So I figured I would try my hand at picking games in the Pac 12 each week, and of course giving you a prediction for each week’s Husky game, which I have decided to put in a separate post.
I was going to do this Bill Simmons’ style, but I figured the “gambling-first” way he presents his picks might confuse some people. Besides, hasn’t that guy been copied enough?
But I’m not going to ignore the point spreads either. They are there for a reason - to make taking our money that much more efficient. Not that I’ve ever bet on a college football game. I would never, ever, do something like that.
So if someone did have some disposable income and was a bit of gambler, perhaps, giving the point spreads might be a useful thing.
I will be really honest here. I’m not a football handicapper, nor am I an expert in college football prognostication. Any writer that says they know more about college football than a typical die hard fan thinks much too highly of themselves. There is only so much information and out there, and we all read the same things. It’s just that writers sometimes get the opportunity to watch practice and talk to players.
Does it make a difference? Maybe.
But really if sports writers were that knowledgeable and that well informed, they would put down some good chunks of their own money on games even though most are ridiculously cheap. And maybe then they would stop dressing like they shopped at a yard sale. Would it be morally wrong? Come on sports writers biggest concern in life is free media meals and parking.
So with my picks, don’t use them as a betting guide, but feel free to mock me when I do – and I will – get some of them very, very wrong.
I promise to try and have fun with the picks. If you don’t know already, you'll find that I will not take myself too seriously.
So let’s get to the picks. The point spreads are courtesy of SBG Global since they have spreads on FCS teams
UCLA at Houston (-3)
So begins the season where Rick Neuheisel tries to save his job and somehow stop L.A. Times columnist T.J. Simers from belittling him each week. The big news this week in Westwood? Neuheisel said that both Kevin Prince and Richard Brehaut will both take snaps at quarterback today. Talk about inspiring news for Bruins fans. Prince or Brehaut? It’s like having to choose between taking your unattractive cousin or your hideous second cousin to the prom. It's humiliating and nothing good can from it.
The Bruins will face sixth-year senior Case Keenum, who seems to have been in college longer than Kevin Riley and Alex Brink. Keenum is good. Sure he looks like he weighs 125 pounds, but he can sling the ball over the place. UCLA can run the ball with Jonathan Franklin, who is as tough a runner as there is. But unless one of those quarterbacks can complete a pass longer than five yards, the Bruins will be in trouble.
The pick: Start loosening up those fingers T.J. because, the Bruins are starting 0-1. Keenum will throw for 350-plus yards and Houston leaves Neuheisel’s cheeks redder than usual.
If I were a betting man … I’d give the points, Houston is winning by a couple of scores. And if there were an over/under of 3.5 for Neuheisel tantrums at his quarterbacks – I'd take the over.
San Jose State at No. 7 Stanford (-28.5)
The David Shaw era begins in Palo Alto with a familiar Bay Area foe coming into a ¾ full stadium for the season opener. It’s also the first game toward Andrew Luck’s eventual Heisman Trophy Award. Think about this, if you had to take either Andrew Luck vs. the field (all the other quarterbacks in NCAA football) for the Heisman with your car on the line, what would you take? Not an easy answer is it.
But don’t expect Luck to play long. He will probably toss two or three touchdown passes, and then have a seat on the bench.
The pick: San Jose State returns 19 starters off of last year’s team that won one game, including their entire defense. But the entire defense has no chance against Luck and Stanford.
If I were a betting man … I’d take the Cardinal even though it’s a lot of points to give. Luck is worth 28 points alone.
Idaho State at Washington State (-28.5)
It’s a match-up of two programs that I once covered in my less than storied journalism career. Back in 2005, I covered Idaho State for the Idaho State Journal and I think they won four games. From there, things went downhill. They have been one of the worst teams at the FCS level, winning just six games over the last four seasons. In 2008, I covered Washington State football for the TNT. They won two games that year – Portland State and the Apple Cup. I remember the Cal game where it was 35-0 … at halftime. There has not been a worse team in terms of record over the past three seasons from a BCS conference than the Cougs. So let's see I covered one of the worst teams in the FCS, then one of the worst in the FBS and then I covered the Mariners for four years ... hmm, maybe it's me?
But this season, it’s different. There are legitimate expectations for the WSU. They have Jeff Tuel back, they have Marquess Wilson back and linebacker C.J. Mizell seems motivated for the moment.
Head coach Paul Wulff needs to win at least six games to keep his job. This game is beyond winnable. Actually, the Cougs need to go out and drop about 45 on ISU to appease fans. It’s possible. WSU’s offense is that good and ISU is that bad.
