My week one picks went 11-0 and 10-1 against the spread. The only loss was Northwestern +6.5 against Stanford, and Northwestern would have covered but for a bizarre Wildcat fumble in the final minute that went 21 yards backwards and into the end zone for a Cardinal TD.
Don’t expect that to continue. That’s a lucky week, but let’s see how close I can come in week two. As usual, all lines from Vegas Insider.
Sacramento State @ Arizona State, ASU -35
Depending on where you look, Sacramento State is either 1-0 or 0-0. That’s because they opened the season against NAIA Southern Oregon and beat the pants off them. That’s not enough to concern ASU. While the 23-point win over Kent State doesn’t look like the type of mauling that would inspire a 35-point line, there’s a huge gap between the MAC and Sacramento State. The Sun Devils are going to run wild in this one and their defense will dominate.
Arizona State 49 – Sacramento State 10
Northern Illinois @ Utah, Utah -22.5
Former Cal QB Ross Bowers led UNI to a week one win over a solid FCS team in Illinois State. Utah won by 18 on the road in a rivalry game against a BYU team that is probably slightly superior to NIU. Nonetheless, that game served as a reminder that Utah’s offense is more steady than explosive, which makes it hard to beat competent teams by more than three TDs. Utah should prevail, but not by more than this hefty spread. Pay no attention to Utah’s 0-2 record against Huskies last year.
Utah 34 – NIU 14
Nebraska @ Colorado, Nebraska -3.5
The Buffs took care of business with an impressive 52 points against woeful Colorado State. Nebraska didn’t look as good with a workmanlike two-TD win over South Alabama. Preseason projections had Colorado’s defense ahead of its offense. Is one week enough to reverse that expectation? On the other end, Nebraska’s offense didn’t live up to expectations while its defense managed two touchdowns. If this game is a course correction, I would expect a narrow Nebraska win. The gap is small enough that Colorado could definitely pull it out.
Nebraska 31 – Colorado 28
San Diego State @ UCLA, UCLA -7
Many Pac-12 fans likely saw Dorian Thompson-Robinson struggle mightily as UCLA fell to Cincinnati in week one. Few saw the Aztecs sneak by Weber State 6-0 in a real, actual football game. SDSU isn’t supposed to be an offensively dominant team, but they also aren’t supposed to be…that. While they aren’t likely to mimic Penn State in week two, I think the Aztecs are more likely to course-correct than DTR. Or at least they’re more likely to keep it within a score.
UCLA 24 – SDSU 21
Northern Colorado @ Washington State, WSU -37
Games like this one often come down to whether the favorite is willing to run up the score enough to reach the spread. With WSU, that’s not a concern. Plus, Anthony Gordon looks like he fits Mike Leach’s QB profile and Max Borghi picked up where he left off.
WSU 52 – Northern Colorado 10
Nevada @ Oregon, Oregon -23.5
These two teams come into this game in opposite states of mind. Nevada feels great after winning at Purdue as an 11-point dog. Oregon blew a late lead in a chance to prove itself against Auburn. Nevada is not Auburn, and isn’t close. Oregon will win handily, but 23.5 is a big number for a team that showed some defensive weakness and remains thin at WR. (A fun side note: Nevada’s win probability against Purdue didn’t surpass 50% until 38 seconds left in the game. Oregon’s didn’t dip below 50% until nine seconds remained).
Oregon 38 – Nevada 17
California @ Washington, UW -14
Chris Petersen isn’t a coach who talks much about revenge games or atoning for past mistakes, but you know that the Huskies who were on the field for last year’s loss to Cal will want retribution. What does UW have to do to ensure a different result? It starts on the offensive side of the ball. Washington had an uncharacteristic turnover differential of -2 in that game. Given Cal’s inconsistent QB play, forcing zero TOs is surprising in itself. The Huskies also need to run the ball better than 3.3 Y/C. Keep in mind that Myles Gaskin missed that game with a shoulder ailment. Salvon Ahmed was healthy, though, and totaled two yards on eight carries. He will need to be magnitudes better on Saturday, even if the rest of the RB stable looks solid. Cal’s defense was and is legitimately good, but the Huskies also played one of their worst offensive games in recent memory last fall.
The Huskies can do more defensively, too. While holding an opponent to 12 points should be sufficient most of the time, they allowed Chase Garbers to complete an abnormally high 70% of his passes. The graduation of Patrick Laird takes away another ball-control variable. In short, these are two excellent defensive teams. One has an offense that is somewhere between pretty good and very good. The other has an offense that is decidedly below average.
Washington 27 – Cal 10
Stanford @ USC, USC -2.5
This line may move in Stanford’s favor through the week with the news that J.T. Daniels is out for the season with a torn ACL. Of course, that depends on K.J. Costello, who is also questionable. Both teams could be stuck with backups. The clearest path to a USC breakthrough this year was for Daniels to mature from a top prospect to a top QB who could carry the offense on his own. Now, they are stuck between two philosophies: a ball control strategy that fits their personnel (more talent on defense and in the running game than at QB) and an air-raid scheme that Graham Harrell was just hired to implement. Stanford is better acclimated to the ground-and-pound if both teams are forced to play that way, but the loss of all-everything LT Walker Little is another issue for the Cardinal. In this war of attrition, I am inclined to trust David Shaw to adjust his plans on the fly better than Clay Helton.
Stanford 24 – USC 21
Northern Arizona @ Arizona, UA -26.5
The oddsmakers seem to be treating Arizona’s loss to Hawaii as an island anomaly. There might be some wisdom to that approach. The Wildcats still have Khalil Tate and J.J. Taylor, who should be able to overwhelm an FCS defense. Arizona should have started out an easy 2-0, but they can see a slight silver lining in the fact that they have a chance to get right after their disappointing first game. UNA is a perennially solid FCS team coming off a win over a decent Montana State team. Still, Arizona isn’t completely incompetent, right?
Arizona 42 – UNA 20
Oregon State @ Hawaii, Hawaii -6.5
Can the Rainbow Warriors go 2-for-2 against the Pac-12? Or will Oregon State show up for what looks like their best chance at an FBS win all year? While Jake Luton is a viable starting QB, the 52 points the Beavers gave up in week one will not prove to be an outlier. I suspect Oregon State will stay in the game, but the defense will let them down in the end.
Hawaii 38 – OSU 34
WSU -37 (high confidence)
Last week ATS – 10-1
Season ATS – 10-1 (2-0 high confidence)