Dec. 15, 2012; Albuquerque, NM, USA; Arizona Wildcats head coach Rich Rodriguez (right) waits with his team prior to entering the field before the game against the Nevada Wolf Pack in the 2012 New Mexico Bowl at University Stadium. Arizona defeated Nevada 49-48. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Pac-12 Football Predictions: Week 1

College football season is officially in sight and in honor of the inaugural weekend, I present you my picks for the Week 1 Pac-12 games:

Utah vs. Utah State (Thursday)
Aggies quarterback Chuckie Keeton is the best player in college football you’ve never heard of. If he builds off his 3,373 passing yards and 35 total touchdowns from a year ago, he could be in the discussion for the Heisman Trophy. Meanwhile, his opposition, Utes quarterback Travis Wilson, was extremely inconsistent in his first season as starter. Both teams have pretty bad defenses, so this in-state rivalry will be won by the team with the better offense.
Pick: Utah State

USC vs. Hawaii (Thursday)
The USC defense looks like it’s ready for a monster season, but questions at quarterback prevent the Trojans from being a lock for a 10-win season. I think that whoever steps in under center – Matt Wittek or Cody Kessler – will play well and the Trojans will win the Pac-12 South. It will also be interesting to watch if head coach Lane Kiffin changes up his offense at all due to his status on the hot seat.
Pick: USC

Arizona vs. Northern Arizona (Friday)
There are a lot of questions for the Wildcats as they head into the season opener – Who starts at quarterback? Will Ka’deem Carey play? Who steps up at wide receiver? Will the defense be better than last year? Luckily for the Wildcats, they have a soft non-conference schedule, so a lot of those questions do not need to be answered for a while. I think the Wildcats struggle a bit, but ultimately beat the FCS team from up North.
Pick: Arizona

Oregon vs. Nicholls State
The Colonels really don’t stand a chance in this game, as they do not nearly have enough talent to matchup with the Ducks. I expect Marcus Mariota and De’Anthony Thomas to be sitting on the bench by halftime as Oregon rolls in their season opener. It should be a nice debut for head coach Mark Helfrich.
Pick: Oregon

Oregon State vs. Eastern Washington
Eastern Washington is a pretty talented team, but I don’t know if they have quite enough to upset the No. 24 Beavers. The Beavers had one of the better defenses in the country last year and should be a lot better on offense this season. If they can get consistent performances on both sides of the ball, they could be a potential sleeper in the Pac-12.
Pick: Oregon State

Washington State at Auburn
Mike Leach is too good of a head coach for the Cougars to remain in mediocrity. I don’t know if this is the year he takes them to a bowl game, but I think that Washington State will be a lot better than they were a season ago. It would be pretty awesome if the Cougars could go into Auburn and spoil head coach Gus Malzahn‘s Tigers debut. It would also help to have this win as a reference point in any Pac-12-SEC debates.
Pick: Washington State

UCLA vs. Nevada
I think that this game will be extremely close and I wouldn’t be surprised if the Wolfpack can pull off the upset. I’m still not sold on UCLA as I felt they took advantage of a weak division en route to winning the Pac-12 South last season. They also have the heavy task of replacing Johnathan Franklin, who was one of the most productive players in Bruins history. This could be a statement win for the Bruins, or could potentially set them back a bit from last season.
Pick: UCLA

Washington vs. Boise State
Every year I feel that the Huskies are ready to take a step forward nationally, but they always seem to disappoint. There is too much talent on the team for them to remain in the middle of the Pac-12 and I feel that they start this season off with a bang. I still don’t think they challenge Stanford or Oregon for the Pac-12 North crown, but it could be a special year in the first season in newly-renovated Husky Stadium.
Pick: Washington

California vs. Northwestern
A lot of people have California as potential overachievers in the Pac-12, but I’m not buying it. While their defense is filled with talent, it’s tough to rely on a true freshman quarterback to produce as much as the other signal-callers in the offensively-minded Pac-12. It doesn’t help that they play a talented Northwestern team in Week 1.
Pick: Northwestern

Colorado State vs. Colorado
The Buffaloes won one game a season ago and shouldn’t expect many more this season. New head coach Mike MacIntyre has a lot of work cut out for him and I doubt he begins to see results in the early portion of the season. The Rams beat Colorado on opening weekend last season and should do so again at this season.
Pick: Colorado State

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