Our weekly picks for the PAC are back for a second go-round. Last week turned out only so-so for me as I picked the Stanford game correctly and the Oregon State game not. My “accuracy index” (measurement of how close I was to getting the scoring for each team correct) of 68% was also good-not-great. But, hope springs eternal here in the Landon household and I go into “week 1b” fully confident in all of the picks below.
Kind of like tossing out the honorary first pitch at a baseball game. I’ve got this locked down.
We’ve got 11 games on the agenda, so let’s jump in.
Game of the Week
Texas A&M at UCLA (Sunday, 4:30p PT, FOX)
UCLA -3.5, o/u 57
Easily the most interesting PAC 12 game of the weekend happens to be played on the least traditional day of the week for college football: Sunday.
The Bruins host Kevin Sumlin and his TAMU squad at the Rose Bowl in a rematch of last season’s overtime thriller. The Aggies won that one more because of UCLA’s self-imposed mistakes than because of any talent or scheme advantage. In particular, QB Josh Rosen was awful for most of the first three quarters while being terrorized by star DE Myles Garrett.
But Myles Garrett has taken his talents to the NFL leaving behind a very different looking Texas A&M. In fact, the Aggies are in complete rebuild mode as they try to replace QB Trevor Knight, starting LT Avery Gennessy, their top six receivers and about half of their starting defense.
The good news for Texas A&M is that they still boast a very strong defensive line - particularly on the inside - and an experienced secondary. This might be the first team Sumlin has ever coached that is better on defense than offense.
But will that be enough to defeat UCLA in the Rose Bowl? The Bruins are deep at running back but coming off a historically bad season rushing the ball. I don’t think they’ll be totally inept in that department, but the fact that UCLA is starting freshman Michael Alves at guard speaks to my hesitation. I think it is safe to say that this game will come down to the arm of Josh Rosen.
I think that Rosen ultimately delivers. Look for the star UCLA QB to put up an efficient game with an emphasis on the short passing game. I can see guys like Jordan Lasley and Theo Howard - newly installed as a starter - really coming up big for UCLA. Combine that with the big advantage that I think UCLA’s defense has over the rebuilt TAMU offense, and I think you see UCLA more than covering the current spread.
Gekko’s Pick: Texas A&M 24, UCLA 31
Best of the Rest
New Mexico St at ASU (Thursday 7:30p PT, PAC12 Network)
ASU -22.5, o/u 71.5
The ASU Sun Devils haven’t lost a home opener in 18 years, the fifth longest streak in the nation. That ASU will win this one isn’t the question. How they win the game will be. Manny Wilkins appears to have beaten out Blake Barnett for the starting QB position. Whether or not he can actually get a passing game going will be tops on everyone’s mind. Regardless, the one-two rushing punch of Kalen Ballage and Demario Richard should be more than enough to cover the spread.
Gekko’s Pick: New Mexico St 17, ASU 45
North Dakota at Utah (Thursday 6:30p PT, PAC12 Network)
Tyler Huntley may have won the starting QB job out of camp, but expect the youngster to be on a short leash. Having a good game against FCS North Dakota (not North Dakota State) would be a good start. Fortunately, he won’t have to do a whole lot as I doubt the Fightin’ Hawks will have much offense to put up against the Utah defense.
Gekko’s Pick: North Dakota 3, Utah 31
Colorado State at Colorado (5:00p PT, PAC12 Network)
Colorado -4.5, o/u 66
The Rams get their second straight game against a PAC opponent fresh off of their blowout victory over Beavers in week 1a. That Colorado State has already had the chance to break the ice on the season and gain some momentum is a huge advantage.
Still, the Buffs provide the Rams a bit of a different kind of challenge. They are a rival. They are playing at home. And they have an offense less likely to turn the ball over as generously as Oregon State did. I’m going with Steven Montez and his Buffs in a must-see shootout.
Gekko’s Pick: Colorado State 38, Colorado 41
Northern Arizona at Arizona (8:00p PT, PAC12 Network)
Brandon Dawkins, JJ Taylor and Nick Wilson will each probably top 100 yards rushing. I’ll be interested to see who Dawkins throws the ball to and how the Arizona front seven rotation plays out. Needless to say, NAU is like the Washington Generals to RichRod’s Harlem Globetrotters. Blowout city.
Gekko’s Pick: NAU 17, Arizona 55
Cal at North Carolina (9:00a PT, ACC Network)
Cal +11.5, o/u 56
You are going to have to wake up pretty early if you want to get the chance to see Washington native Ross Bowers take on the good but unranked North Carolina Tar Heels in his first NCAA start. Unfortunately, the situation doesn’t look good for a Cal win. I’m expecting to see a bit more spunk out of the Golden Bears defense not unlike what UW fans saw in Justin’s Wilcox’s debut against San Diego State in 2012.
Expect some offense, expect some defense and expect a lot of head scratching moments as the young Bears struggle to put their new systems into practice.
Gekko’s Pick: Cal 24, North Carolina 38
Portland State at Oregon State (11:00a PT, PAC12 Network)
Now we get to see if the Beavers can pull themselves up off of the mat. Portland State isn’t exactly a great FCS team, but they’ve beaten a PAC 12 team in the recent past (a great Cuog moment) and gave BYU a pretty tough contest last weekend.
That said, I think OSU’s defense is probably better than what they showed against CSU. I also have to think that Jake Luton is going to be given every opportunity to get back on track. And he will.
Gekko’s Pick: Portland St 21, OSU 45
Western Michigan at #4 USC (2:15p PT, PAC12 Network)
USC -22.5, o/u 58.5
Row the boat. Oh, wait, that’s not a thing at Western Michigan anymore.
I’m not sure what Tim Lester’s catchphrase for his alma mater Western Michigan is, but I know that he is inheriting some pretty decent players. Whether or not that means much as the Broncos travel to LA remains to be seen. USC is rightly the prohibitive favorite. But don’t be surprised when you see WMU run the ball effectively in spurts against that Trojan D.
Unfortunately, I don’t think that WMU has much to offer in the passing game and I certainly can’t see them keeping Sam Darnold and Co. out of the end zone.
Gekko’s Pick: Western Michigan 18, USC 34
Southern Utah at Oregon (5:15p PT, PAC12 Network)
I know that a lot of people are eagerly awaiting to get their first glimpse of Oregon under new head coach Willie Taggart. They want to see if the offensive line has matured. They want to see how the offense uses tempo. They want to see if there really is a new energy to the defense. They want answers.
Unfortunately, this is Southern Utah. There are no answers. Just the equivalent of a scrimmage against the JV squad.
Gekko’s Pick: Southern Utah 28, Oregon 62
Montana State at Washington State (7:30p PT, FS1)
Old friend Jeff Choate is back in familiar territory. The former UW assistant was once a WSU assistant and knows a thing or two about defending Mike Leach’s Air Raid system. But the enthusiastic head coach of the Montana State Bobcats may not have nearly enough firepower on offense or contain capabilities on defense to keep this thing close.
Look for the Cougs to win this one handily.