Of course, Washington State should have lost to Montana State last season. They won because MSU’s coach thought it was smart to throw in the fourth quarter up two scores.
The pick: Tuel is too good to allow a repeat of last year’s debacle. But expectations are a funny thing. Sometimes they can overwhelm a team, I’ve seen it before – see 2008 and 2010 Mariners. Still, WSU will win and they will be on the other side of a blowout for the first time in Wulff’s tenure.
If I were a betting man … I’d give the points and take WSU. But I’d also bet that new ISU coach Mike Kramer makes that program competitive in two seasons. The picky and preachy fans in Pocatello might not like the way he does it, but he can coach, he can motivate and he gets players to play for him.
Minnesota at No. 25 USC (-24)
The first game of a season with no bowl possibility for the Trojans is against a team with ostensibly no bowl hopes either. How bad was Minnesota the last few years? The Gophers lost to FCS teams … twice. Head coach Lane Kiffin said he is worried about the Gophers. Well, since he was somehow cleared of any wrongdoings in Tennessee by the NCAA, he has new priorities, like worrying about a team that’s starting a wide receiver at quarterback, and also finding a new secondary coach, since Willie Mack Garza resigned earlier this week after coming under investigation for his connection to Willie Lyles.
Junior MarQueis Gray will start at QB for the Gophers. He hasn’t played quarterback since high school. He was an Elite 11 quarterback, but a broken arm scare off recruiters. Minnesota kept recruiting him anyway. He rewarded their persistence. The previous regime reward Gray by deciding to switch offensive philosophies and moving him to wide receiver. New head coach Jerry Kill (awesome name) moved him back.
Gray is a run-first QB. But being run first against USC isn’t always a good thing. Is USC loaded defensively like in year’s past? No. But they are still good, and will be better than last year.
Matt Barkley may not be playing for the postseason, but he’s playing for the pros. Expect him to come out motivated.
The pick: Gray will make a few highlight plays, but USC will win. Not sure if they have the offense to pull away.
If I were a betting man … I’d take the Gophers and the points. Kill is a really good coach. He won’t let his team get blown out. Then again Kiffin isn't like his predecessor Pete Carroll and might run it up on an opponent.
Sacramento State at Oregon State (-27)
The Beavers are coming off their first losing season in five years thanks in large part to a slew of injuries. It’s continued this year in fall camp. They will likely be without five to six starters including playmaker James Rodgers and Joe Halahuni. Mike Riley is great coach that seems to be at his best when little is expected of his team. But it’s one thing to be an underdog and another to be completely undermined and undermanned because of injuries.
Sacramento State, under head coach Marshall Sperbeck - a one-time OSU quarterback - is ranked No. 25 in the FCS. It’s due largely to returning quarterback Jeff Fleming, running back Bryan Hilliard and receivers Chase Deadder and Morris Norrise off an offense that put up over 30 points per game last season.
The pick: Oregon State will win. The Beavs may be decimated by injuries but they are still better and deeper than Sac State. The Hornets have talent, but it takes more than just talent to knock off an FBS team. There needs to be that attitude and confidence from having won games before. Sac State doesn’t have that … yet.
If I were a betting man …I’d take Sac State and the 27 points. No Halahuni, no Rodgers, a banged up Markus Wheaton means quarterback Ryan Keltz will be without his best weapons. The Beavs will win, but they don’t have the healthy firepower to blow out a team that will score points on its defense.
Fresno State vs. Cal (-10) at Candlestick Park
I’m really sad to see the Brock Mansion era come to an end almost as quickly as it started in Berkley. If for no other reason than how mad it used to make my buddy and Cal alum Mike Curto to watch Mansion overthrow receivers by 10 yards on 5-yard routes. Remember when people thought Jeff Tedford – a former Fresno State quarterback - was thought of as a quarterback guru. Since Aaron Rodgers graduated the likes of Joe Ayoob, Nate Longshore, Kevin Riley and Mansion have taken snaps as Cal’s QB. I will give Riley a little credit for being tough and competitive. But the rest of the names are forgettable
This year lefty Zach Maynard takes over the position with Mansion moving to the guest house as the back-up.
Maynard is a lefty, really skinny and transferred from Buffalo. Can he better than what the Bears had last season? Well, that’s not hard to do since Mansion averaged 71.8 yards passing per game his completion rate was less than 50 percent.
