After going 6-0 to start the season, this scribe was brought back to reality on the first full Saturday of Pac-12 play. Were it not for Auburn freshman Bo Nix’s last minute heroics or Northwestern’s inability to hold on the ball in the final minute of play, yours truly would’ve gone a combined 9-1. Instead, I’ll have to settle with a very respectable 7-3 mark.
Conference play gets underway in Week 2 as 14th ranked Washington hosts California and 23rd ranked Stanford faces a JT Daniels-less USC squad. And of course there’s the much anticipated Fight at Folsom as the Buffaloes host a familiar foe. Week 2 picks are below, and as always, especially this week, tread lightly.
Overall Record (ATS): 7-3
Northern Illinois (1-0) vs. #13 Utah (1-0)
Time/Network: 11:00am MT/Pac-12 Networks
Spread: Utah -22 (o/u 44 1⁄2 )
Utah scored 20 points off three BYU turnovers en route to a 30-7 win in last week’s Holy War. Northern Illinois is coming off a 24-10 victory over FCS Illinois State. The Huskies return seven starters on a defense that held Zack Moss to a season-low 66 yards in last season’s 17-6 loss to the Utes. Despite Northern Illinois’ stout rush defense, Moss (187 rush yards, TD at BYU) should break the 100-yard mark Saturday afternoon. With the exception of a 21-17 victory against Nebraska in 2017, Northern Illinois has lost 12 of their last 13 non-conference road games. Utah will win, but I’m taking Northern Illinois getting 22 points.
#25 Nebraska (1-0) vs. Colorado (1-0)
Time/Network: 1:30pm MT, Fox
Spread: Nebraska 4 1⁄2 (o/u 64)
Almost as soon as Nebraska opened as seven and a half favorites, that point spread dropped to three and a half before settling at four and a half. Or at least it sits there as I write this article. The Cornhuskers failed to cover in a 14-point victory against South Alabama in Lincoln, while the Buffaloes cruised to a 52-31 neutral-site win over Colorado State. Scott Frost’s gang is looking for revenge after a 33-28 loss to the Buffaloes last season, which saw heralded quarterback Adrian Martinez leave with a leg injury. They won’t find it. Not with this game at Folsom Field. Expect a close, chippy contest with the Buffaloes pulling another upset against their hated rival.
San Diego State (1-0) vs. UCLA (0-1)
Time/Network: 2:15pm MT, Pac-12 Networks
Spread: UCLA -8 (o/u 45)
UCLA is coming off a 24-14 season-opening loss at Cincinnati, while San Diego State shutout FCS powerhouse Weber State 6-0. The Bruins are 21-0-1 all-time against the Aztecs, with their last victory coming in 2009. San Diego State however is 4-1 against Pac-12 teams since the start of the 2016 season. Picking this contest depends on the unknown status of a single player. If Bruins running back Joshua Kelley returns, (he sat out the season-opener due to a lingering injury) it should open up UCLA’s passing game, allowing Dorian Thompson-Robinson to improve upon his abysmal 8-of-26 performance against the Bearcats (DTR might just be a bad QB, however). If Kelley sits, the Bruins offense could struggle for the second straight week. I’m taking the chance that Kelley plays. Give me the Bruins to cover and stay unbeaten against the Aztecs, but my confidence meter on this one is 2 out of 10.
Nevada (1-0) vs. 16 Oregon (0-1)
Time/Network: 5:30pm MT, Pac-12 Networks
Spread: Oregon -23 1⁄2 (o/u 63 1⁄2 )
The Wolf Pack and Ducks found themselves on opposite ends of two of the more exciting games of Week 1. Nevada came from behind to stun Purdue 34-31 thanks to freshman Brandon Talton’s 56-yard field goal as time expired. Oregon fell to Auburn 27-21 after true-freshman Bo Nix’s 26-yard touchdown pass to Seth Williams with :09 seconds remaining. Oregon is 6-1 all-time against Nevada and has won 14 straight home openers. While Nevada’s come from behind home-win against Purdue was impressive, this game is at Autzen Stadium. I’m rolling with the Ducks.
California (1-0) vs. 14 Washington (1-0)
Time/Network: 8:30pm MT, Fox Sports 1
Spread: Washington -13 1⁄2 (o/u 43 1⁄2 )
After a sluggish start, California defeated UC Davis 27-13 in last week’s season-opener behind Christopher Brown Jr.’s career-high 197 rushing yards. Former Georgia signal-caller Jacob Eason looked fantastic in his debut with Washington, throwing for 349 yards and four touchdowns in a 47-14 win over Eastern Washington. The Huskies will be looking for redemption after suffering a 12-10 loss to the Golden Bears last season. California’s defense might just be the best in the Pac-12, but I’m leaning Washington.
23 Stanford (1-0) vs. USC (1-0)
Time/Network: 8:30pm MT, ESPN
Spread: USC -3 (o/u 43 1⁄2 )
USC is 61-33-3 all-time against Stanford, but Stanford has won four of the last six, including a 17-3 victory last season. USC’s JT Daniels (torn ACL) is out and Stanford’s K.J. Costello (head injury) is questionable for this matchup. The Trojans will turn to Kedon Slovis, while the Cardinal, assuming Costello sits, will answer with Davis Mills; both are making their first career starts. Perhaps a more impactful injury blow for Stanford in last week’s 17-7 win over Northwestern was the knee injury suffered by All-American left tackle Walker Little. Look for USC’s front seven to exploit this and put pressure on whomever is under center for Stanford. Give me the Trojans to cover in the Coliseum.
Oregon State (0-1) vs. Hawaii (1-0)
Time/Network: 9:59pm MT, None (will be live streamed on Facebook)
Spread: Hawaii -6 1⁄2 (o/u 77 1⁄2 )
The Beavers are 7-3 all-time against Hawaii and have won their last four. Forget ‘Pac-12 after dark’, this is more like ‘Pac-12 while you were sleeping.’ If you’re able to stay awake for the start of this one, you might not be able to turn away. Expect a LOT of scoring when the Beavers take on the Rainbow Warriors. While Arizona was unable to cover in Week 0 against Hawaii, I believe Oregon State will behind the running of Jermar Jefferson. I’m taking Oregon State and the six and a half points.
Points Spreads Not Available
Sacramento State (1-0) vs. Arizona State (1-0)
Arizona State struggled horribly against the FCS Hornets, but did win on Friday night.
Northern Colorado (0-1) vs. 22 Washington State (1-0)
Time/Network: 3:00pm MT, Pac-12 Networks (Saturday)
Northern Arizona (1-0) vs. Arizona (0-1)
Time/Network: 8:45pm MT, Pac-12 Networks (Saturday)
*Point spreads are as of Friday, September 6 per the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook*