Previewing PAC-12 games for week 2


Now that the PAC-12 has lost its two preseason leaders Oregon and Utah to head-shaking losses, we have to wonder if there are any teams able to step into the vacuum at the top and make a run at the ‘natty.

The first candidate that comes to mind is USC but then I see that the Trojan defense put up a less-than-average effort against the rush attack of much-worse-than average Rice. I’m also troubled that USC’s leading ball carrier was its quarterback Caleb Williams. It’s not just that he gained the most rushing yards, but he also had the most carries despite USC winning by 52 points.

Oregon State‘s thrashing of Boise State lifts the Beavers into this argument for conference supremacy.

OSU came out fast against the Broncos burying quarterback Hank Bachmeier in enough turnovers to make the Beavers the top team in the nation for takeaways. But Oregon State is only 89th for pass completion defense and 71st in yards per carry defense so there are plenty of holes to plug.

Quarterback Chance Nolan hit some nice long balls but nearly 5% of his passes went to the wrong team and that is twice the national average.

There’s a lot to like about the University of Washington‘s first game but the crunching killer for me is the inability of the Huskies to run the football against a weak foe like Kent State which isn’t even in the Savvy Index top 100 teams so there are plenty of questions yet to be answered.

The biggest problem UCLA with Bowling Green was figuring out why its primary color is orange. The Bruins held BGSU to just 162 yards of total offense and a measly 1.5 yards per carry, although we shouldn’t expect much of a stampede from a group that calls itself Falcons.

One aspect of the Bruin coaches that I like is in a blow out win, that they made sure that running back Zach Charbonnet got the ball three times more often than quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson.

Although UCLA’s win was solid, the most impressive team in the PAC-12 so far is Arizona after its surprisingly easy 38-20 win over San Diego State. Keep in mind that last year, Arizona was 1-11 and SDSU was 12-2.

I admit that San Diego State was hampered by starting quarterback Braxton Burmeister who barely completed 50% of his passes while throwing 10% of his passes to the Wildcats and further hampered by coaches who ran the ball 42 of 58 plays despite being behind by two possessions.

Meanwhile, Wildcat quarterback Jayden de Laura put the ball in the air 35 times and four of those wound up in the end zone while the ‘Cat defense held the Aztecs to just 232 yards of total offense.

No other teams from the PAC-12 won against an FBS opponent.

So, if I had to choose a PAC-12 favorite between UCLA and Arizona today, I would choose UCLA because of it’s stronger roster, but honestly, Arizona was the most impressive team in the PAC-12 last week.

Since its so early in the season, no projection should be considered with much certainty but then, the good thing about it being this early is that we have a while longer to pretend that the PAC-12 is still relevant.

PAC-12 PREDICTIONS THIS WEEK

Mississippi (1-0) at Arizona (1-0)

Here is another great opportunity for Arizona to stun the college football world.

Yes, Mississippi State returns sensational quarterback Will Rogers who put up 450 passing yards and five touchdowns last week against a weak Memphis defense, but MSU was woeful against the run giving up over six yards per carry (ranked 121st in the nation) while Arizona comes in with impressive senior running back D.J. Williams who is also averaging over six yards per carry.

This game has a very high upset alert although our Savvy system sees Mississippi State as a 34-24 favorite.

Arizona State (1-0) at #9 Oklahoma State (1-0)

Arizona State ran the football nearly 80% of the time last week against weak FCS foe Northern Arizona. I suspect head coach Herm Edwards was saving his passing strategies for this week’s opponent, 12th ranked Oklahoma State.

That may turn out to be a very good plan since OSU gave up 424 yards and four touchdowns through the air to Central Michigan. The Cowboys also allowed CMU quarterback Daniel Richardson to complete over 73% of his passes and that plummets the Oklahoma State pass defense to 119th in the nation.

The question for me is whether or not ASU quarterback and former Florida transfer Emory Jones can take advantage of it. Last year, nearly 4% of his passes were intercepted despite the benefit of a short passing scheme at Florida. It’s really hard to be intercepted 13 times when you only have to throw the ball eight yards.

Arizona State hasn’t beaten a ranked opponent since 2019 and my system says they won’t get close this time either. Oklahoma State is favored 44-21.

UNLV (1-0) at California (1-0)

UNLV had no trouble taking down Idaho State 52-21 last week. But then, Idaho State is weak even for an FCS program. Still, UNLV quarterback Doug Brumfield threw four touchdown passes in the first half and UNLV scored 35 points in just the second quarter.

But, the Rebels face Cal this week and while the Golden Bears have some problems, they are a power five program and at least 13 points better than UNLV on both my Savvy Index as well as Vegas gamblers. That spread seems too narrow to me.

I think the hedge point for gamblers is Cal’s defense. It was suppose to be the anchor for success in 2022, but last week it just could not stop U.C. Davis of the FCS. Right now, the Cal rush defense ranks in the bottom 20 in all of FBS.

The problem for UNLV is that it will find out early that its offensive line just isn’t physically strong enough to take advantage. Brumfield’s passing effectiveness appears to be the best hope for UNLV to produce an upset.

Colorado (0-1) at Air Force (1-0)

I doubt anyone thinks Colorado will win this game. The national spread is set at 17 with total points at 45.5. Savvy Index sees this as a 45-14 win for AFA but I’m more eager to get back to that subject of 45.5 total points because that is too low which means the success rate of betting the over is pretty high.