But this will be a test for the Bears. Every one knows that Fresno plays teams tough. Pat Hill is a good coach and his players play with a football sized chip on their shoulders. This isn’t a home game for the Bears. It’s being played at Candlestick Park in San Francisco – you know the place where 49ers fans beat each other up in the stands. And apparently, Fresno fans have bought vastly more tickets than Cal fans. To be fair, there is probably a Phish and Widespread Panic concert somewhere to sidetrack Bears fans.
The pick: Poor Curto, this one is going to sting. Cal has some talent and is tough on defense. But they are going to be starting possibly five freshmen. Fresno State is going to be find a way to win this game and revive Pac 12 teams wariness to schedule the Bulldogs.
If I were a betting man … I’d take Fresno and the points in a second. Cal could win this game, but there is a better chance of no one’s car getting broke into outside of Candlestick than the Bears covering the 10 points.
Northern Arizona at Arizona (-27.5)
The Wildcats ended last year on a five game losing streak. Of course, it didn’t help that Nick Foles went down with an injury and missed two games. He’s back and healthy this season so expect Arizona to sling it all over the field from it’s spread sets. Northern Arizona doesn’t have anyone that can cover Juron Criner. But then again few teams do. The question will be whether the Wildcats’ largely untested offensive line – five newcomers - can perform. NAU might not test them. But how well and how quickly they mesh will determine how Arizona does this season.
NAU isn’t terrible. NAU isn’t great. The Jacks are, and have mostly been, a middle of the road Big Sky team that has a big win or two in conference each season. Two years ago, they kept the score within 17 points.
The pick: Arizona will win. And NAU will fall to 0-10 against the Wildcats. Foles will throw for 300 yards and will probably get hit more than he wants
If I were a betting man … I’d probably give the points and hope that Mike Stoops can control his sideline insanity long enough when Foles does get hit a time or two and not pull him out too soon.
Colorado at Hawaii (-6.5)
An underrated game that Husky fans will want to pay close attention to since UW plays Hawaii next week. Colorado head coach Jon Embree makes his debut with the Buffs in a tough place – Aloha Stadium. Hawaii doesn’t lose there often because well, if you’ve ever been to Hawaii, you know there are some distractions about, usually clad in swimwear. It’s also because the Warriors always have a fair level of talent and play well at home. Hawaii won 10 games last year with quarterback Bryant Moniz throwing for more than 5,000 yards and 39 touchdowns – ridiculous numbers. Yes, he lost his top six receivers and several of his offensive linemen, but he’s good enough and the system helps the transition for new receivers. It will also help that Colorado will start a true freshman at one corner and a converted safety at another.
The Buffs have some experience on offense with QB Taylor Hansen and senior running back Rodney “Speedy” Stewart, who stands 5-6.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Colorado ends up being better than some people think.
The pick: This is just a bad scenario for the Buffs. New coach, lots of newbies making their debut against a good team that forces you to play out of your comfort level. Hawaii’s passing attack is going to be too much for Colorado to overcome. Moniz will throw for more than 370 yards and at least three scores
If I were a betting man … I’d take Colorado and the points. The Buffs will be physical enough to score on Hawaii and if they can run the ball it will keep the number of possessions down enough to cover.
No. 3 Oregon (-3.5) vs. No. 4 LSU
It’s the Willie Lyles bowl! It seems fitting that these two teams are meeting in Jerry Jones billion dollar stadium. You know who wins in this game? The NCAA investigating committee. It’s been a year of scandal, suspension and suspicion and these two teams have been in the middle of it thanks to a recruiting service that seems to not quite be on the up and up. It cot This game has been dissected and discussed on the four-letter. LSU won’t have Jordan Jefferson and his magic feet that can break open 40 yards runs and apparently people’s heads too. Jarrett Lee is a serviceable replacement that may not be as a flashy, but he can make plays. Though for a while, you swore he should have been nicknamed “Pick Six” for obvious reasons. The Tigers will also be without leading receiver Russell Shephard as well.
The Ducks won’t have top corner and return Cliff “Andretti” Harris, but they have Darron Thomas, LaMichael James and Kenjon Barner. And after seeing his rushing attack shutdown by Auburn in the national championship game, expect Chip Kelly to have a few new wrinkles to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
The pick: I’m going with Oregon since the Ducks have less suspended players.
If I were a betting man … I’d give the points. The Ducks will get up early and force Lee to throw more than he wants. Not a good thing for LSU. Also I’d bet that Ducks will be wearing gaudy uniforms and that Willie Lyles name will be mentioned more than a few times. I’d also bet LSU head coach Les Miles makes at least two or three bad decisions when it comes to game or clock management.
Huskies pick coming later ....