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Pickin’ the PAC: Week 2 picks

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Here at the UWDP, we build on success.

Western Michigan v USC
Is this weekend’s big PAC showdown all about USC QB Sam Darnold?
Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

The PAC 12 went undefeated in the official Week 1 action after winning 1 of 2 in the “Week 1a” action. That the league goes into week 2 12-1 is a great accomplishment for the league.

Unfortunately, the Gekko hasn’t been quite as sharp. It’s not that my picks so far have been all that off, but I missed the loss by Oregon State against CSU and the win by Cal over North Carolina last week. So I enter week 2 one game off the outstanding pace that the conference has set.

Here are my stats:

PAC 12 Picks Scorecard - Week 2

The bars are pretty self-explanatory with the blue bar being a cumulative season total and the purple bars showing my picks by week. The line is my accuracy index measurement. It measures how close I was to predicting the actual scores of the games. 100% implies absolute accuracy. 70% is my stretch goal. I’ve got a little ways to go.

As we look ahead to Week 2, our attention shifts immediately to a game with PAC 12 championship implications. Stanford and USC square off as a pair of ranked teams. The winner of this matchup will gain a huge leg up over the competition for their respective division races, even adjusting for the fact that it is so early in the season.

The rest of the PAC features a full slate of games. Every team is in action on Saturday.

Let’s jump in.

Game of the Week

#14 Stanford at #6 USC (5:30pm, FOX)

It would be easy to make this game about opposing QBs in USC’s Sam Darnold and Stanford’s Keller Chryst. But this game isn’t about Darnold and his Heisman campaign or Chryst and his quest to live up to his 5-star billing.

This game is about the gritty, grimy, grind-it-out goodness of old-school football.

2017 US College Football Sydney Cup
Cameron Scarlett is going to be looking for pay dirt against USC.
Photo by Matt King/Getty Images

Stanford coach David Shaw, along with his predecessor Jim Harbaugh, has made it his mission to reintroduce the art of manliness into a PAC 12 that for too long has suffered under the label of “soft” as teams like Oregon, Cal and WSU have tried to scheme their opponents to death. USC's coach, by the same token, has made it his personal objective to restore the mantle of “most physically dominating” in the PAC to his squad.

Similar goals. Similar methods.

Both coaches will work this weekend to leverage their big offensive lines and their depth of rushers in establishing ground games and softening the big lines of their opponents. Stanford will lean heavily on the talents of breakout star Bryce Love while USC turns to the dynamic duo of Ronald Jones III and Stephen Carr. On the surface, they look evenly matched.

If two teams present strengths that largely neutralize a strength of the other, it is the role players who have the greatest opportunity to impact the game. This is where USC holds an advantage. A few better receivers, a little better edge rush capability and an advantage in the return game have me thinking that USC takes this game at home and gives both themselves and every other team in the North a huge leg up in the chase for a PAC 12 championship game appearance.

Gekko’s Pick: Stanford 17, USC 21

Rest of the PAC

Texas State at Colorado (11am, PAC12)

There probably isn’t a whole lot of analysis to apply to this one. The key for Colorado is establishing its rushing attack. They hold pretty significant advantages in just about every matchup category. Look for Coach MacIntyre to let his team build up a lead and then to rotate his players liberally in what should be a cruise-control victory.

Gekko’s Pick: Texas State 14, Colorado 31

Nebraska at Oregon (1:30pm, FOX)

Everybody will recall Oregon’s wild road trip to Nebraska last season where the game was lost in part due to Oregon’s inability to convert two point conversions. This year’s re-match happens in Eugene and promises to be just as wild and unpredictable.

On the surface, it would appear that Oregon holds a momentum advantage. Their rushing attacked ripped up Southern Utah while Nebraska struggled in their week 1 opener. But that momentum advantage doesn’t necessarily negate a physical talent advantage that the Cornhuskers appear to hold, particularly in the trenches.

I see a lot of scoring in this one. Oregon should be able to run the ball effectively while, at the same time, I can see Nebraska’s offensive line controlling their side of the line of scrimmage. In this tit-for-tat affair, I’m going to go with the team with more experience in their own system ... Nebraska in a squeaker.

Gekko’s Pick: Nebraska 42, Oregon 38

Hawai’i at UCLA (2pm, PAC12)

UCLA is obviously coming down from a pretty crazy high following one of the biggest comeback victories in NCAA history. I can see UCLA sleepwalking a little bit to start this game.

UCLA v Texas A&M
Josh Rosen is feeling the momentum.
Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

That said, there is a huge talent deficit here. UCLA should be able to ride out a slow first half and walk away with the win.

Gekko’s Pick: Hawai’i 24, UCLA 44

Weber State at Cal (2pm, PAC12)

Cal’s opening week road win over North Carolina has completely altered how we look at this Golden Bears team and what our expectations for them might be. Had they lost handily, we’d simply be looking for a win over a not-good Weber State. Now we are looking for a blowout.

Ross Bowers, Devante Downs, Vic Wharton and Demetris Robertson ought to deliver it.

Gekko’s Pick: Weber State 28, Cal 52

Minnesota at Oregon State (7pm, FS1)

Could there be a greater contrast between young coaches than the one that exists between P.J. Fleck and Gary Andersen. One is all about putting on the show while the other is all about grinding out the game. Neither has their team in a particularly good position right now as their respective rebuilds are under way.

Look for a defensive struggle in this one. Both teams are struggling to identify a starting QB and both are getting far below average output from their offensive lines. I think that Minnesota’s D is in better shape and ought to be able to create a field position advantage and a few easy scores for the Gophers.

Gekko’s Pick: Minnesota 27, Oregon State 17

Utah at BYU (7:15pm, ESPN2)

One of the most intense rivalries in the nation renews this weekend when Utah travels to Provo. Neither team looked all that great to open the season. Both teams boast decent defenses and sputtering offenses.

I like Utah in this one because I think that they have more to offer on defense and when it comes to the rushing attack. Zack Moss was a week 1 bright spot and QB Tyler Huntley is always a threat to tuck it and run. It might not be the Troy Taylor offense we all expected, but it will be enough to beat BYU.

Gekko’s Pick: Utah 21, BYU 20

Boise State at #20 Washington State (7:30pm, ESPN)

I know that Coug fans were really hoping that this would be their ESPN Gameday moment. Alas, it was not meant to be.

Washington State v UCLA
Hercules Mata’afa is looking for a big game against Boise.
Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

WSU fans can take solace in the fact that they have an excellent opportunity to post a win over a legitimate out of conference opponent. BSU is not firing on all cylinders right now. I’m having a difficult time seeing how QB Brett Rypien is going to survive the onslaught of Hercules Mata’afa and the WSU pass rush. At the same time, I like the versatility that WSU’s backfield provides Luke Falk in both the running and passing phases of the game. It might be a key differentiator when matched against the BSU linebacking corps.

It’ll probably be a close one, but I like WSU’s chances.

Gekko’s Pick: Boise State 24, WSU 28

Houston at Arizona (7:30pm, ESPNU)

Remember that time that Houston opened the season with a crazy win over Oklahoma? That was last season and Tom Herman was the coach. Much has changed for Houston since then. The biggest news is that Herman is in Austin and (former Longhorn QB) Major Applewhite is the new coach.

But Houston still has the kind of talent and skill to post another win over a Power 5 conference. Since this will be Houston’s first game of the season, I don’t have much to go on beyond instinct. In this case, I think Houston prevails in a wild one.

Gekko’s Pick: Houston 42, Arizona 31

San Diego State at Arizona State (8pm, PAC12)

The ASU / NMSU game last weekend revealed some good things (QB play, WR play) and some bad things (pass blocking, run defense) for the Sun Devils. Unfortunately for them, the things that they don’t do well are things that San Diego State is in a position to exploit.

As a result, I think that this is going to be a tight one with ASU posting some explosive plays while SDSU more methodically moves the chains. Who knows how it really turns out at the end? I’ll guess SDSU in a tight one.

Gekko’s Pick: San Diego State 35, Arizona State 34