1. Both teams combined to average more than 45.5 per game last year.

2. Last week, their combined totals were 60 points.

3. Colorado was primarily a running team last year whereas this year, it has been predominately a passing team.

Eastern Washington (1-0) Oregon (0-1)

There will only be one ranked team on the field in Eugene Saturday and it won’t be Oregon. Although national polls are propping Oregon in their top 25’s, Savvy Index dropped the Ducks after their awful loss to Georgia.

But, Eastern Washington didn’t look like a top ten FCS group last week against Tennessee State. After giving up 19 points in just the first quarter, the Eagles rallied to take a 29-19 lead.

Then, the Eagles landed. They didn’t score a single point until one touchdown late in the game. It was enough to win 36-29 but also enough to have analysts scratching their heads. Tennessee State is not a contender for the FCS title. In fact, TSU team isn’t even expected to challenge in its own conference so why die EWU stutter so much?

There is a lot for Oregon coach Dan Lanning and his lemon-and-lime (and black-and-blue) Ducskters to prove. They can’t afford to look ahead to BYU next week. They must not only win this game but do so in a manner that convinces fans that Dan is indeed the man.

Oregon is projected to win 37-21.

Oregon State (1-0) at Fresno State (1-0)

Fresno State is rock solid this year and returns more over all talent than does Oregon State. The Bulldogs get this one at home in temperatures scorching enough to fry the most ardent of rodents. It’s not time to phone this one in, not by any means. Every OSU fan knows that coach Jonathan Smith is a giant killer and his recent teams have all been ready.

Fresno State has a more complete roster and, based on penalties and turnovers, better team discipline. In a matchup of two nearly equal teams, that discipline is an important factor.

The betting lines continue to show Oregon State as a one point favorite but the Savvy system calls this for Fresno State by five.

#25 USC (1-0) at Stanford (1-0)

For the first time in years, Stanford looked good running the football last week. Of course, it was against FCS bottom dweller Colgate but it brought smiles to traditional Cardinal fans who remember the ground-and-pound days of Jim Harbaugh at his best and David Shaw in his early years.

But, don’t think that Stanford guys are returning to that style of play just because of one good game. They can’t. I discussed the reasons why here but in addition to those, it’s important to keep in mind that recent changes in transfer portal rules have been crushing for the football program. Stanford’s graduate school standards are so high that Cardinal players often transfer out while outsiders are unable o meet the standards to transfer in.

Contrast that with USC which gained more than almost anyone from the portal in the recent off-season.

The difference will be apparent this week and the betting public knows it as they have installed the Trojans as favorites. I’m bewildered that their spread is only nine points whereas Savvy is setting the margin at 20.

With that, Savvy is saying to bet the over and I personally feel confident the spread will be over nine points.

Alabama State (2-0) at UCLA (1-0)

Yes, Alabama State is 2-0. The first ASU win came against a very weak Howard team.

The second? Well, let me ask you: have you ever heard of Miles College? Do you know what state it is in?

I couldn’t answer either of those questions when I saw the Alabama State schedule earlier and that made me wonder why ASU is scheduling-down so much. After last weeks one possession ASU win, I think it is safe to project that Alabama State is weaker than expected.

UCLA should have this put away in the first quarter and cruise with subs in the second half. There are no betting lines on this one but Savvy is calling it for UCLA, 50-7.

Southern Utah (1-0) at Utah (1-0)

That last minute loss to Florida last week is going to be a major butt burr for Utah all season.

And coming to town this week is Southern University, fresh off an 86-0 win last Saturday. Once again though, there is a disclaimer about the opponent because last week, Southern played Florida Memorial University which has a total enrollment of 928 students.

Last year, Utah beat fantastic Weber State of the FCS 40-17 so one can only imagine what the Utes will do with Southern.

There are no betting lines on this one but Savvy is solid with a 56-3 prediction for Utah.

Portland State (0-1) at Washington (1-0)

Washington is on the right track now with Kalen DeBoer as head coach and the fans know it. Last week, over 56,000 fans filled the stadium to watch the Huskies take down Kent State. 45-20.

Among the good news was that UW’s top two quarterbacks passed 44 times without once throwing an interception.

However, it doesn’t appear to me that Washington has fixed its run blocking problems and the Huskies need to do that quickly because Michigan State is coming to town next week and the Spartans are adamant about that game being won on the ground.

This week’s opponent is Portland State and Vikings were outstanding last week against San Jose State. If Viking quarterback Dante Chachere had not thrown two critical interceptions, PSU would not have lost to SJSU 21-17.

Washington is Savvy-projected to win this 35-17 but the Huskies will have to be better this week than last to make that margin hold up.

Washington State (1-0)) at #11 Wisconsin

Washington State struggled against a weak Idaho team last week and barely emerged with a 24-17 win. The Cougars’ defensive front was light years stronger than I expected and new quarterback Cameron Ward looked solid.

But, there are two big problems the Cougars have to solve this week.

First, they must stop fumbling the football. Last week, WSU carriers fumbled once for every eight times they touched the ball. That puts Washington State as the most-fumbling team in America.

And second, they’re playing Wisconsin.

The Badgers are always tough, especially defensively and especially against the run. Wisconsin is just too big up front to think that Washington State can sustain an effective ground game.

Instead, I expect WSU to continue it’s Air Raid short passing attack to get to the edges and that might have some success. But with passes averaging a paltry five yards per attempt, Wisconsin is going to cheat with one safety to jam the short game and make WSU prove it has any ability to stretch the field with long ball passes.

But, that might not work either since the Badger secondary is in the top 15 for intercepting passes.

The Index shows Wisconsin winning this 36-10 but I wouldn’t fault WSU fans who favor the national betting spread of 17 points.

Last week, the Savvy Index was 74-8 in predicting games and is now 18 games better than the national betting lines in predicting total points.


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