Ten up and one down with the week two picks puts the season tally at 18-5 heading into another slate of mostly non-conference games across the Pac-12. The one exception is Washington at Utah with USC visiting Texas the marquis non-conference match up on the docket. But first a review of last week’s results.
Saturday, Sep 08
Houston 45 – Arizona 18 (pick: Houston 37-34)
The struggles of Arizona quarterback Khalil Tate continue… despite 345 yards of passing, the junior was unable to find the end zone through the air and only once on the ground, gaining eight net yards on seven carries. D’Eriq King – Tate’s counterpart for Houston – on the other hand threw for four touchdowns and 246 yards leading the Cougars to a 38-0 lead before the Wildcats found the scoreboard. Tough times in Tucson.
Oklahoma 49 – UCLA 21 (pick: Oklahoma 44-17)
At times the Chipsters’ held their own against the might Sooners… other times they didn’t. Mora didn’t leave Kelly much in the way of a roster and it looks like the Bruins will be the definition of a work in progress for the foreseeable future.
Colorado 33 – Nebraska 28 (pick: Colorado 32-27)
Steven Montez spoiled ex-Oregon assistant under Kelly Scott Frost’s debut as the head coach at his alma mater with a touchdown pass with 1:06 remaining to give the Buffaloes a come from behind win over Nebraska in Lincoln. Long one of the better rivalries in the days when the Big 12 actually had twelve teams, the two teams took up matters right where they left off when they last played in 2010.
Washington 45 – North Dakota 3 (pick: Washington 85-10)
It is likely too easy to find fault with Washington’s performance – 21 fourth quarter points inflated what was a surprisingly ineffective offense for most of the day on Montlake. A cross-country trip after a disappointing but credible effort against Auburn in the opener is liable to take half a game or so to shake off… so while Washington perhaps hasn’t yet lived up to expectations, this game is meaningless. Not so much so next week….
Utah 17 – Northern Illinois 6 (pick: Utah 30-26)
One offensive touchdown and less than 70 yards rushing against a mid-major lends some doubt about the offensive firepower of the Utes; can Utah find production from someone other than quarterback Tyler Huntley. On the plus side, Utah held the Salukis to 238 total yards offensively and took a pick to the house to ice the non-conference road win.
Oregon State 48 – Southern Utah 25 (pick: Oregon State 38-24)
Everyone had this one chalked up as the win the Benny’s would need to avoid an oh and twelve outing this year but that thinking may have to change. Connor Blount was steady if not spectacular at quarterback but freshman running back Jermar Jefferson opened a lot of eyes with a 238 yard outing, scoring four times on 22 carries. Oregon State’s defense remains a liability and outscoring the opposition won’t be the Beavers roadmap to success in the Pac-12. But still… it was good to see talented players being used in the roles that they were best suited to fulfill as opposed to the chaos that had been OSU’s offense in the recent past.
Stanford 17 – USC 3 (pick: Stanford 31-21)
Not many true freshman quarterbacks find success in their Pac-12 road baptism… Jared Goff in the Autzen rain a few years back comes immediately to mind. The Trojans’ J.T. Daniels didn’t struggle to THAT extent but he was clearly overmatched by a Stanford defense that left him dazed and confused and without a touchdown. On the offensive side of the ball, the Cardinal weren’t a whole lot better but David Shaw’s team took full advantage of the opportunities given – including a regrettable decision by USC coach Clay Helton late in the second quarter to go for a first down on fourth and two on the Stanford 40. The Cardinal forced a fumble and Stanford quarterback KJ Costello’s touchdown pass to give the home team an insurmountable 14-0 lead at the break.
California 21 – BYU 18 (pick: California 28-19)
Defense has rarely been the calling card in Berkeley but that has been the case so far in 2018 which is easy to assume is a reflection of the mindset of California head coach Justin Wilcox – the ex-Oregon defensive back who is in his second season at the helm of the Bears. A pair of second half interceptions allowed California to keep the Cougars offense on the sideline to come away with the win in Provo.
