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Picking the PAC, Week 1

How will Oregon fare in their shot at Auburn?

NCAA Football: Redbox Bowl-Michigan State vs Oregon Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Due to Arizona’s week-zero matchup with Hawaii, eleven Pac-12 teams will be in action in week one, and we’re breaking down all of them. For the record, I would have predicted a seven-point Hawaii win on a goal line stop to end the game. So I guess that makes me 1-0!

All lines from Vegas Insider

UCLA @ Cincinnati, 8/29 4 PM, CIN -2.5

NCAA Football: Cincinnati at UCLA Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The Bruins played a very young squad in year one under Chip Kelly and the general feeling is that they will take a step forward in year two with more experience. They don’t get off to an easy start against Cincinnati, who beat them in Pasadena last year and went 11-2 on the season. The Bearcats were solid defensively under Luke Fickell and have the personnel to repeat that success this year. They don’t have a ton of offensive firepower, but they should be able to do enough with a ball-control offense against UCLA’s porous defense to hold up on the other end.

Cincinnati 31 – UCLA 24

Kent St @ Arizona St, 8/29 7 PM, ASU -25

With Manny Wilkins and N’Keal Harry out the door, Arizona St’s offense will be even more of the Eno Benjamin show than it was a season ago. It worked on that end in 2018, but the defense was abysmal. The talent is there on the back end for the unit to get closer to average this season, although the defensive line remains a concern. Kent St is not the squad to exploit those weaknesses- they were one of the very worst teams in the country last year, and ranked outside the top 100 in pass offense, rush offense, pass defense, and rush defense by S&P+. They might scratch out a few points, and might even cover the wide spread, but it would take a miracle for them to win this one.

ASU 35– Kent St 13

Utah @ BYU, 8/29 7:15 PM, Utah -5.5

NCAA Football: Brigham Young at Utah Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

The Utes have high hopes for 2019. They return their key skill position players- Tyler Huntley, Zack Moss, Britain Covey- from a team that won the Pac-12 South last year. They have some holes to fill on the offensive line, but that’s a job they have been able to do in years past. The defensive line looks like one of the best in the country. Their in-state rivals have less lofty ambitions. The Cougars relied on their defense to get them to seven wins against a tough schedule last year. They have to replace many of the top playmakers from that unit in 2019. Still, it’s a rivalry game and it’s in Provo, so Utah likely won’t run away with it.

Utah 27 - BYU 21

Colorado St vs. Colorado (Game in Denver), 8/30 7 PM, Col -13

Mel Tucker starts his tenure with the Buffs against their biggest rival. Fortunately for him, Colorado St is in a bad way. They lost their two bright spots from last year’s team- UW transfer KJ Carta-Samuels at QB and 1300-yard wideout Preston Williams. The Rams have holes to fill all over a roster that only won three games last year. Colorado is far from perfect and has their own defensive questions to answer, but the combination of Steven Montez and Laviska Shenault Jr should be enough to handle this one.

Colorado 34 - Colorado St 14

Oklahoma St @ Oregon St, 8/30 7:30 PM, OK St -15

(Fire) Jonathan Smith inherited a pretty bare cupboard in Corvallis. The Beavs eked out an OT win in Boulder to prevent the ignominy of going winless in conference and against FBS opponents. Aside from their offensive line, they actually return a good share of their most important players, so it’s possible they will show improved performance, but it might not show up against a tough schedule. They will likely be big underdogs in every game they play against FBS opponents. Although Oklahoma St is coming off a disappointing seven-win season, they always score points. The Cowboys laying 15 is a fairly safe bet.

Oklahoma St 45 - Oregon St 20

Eastern Washington @ Washington, 8/31 12 PM, UW -21

The Huskies have struggled mightily each of the last two times the Eagles have come to Seattle. Will that matter on this trip? This Husky team is certainly more accomplished and more talented than either of the previous two. Eastern Washington is coming off an FCS title game appearance, but loses seven defensive starters and their #1 QB (although Eric Barriere played significantly due to injury). If you can remove the memory of two games played by entirely different players, we’re still looking at a top 15 team in the country against an FCS team.

Washington 41 - Eastern Washington 17

Northwestern @ Stanford, 8/31 1 PM, Stan -6.5

Historically, this match-up of academic heavyweights wouldn’t be very compelling, but good coaching on both sidelines has brought both programs to national prominence. Stanford will have to incorporate some new blockers and pass-catchers to go with KJ Costello and Cameron Scarlett. Northwestern has become a solid defensive program. Their offense will rely on Clemson transfer and former 5-star recruit Hunter Johnson. If the team can gel in his first start, they could pull the upset. Doing so on the road won’t be easy.

Stanford 24 - Northwestern 20

UC-Davis @ Cal, 8/31 3:30 PM, Cal -13

You never want an FCS opponent to be a measuring stick, but that might be what the Cal offense has to do against Davis. The Aggies scored nearly at will last year and lost only three games (to Stanford and EWU twice, lastly in the national semifinal). Meanwhile, the Bears had one of the largest gaps imaginable between offensive and defensive performance. RB Patrick Laird was their one offensive highlight, and he graduated along with the team’s other three leading receivers. Led by Evan Weaver and Ashtyn Davis, the defense was as good as the offense was bad. If Justin Wilcox can even get the offense to average performance, the Bears will walk over the Aggies and become bowl eligible this year. There’s no guarantee that happens.

Cal 34 - UC-Davis 20

Oregon vs. Auburn (Game in Arlington, TX), 8/31 4:30 PM, Auburn -3.5

A Pac-12 favorite travels to a neutral site to play Auburn to open the season with the conference’s reputation at stake. Sound familiar? This year, the Ducks take spot the Huskies filled last year and could struggle to do any better. Oregon has continued to upgrade its talent level through recruiting and returns lots of offensive experience around Justin Herbert. The problem is that the offensive reputation was ahead of the performance last year (only 31st in S&P+). They’ll have to do better against Auburn’s exceptional defense. True freshman Bo Nix will start for the Tigers, which introduces an element of unpredictability. Auburn’s outstanding defensive line and secondary are more predictable- they will make things hard for Herbert.

Auburn 23 - Oregon 17

New Mexico St @ Washington St, 8/31 7 PM, WSU -32

Washington St has had some early season slip-ups over the years (some might even say the Coug’d it a few times). This game won’t be one of them. New Mexico St is one of the very worst teams in FBS and might not even be good if they dropped down to FCS. Their defense gave up 40+ points eight times last year and 60+ twice. My favorite oddity about the Aggies is that their scheduling difficulties post-WAC have led them to schedule Liberty twice last year and twice more this year.

WSU 55 - NMSU 17

Fresno St @ USC, 8/31 7:30 PM, USC -13.5

This match-up brings me back to the epic 50-42 win for the Matt Leinart/Reggie Bush Trojans in 2005. Jeff Tedford has done great work to get the Bulldogs back to prominence. Despite Tedford’s QB-guru rep, the defense carried the team to 12 wins last year. They have to replace a lot at LB and in the secondary. The D-Line will be tough. As usual, USC will have more raw talent on the field. Year two of JT Daniels and Amon-Ra St. Brown could bring fireworks. Fresno St will give them a tough game. If it were played outside the Coliseum, I might pull the trigger.

USC 30 - Fresno St 24

ATS Picks

CIN -2.5

Kent St +25

Utah -5.5

Col -13

Ok St -15 (high confidence)

UW -21

NW +6.5

Cal -13

Aub -3.5

WSU -13.5 (high confidence)

Fresno St +13.5