I wrote a few days ago that the theme of Week 1 across the PAC was one of "generally disappointing". With the conference sustaining losses to FCS, MWC, SEC West and Big 10 teams, there is definitely a sense that there was more to it than simply "Week 1 Blues". Young quarterbacks, questionable pass rushes and shoddy offensive line play seemed to characterize much of what PAC 12 fans saw over the weekend?
Can we expect a better showing in Week 2? Let's take a look.
#7 Oregon @ #5 Michigan State (-3.5)
The marquee game for the PAC 12 is the rematch between Michigan State and Oregon. The two teams square off once again with Oregon having taken the first game in a matchup played in Eugene a year ago. In that one, the Spartans started off hot before succumbing to an explosion of offense and an out-of-nowhere pass rush from the Ducks in the second half.
The two stars that saved that game for Oregon - QB Marcus Mariota and DE Arik Armstead - are now off to the NFL. As such, this Oregon team seems like it has been far more altered from last year's version than their counterparts at Michigan State. This Ducks team will rely on a different style of quarterback and a reworked defense to carry them at home against the Spartans. Vernon Adams was ok in his debut against EWU. He was efficient, accurate and mobile enough to run the offense. It was the Oregon defense that failed to impress. How often do you see a top 10 powerhouse - particularly one who played for a national championship a year ago - surrender 42 points and nearly 600 yards in offense to an FCS team? Not often.
The Spartans will certainly attack the weak Oregon secondary with senior QB Connor Cook pulling the offensive levers. The Spartans boast not only a senior QB but a deep receiving corps made up of experienced players. They are young at RB which will be a situation to watch. Defensively, they boast one of the best and deepest front sevens in the nation. It'll be interesting to see Royce Freeman and the rebuilding Duck offensive line matchup there.
It seems to me that Michigan State is in a better state of readiness than Oregon. Oregon's inexperience at QB and their issues on defense seem to outweigh any similar transition issues at Michigan State. In addition, I like the fact that Michigan State will know what to expect from Oregon in terms of the pace of play and the style of offense. I'm going with the Spartans here.
Gekko's Pick: Michigan State 38, Oregon 35
Oregon State @ Michigan (-14)
Expectations around the Oregon State Beavers are pretty low given the total rebuild job that is happening in that program. Thus, you can only take a positive conclusion from their opening day win over lowly Weber State. The Beavers were not world beaters by any means. But you could definitely get a sense of the aggressive defense, the star potential of WR Jordan Villamin and the playmaker that is true freshman QB Seth Collins. Beaver fans have the right to be optimistic.
But we also have already seen Michigan in action against the PAC. While their QB Jake Rudock struggled with turnovers, that isn't really his MO going back to his days at Iowa. I expect that the Wolverines will bounce back from their road trip to Salt Lake City and be ready for a physical game.
This matchup does not favor Oregon State. Their young players on offense won't be able to hang against Michigan's older defense nor do I expect the depth of the Oregon State defense to be able to put up four straight quarters of high-energy output against Harbaugh's ground-n-pound offense. I don't expect it to be a pure blowout, but it will feel like it for the young Beavers.
Gekko's Pick: Oregon State 13, Michigan 28
Washington State @ Rutgers (PK)
Cuog Nation is in pure meltdown mode following an embarrassing opening weekend loss to one of the worst FCS teams in the land. It would have been one thing if the loss were somewhat fluky, but this wasn't the case. The Cuogs went into halftime with a disappointing two score lead, but had managed to pitch a shutout defensively. The second half saw that advantage on defense also slip away as the Vikings overtook the stagnant Cuogs. The fact that they sealed the victory with an interception thrown by freshman Peyton Bender was simply icing on the cake.
Things look bad for the Cuogs, no doubt. But, let's be honest here. The Cougars would not lose that game to the Vikings more than once even if they played it 10 times. It was one of those games. When you look at the Cuogs objectively, their pieces look decent. An experienced offensive line, an experienced, mobile QB and a deep receiving corps make that offense something better than what was shown last weekend.
Whether or not that translates into a win at Rutgers remains to be seen. Keep in mind that Rutgers trounced WSU a year ago in Seattle. Maybe the Cuogs were looking ahead at their opportunity for payback when they took the field against PSU. Who knows? I do know that Rutgers, despite their win over Norfolk State, is a program in shambles following a very rough offseason that involved crimes by players and accusations of cheating on the part of their head coach. I like the Cuogs to bounce back in this one.