Arizona State 16 – Michigan State 13 (pick: Arizona State 37-33)
Leading 13 to 3 after three quarters the Michigan State Spartans appeared about to solidify their claim as a top-15 team with a win on the road over a respectable Arizona State team that had been impressive in a 49-7 opening win the week before. In a low scoring game that saw both quarterbacks throw for more than 300 yards, the difference came down to a last second 28-yard field goal that have the Sun Devils at 2-0.
Washington State 31 – San Jose State 0 (pick: Washington State 58-10)
From the time the Spartans got off the bus this game was never in doubt. Gardner Minshew connected on 34 of 51 passes for 420 yards and three scores but was picked off twice. The Spartans rolled for 109 yards of total offense.
Oregon 62 – Portland State 14 (pick: Oregon 65-10)
Four more scores for Justin Herbert and the Ducks accomplished all they set out to accomplish in this mismatch. Oregon’s Tony Brookes-James and C.J. Verdell each broke the century mark rushing against the Vikings.
Saturday, Sep 15
UC Davis @ Stanford
UC Davis is coming in unbeaten at 2-0 but was pasted 45-0 the last time they visited the Farm in 2014. The result won’t be much different this time around… Stanford 42-3
New Hampshire @ Colorado
The hope is New Hampshire will enjoy the scenery at one of America’s truly gorgeous stadium settings because they won’t enjoy anything else. Colorado 45-10
Idaho State @ California
After a pair of defensive wins, Justin Wilcox and the Bears get their offense untracked a bit against FCS Idaho State. The Bengals went 4-7 last season in the Big Sky and while improvement is expected in 2018, it won’t come at the expense of the Bears. Cal 38-7
Oregon State @ Nevada
The Wolfpack are notoriously tough in Reno and the Beavers haven’t won a road game since October 4, 2014 at Colorado – then a doormat in the Pac-12 – so the trend is anything but in the Benny’s favor. With a better balance offensively and if the defense can take just a couple steps forward the Beavs can escape with a 33-30 win. It could just as easily go south to the tune of 55-10 but for the sake of the Pac-12 let’s go with option #1…
USC @ Texas
The Trojan offense was ineffective on the road against Stanford and while true freshman JT Daniels goes through his growing pains at quarterback, USC will be ripe for the picking. As always there is talent at every position but until the pieces start to “click” the Trojans will be eminently beatable. That should be the case again in Austin this Saturday… Texas 31-17.
Eastern Washington @ Washington State
Eastern Washington knocked off the Cougs as recently as two years ago – a 45-42 stunner that saw Eagles quarterback Gage Gubrud throw for five touchdowns and 474 yards. A repeat performance wouldn’t be a complete surprise but the thought is the Cougs have enough defense this season to come away with a 44-38 win in Pullman.
Washington @ Utah
In SEC country they call these games slobberknockers… and this one could live up to its reputation in what will be a loud and sold out Rice-Eccles Stadium. Neither team has found consistency offensively and to this point has relied on the their respective defensive units to keep the game within reach. It would be hard to imagine that formula will significantly change Saturday in Salt Lake City. Not quite a pick ‘em game with the Huskies favored by a field goal and a safety, the call here is for the Utes, 27-23.
Fresno State @ UCLA
As mentioned above, the Bruins have a complete roster rebuild on their hands under Kelly. The Bulldogs don’t get many opportunities to knock off one of their SoCal “bigger brothers” and will relish the chance to take down UCLA in what is clearly a rebuilding year in Pasadena. Especially if they get that chance in the Rose Bowl. Bulldogs 38-28
Arizona State @ San Diego State
A bit of a trap game coming off the Sun Devils upset of #15 Michigan State. The Aztecs won’t have the defense that MSU has so look for Arizona State and quarterback Manny Wilkins to get the Sun Devil offense untracked. ASU 48-28
Southern Utah @ Arizona
If there is anyone who needs a win more than Arizona I would be hard pressed to imagine who. Southern Utah won’t be a push over for the Wildcats but if somehow, someway Arizona and quarterback Khalil Tate can’t put thirty-some points on the board it will be a brutal season in Tucson. That may still come to pass but for this week it is Arizona handily, 44-10.
San Jose State @ Oregon
Week three has a number of mismatches on the schedule but none more so than this. The Spartans gained 109 total yards against Washington State last week and probably won’t get that many against the Ducks in Autzen. Oregon 52-3 or worse.
~ Rick Morgan