnati — 5:00 PM MT, ESPN)
Spread: Cincinnati -3 (o/u 58)
The Bearcats spoiled Chip Kelly’s UCLA debut last season with a 26-17 win in the Rose Bowl. Thursday’s contest features two of the better running backs in FBS, UCLA senior Joshua Kelley (1,243 rush yards, 12 TD in 2018) and Cincinnati junior Michael Warren II (1,329 rush yds, 19 TD in 2018). The Bruins should improve on their 3-9 record from a year ago, but the Bearcats have won 17 straight home openers by an average of 33 points per game. Take the Bearcats at home giving three points.
Kent State vs. Arizona State — 8:00 PM MT, Pac-12 Networks
Spread: Arizona State -24 1⁄2 (o/u 60 1⁄2 )
Expect year two of the Herm Edwards era to get off to a good start. The Sun Devils have won 19 straight home openers by 32 points per game. ASU junior tailback Eno Benjamin (5th in FBS with 1,692 rush yards in 2018) should rack up the yards against a Kent State defense that ranked 112th in the nation against the run last season. While the Sun Devils should win, I’m taking the Golden Flashes, and their fast-paced spread offense to cover.
#14 UTAH vs. BYU — 8:15 PM MT, ESPN)
Spread: Utah - 6 1⁄2 (o/u 48 1⁄2 )
This marks the 94th edition of The Holy War, with Utah holding a 58-31-4 series edge. The Utes have won their last eight against the Cougars, but only one of those contests was by more than eight points. A healthy Tyler Huntley and Zack Moss should be the difference for the Utes Thursday night. Take Utah to cover the six and a half points, but my confidence meter on this one is a 4 out of 10.
FRIDAY, AUGUST 30
Colorado State vs. Colorado (Mile High Stadium) — 8:00 PM MT, ESPN
Spread: Colorado -13 (o/u 55 1⁄2 )
A year ago the Buffs offense racked up 596 total yards in route to a lopsided 45-13 win against their Centennial State rivals. Expect much of the same Friday night in Denver, Colo. With Travon McMillian gone, the Buffaloes young running backs - Alex Fontenot, Jaren Mangham and Deion Smith - should have a field day against a Rams defense that surrendered 220 rushing yards per game last season. The Mel Tucker era gets off to a phenomenal start as the Buffaloes easily cover the 13 points.
Oklahoma State vs. Oregon State — 10:30 PM MT, Fox Sports 1
Spread: Oklahoma State -14 (o/u 72)
Is there something I’m missing here? Oklahoma State opened as 16 and a half point favorites, but the spread has since dropped to 14. Even with the game being played in Corvallis, Ore., the Cowboys are just too talented for the Beavers. I’m going against the majority. Expect a high-scoring affair with Mike Gundy’s boys covering the 14 points.
*Point spreads are as of Wednesday, August 28 per the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook*
Author Note: Check back on Friday as I reveal my picks for Saturday’s slate of Pac-12 games.