Gekko's Pick: WSU 42, Rutgers 34
Rest of the PAC
San Diego State at Cal (-8.5)
Count Cal as a team that had one of the better openings to PAC 12 play. The nature of the opponent takes a step up in Week 2, albeit not by a huge margin. SDSU has some issues on offense, but they are coming off a game versus San Diego that showed off some of their defensive prowess. I don't expect Cal will get away with as much haphazard handling of the ball and as pedestrian offensive line play as what they showed versus Grambling State. Still, they probably only need to score about 28 points to cover the spread. Expect a few Cal turnovers, but look for Daniel Lasco to have a big game as Cal tries to get its running game on track.
Gekko's Pick: San Diego State 17, Cal 49
UCF at Stanford (-17)
There isn't much left to say about the Stanford stinker versus Northwestern. It was a total embarrassment to coach David Shaw and to each of his players, in particular fourth year starting QB Kevin Hogan. UCF is coming off its own embarrassing loss to Florida International after a potential game winning field goal was blocked. UCF isn't a total pushover and might be as good as Northwestern when you look at them player for player. Still, this just feels like a "take out our frustration" situation with the Knights becoming the unwilling victim.
Gekko's Pick: UCF 6, Stanford 31
#22 Arizona (-11) at Nevada
Nevada had a nice opening week featuring the one-two punch rushing of RBs Don Jackson and James Butler in their win over UC Davis. Meanwhile, Arizona is going on the road minus their best defensive player in Scooby Wright and coming off a disappointing showing at home against UTSA. Normally, I predict "bounce backs" in this kind of situation, but something isn't sitting right for me with the Wildcats. Their offensive line doesn't look good and the run defense is off. Traveling to Nevada, where the altitude can mess with your players, is never an easy thing. I think Arizona has enough depth to pull this one out, but do not be surprised if it is a struggle.
Gekko's Pick: Arizona 33, Nevada 27
Cal Poly at Arizona State
No matter what you thought of ASU's opening week against Texas A&M, the old adage of "iron sharpens iron" seems to apply. ASU will be ready to bounce back in a big way against Cal Poly.
Gekko's Pick: Cal Poly 10, Arizona State 52
UMASS at Colorado (-13.5)
If you are a Colorado fan, then this is the game you want to watch. I have it on good authority that Ralphie is going to run all over Folsom Field just before the Buffalo run all over the Minutemen.
Gekko's Pick: UMASS 17, Colorado 41
#13 UCLA (x) at UNLV
The loss of DL Eddie Vanderdoes is a huge blow to UCLA, but not one that is going to effect the Bruins on their road trip to the desert. The Runnin' Rebs are a team undergoing a makeover under a head coach who was coaching high school at this time a year ago. Given how pedestrian UCLA looked in the rushing attack against Virginia, I'd expect Noel Mazzone to lean off of the arm of Josh Rosen and do everything he can to get Paul Perkins back on track. Look for a big night from the star tailback
Gekko's Pick: UCLA 38, UNLV 9
Idaho at #8 USC (-43)
USC wasn't perfect in their opening night spanking of Arkansas State. Their offensive line struggled and the defense was on the field much longer than what was expected. Still, 13 true freshman played for Steve Sarkisian and, for the most part, they played well. A few of the big names, guys like Ronald Jones and Osa Masina, had particularly impressive showings. Look for more of the same out of USC's superstars in a romp.
Gekko's Pick: Idaho 13, USC 63
Utah State at #24 Utah (-12.5)
Utah State was pretty disappointing in their 12-9 win over Southern Utah while the Utes surprised everybody with a well-balanced victory over Michigan in the debut of Jim Harbaugh. I'm not going to read too much into Utah State. Matt Wells is a good coach and we all know what Chuckie Keaton is capable of at quarterback. The offseason car accident that injured four Aggie players and the incident that resulted in two-game suspensions for three starters no doubt took its toll. While those things will still be a factor this week, I think Utah will have a bit more on their hands from their old rival than what they expect. Nevertheless, Utah looks good to me now that the offense has demonstrated an ability to move the ball with what seems to be a much more mature Travis Wilson at the helm.
Gekko's Pick: Utah State 21, Utah 28