Week one had its typical challenges. A few games landed very close to the betting line and could have gone either way late- especially Utah and UW’s games. A few others might have told us something about teams headed in a different direction than expected- namely Arizona on the positive side and Colorado on the negative side. Let’s take those lessons and see how things change in week two.
Southern Utah @ Utah, No Line*
The Utes get to heel their wounds after an unsuccessful trip to The Swamp. Cam Rising’s late pick in the endzone was all that stood between Utah and a big statement win for the team and the conference. Instead, they have a lot to prove to the rest of the country if they want to reach the heights forecast for them going into the year. I still see the Utes as the Pac-12 favorites and a close loss at Florida is not shameful. They’ll take out their aggression here.
Utah 52 – Southern Utah 7
*If you’re desperate, you can find FCS lines on sketchy offshore sports books, but not reputable ones like our illustrious sponsor, DraftKings sports book.
Washington State @ Wisconsin, Wisconsin -17.5
It’s way too early to draw any definitive conclusions about the Cougs, but squeaking out a win against FCS Idaho in week one does not inspire much confidence. Wazzu lost all three of its fumbles in that one, and while that turnover luck likely won’t continue to be so bad, Wisconsin is going to pose a much stiffer test as Cam Ward adjusts to major college football. Nakia Watson won’t average 6+ yards/carry in this one. The Cougs’ best shot is for Graham Mertz to make a couple of mistakes against their aggressive defense. More likely, the Badgers will grind the defense to a pulp with methodical drives and put the game away early.
Wisconsin 37 – WSU 17
Colorado @ Air Force, Air Force -17.5
I was initially shocked to see this big of a line between a service academy and a P5 team. Upon further examination, Air Force is legit. The Falcons are coming off a 10-win season. They had a blistering start against a very good FCS team in Northern Iowa that included 62 rushes (!) for 582 yards (!!!). TCU carved up the Buffs on the ground without having to throw it much and there’s every reason to believe this option attack will be even more lethal. The one thing Colorado might have going for it is that J.T. Shrout provided a glimmer of hope at QB after coming in off the bench with 157 yards and a TD last week. If the offense can be more multi-faceted, they could keep the game close.
Air Force 35 – Colorado 17
UNLV @ Cal, Cal -13
While a 34-13 win over a middling FCS team usually isn’t anything to write home about, Cal has to feel pretty good about the performance given the moribund state of the offense in the latter part of the 2021 season. Purdue transfer QB Jack Plummer was efficient and productive and the rushing attack gave a balanced look. Defensively, they probably gave up a few more long drives to UC-Davis than they would’ve hoped, which might not come as a surprise for a team whose leading tackler was Jackson Sirmon. The Rebels are coming off a two-win season, but at least held serve with a thumping of Idaho State. I’m tentatively warm on Cal’s offense, so I’ll pick them to cover, but I reserve the right to change my opinion as more data comes in.
Cal 31 – UNLV 14
Alabama St @ UCLA, No Line
If we use the traditional A, B, and C ratings for non-conference games, the Bruins just spanked their “A” opponent 45-17. That’s probably a square peg in a round hole since Bowling Green is not an “A” opponent by any reasonable description. The Bruins now get C-game Alabama St before hosting B-game South Alabama in their non-conference finale. They open conference play against Colorado before hosting the Dawgs. Let’s hope the first four games lull Chip’s boys into a false sense of security. The Hornets, so far, have eked out wins over Howard and D-II Miles College. I’m not expecting much of a challenge here.
UCLA 58 – Alabama St 6
USC @ Stanford, USC -8.5
Stanford’s reputation remains positive despite four consecutive poor seasons. If you want to be charitable to David Shaw, you could say that the team hasn’t had the bell-cow running back that it needs to salt away games since Bryce Love left Palo Alto. Perhaps Emmitt Smith’s son, E.J., who had a great week one against Colgate, can fill that void. More likely, Lincoln Riley continues trying to prove that his squad is not a year away and that the 66 points they hung on Rice were not a fluke. The Cardinal will offer more resistance early, but Caleb Williams will want to prove that he made the right decision to follow Riley to LA.
USC 38 – Stanford 20
Arizona State @ Oklahoma State, Ok St -12.5
You can’t prove much against Northern Arizona, but the rushing prowess of Xzavian Valladay and Emory Jones seemed like a weapon even before a dynamic week one performance. The Cowboys had an elite defense in 2021. Surrendering 546 yards to Central Michigan last week begs the question of whether that status will persist. The 2021 Sun Devils were a confusing mess off the field, but they basically won games when they could run successfully and lost when they couldn’t. I have enough questions about Ok St.’s defense after last week that I think ASU can stay in the game.
Ok St. 37 – ASU 30
Eastern Washington @ Oregon
Eastern has been enough of a thorn in the side of FBS teams that it might be tempting to say that they’ll challenge the Ducks after the Apocalypse in Atlanta. The other side of that argument is that you could fill several oceans with the gulf in talent between the Bulldogs and the Eagles. There are real questions about Dan Lanning and Oregon after playing dead for four quarters. Those questions are more relevant in conference play than they are in the easiest game on the Oregon Schedule.
Oregon 41 – EWU 20
Oregon State @ Fresno State, Oregon St. -1
Last week, the Beavers came into an even battle with a Mountain West elite and proceeded to dominate Boise State and basically end the game by halftime. Will the result be any different away from Corvallis against Fresno? There are two key questions. First, the Beavers love the zone run game and run defense is one area where the Bulldogs were not great last year. How much will OSU be able to control the game on the ground? Second, how much offensive slippage will we see from Fresno with the departure of the offensive staff? Cal grad transfer Nikko Remigio had 100 receiving yards and ran for a TD last week, giving the Bulldogs another dangerous weapon for Jake Haener. I don’t expect Haener to turn the ball over four times like the Broncos did last week, which will make things tougher for the Beavs.
Fresno State 31 – Oregon State 28
Mississippi St. @ Arizona, Mississippi St. -10.5
It looks like bettors are all aboard the Zona Train after a shockingly solid performance in week one. As impressive as it was to thoroughly spoil the opening of San Diego St.’s new stadium, it was one game against a G5 opponent. If not for that game, I suspect there would be the better part of another TD tacked onto this line. Mike Leach’s team is still doing Mike Leach things in Starkville. They threw the ball all over the yard against a respectable Memphis squad last week and will almost certainly qualify for another bowl out of the SEC. Arizona is on the right track, but a win here would be a very big step.
Mississippi St. 41 – Arizona 30
Portland State @ Washington, No Line
For all the great things Michael Penix did against Kent State in week one, the one that stood out most to me was how consistently he made exactly the right decision at the right time. He called out the right blitz protections against a defense that brought pressure from a wide variety of angles. He exhibited immediate chemistry with his receivers and knew where they would be on the field and where they would want passes in his first game on the team. When needed, he picked exactly the right time to take off out of the pocket. Portland State has an undersized but creative defense. It will be another good test for Penix’s game management because he will have to identify non-standard pressures and coverages. In his favor, the Viking defensive front will likely offer less resistance than what the Dawgs got from the Golden Flashes. That should mean more of a push up front to free up Wayne Taulapapa and Will Nixon for steady gains. My money will be on Penix playing slightly less perfectly, but the running game picking up some of the slack.
Defensively, the key challenges in this matchup look somewhat like they did a week ago. QB Dante Chachere kept PSU in the game late against San Jose State last week. He’s a true dual threat; he threw for 270 yards and ran for 83 in his first start for the Vikings. Collin Schlee’s scrambling was one of Kent State’s biggest weapons against the Dawgs last week due to some broken pockets and poor tackling on the back end. I will also be watching to see if the coverage can clean up some one-on-one mistakes or if Beau Kelly can make the sorts of big plays that Dante Cephus did a week ago. Ultimately, UW’s defense made some very visible mistakes in their first game in a new system against a pretty good G5 offense last week. This week, they face a lesser opponent with a bit more experience. The results should be better, even if they turnovers don’t come as easily.
UW 49 – Portland State 14