It’s make-or-break weekend in the Pac-12 as over half the conference’s teams are playing games that could set the tone for the rest of their seasons. Sitting at 15-4 through two weeks, here my picks for this week’s Pac-12 Conference games:
UCLA at Nebraska
The Bruins’ season-opening win against Nevada was impressive, but it was against the 95th-ranked defense from a year ago that only returned five starters and implemented a new defensive scheme. In other words, it’s still too early to tell just how good the two-time-defending Pac-12 South champions are this year. While this should be a close game, I think Nebraska – who has won 21 of their last 23 games at home - pulls off the victory.
Stanford at Army
The Cardinal did not put up big numbers in their opener, but they did pick up right where they left off last season. Running back Tyler Gaffney, who took off last year to play professional baseball, and quarterback Kevin Hogan combined for 328 yards and four touchdowns. Stanford should have no problem in this one.
Colorado vs. Fresno State
The Buffaloes already have more wins this season than they did a year ago. However, their defense – which yielded 262.5 passing yards per game last season – is facing a Fresno State team that has thrown the ball over 100 times in two games. I think the Bulldogs win in a shootout.
Pick: Fresno State
USC vs. Boston College
While they’ve yet to find an identity on offense, the Trojans’ defense has been extremely impressive, allowing just 20 points and 453 yards in two games. Boston College is 2-0, but they’ve only beaten Villanova and Wake Forest by a combined score of 48-24. With head coach Lane Kiffin‘s seat as hot as can be, USC can’t possibly lose two games in a row, right?
Oregon vs. Tennessee
Through two games, the Ducks have put up a staggering 1,329 yards and 125 points. However, they are matched up against an opportunistic Volunteers defense that has forced nine turnovers already this season. This game might be closer than expected, but I think Oregon should have no trouble at home in Autzen Stadium.
Washington at Illinois
The week off after an exciting opening-season win might hurt the Huskies as they travel to Soldier Field in Chicago to play 2-0 Illinois. The Huskies’ secondary faces a stiff test in Illini quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase, who has thrown for 728 yards and six touchdowns in two games. On the other side of the ball, the Huskies should have no problem moving the ball against the Illinois defense. Expected rainy conditions might turn this into a defensive battle, but I still think Washington has the edge, regardless.
Washington State vs. Southern Utah
The Cougars are riding high after their upset win over USC last weekend. However, the operative word for this matchup against FCS-level Southern Utah might be “hangover.” The Thunderbirds are 2-0 with wins over FBS-level South Alabama and Fort Lewis by a combined 71-21 score. Regardless of if they struggle, Washington State should ultimately win this potentially ugly game.
Pick: Washington State
California vs. Ohio State
The Bears offense has looked impressive in the first two games, averaging 33.5 points and 1,165 yards against Northwestern and Portland State. However, their defense has struggled, yielding 77 points and 1,061 yards in those matchups. Even if Buckeyes quarterback Braxton Miller doesn’t play, Ohio State should win this game easily.
Pick: Ohio State
Utah vs. Oregon State
The Utes sure look like the surprise team in the Pac-12 through two games. Utah quarterback Travis Wilson, who threw for 1,311 yards and seven touchdowns all last season, already has 566 yards and five touchdowns through two games. Last game, he posted a nearly-perfect 99.7 Total QBR, the eighth-highest quarterback rating recorded in the last ten years. With the Pac-12 South having no clear-cut favorite, a win in this game might catapult them into the division champion discussion.
Arizona vs. UTSA
The Wildcats cupcake out-of-conference schedule continues with a matchup against the Roadrunners, who played their program’s first game in 2011. In parts of three seasons, UTSA is 13-11, but the majority of those wins have come against FCS-level teams. While the Roadrunners did put up 35 points against Oklahoma State, an improved Arizona defense should have no trouble slowing them down.
Arizona State vs. Wisconsin
Sun Devils quarterback Taylor Kelly put on a show in the team’s season-opening shutout of Sacramento State, throwing for 300 yards and five touchdowns in a little over a half. Meanwhile, Wisconsin has posted back-to-back shutouts over Massachusetts and Tennessee Tech, averaging 390.0 rushing yards in those games. It should be an interesting matchup between Wisconsin’s rushing and the Sun Devils’ stacked defensive line, but the Badgers’ lack of a balanced offense will likely do them in.
Pick: Arizona State
In case you missed them, click here for last week’s picks.
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