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Pac-12 Confidential

Bud Withers offers an inside look at the Pac-12 Conference and the national college scene.

August 30, 2012 at 2:19 PM

Pac-12 picks, week one . . .

Ah, the weekly Pac-12 prognostications. You folks with acute memories — as most readers here have, naturally — will recall that this space has brought you three straight seasons of winning records against the spread. OK, a couple of them were barely over .500, not enough to get you rich. (And anyway, this is supposed to be for entertainment purposes only, or something like that.)

Thursday night

UCLA at Rice (plus 16.5) – The Owls are supposed to be capable offensively, questionable defensively. They haven’t beaten a Pac-12 school since 1970 (Cal). When the LA Times asked first-year QB Brett Hundley how he wanted to open up his career on the first snap, he said, “Let’s throw it deep.” This is Jim Mora’s college-coaching debut. UCLA 34, Rice 21.

Northern Colorado at Utah (no line) – Against an outfit that didn’t win a game in 2011, the Utes ought not to have any trouble. They probably will fold freshman Travis Wilson heavily into the quarterbacking game plan. Utah 54, Northern Colorado 10.

Northern Arizona at ASU (no line) – Sun Devils coach Todd Graham has been preaching discipline – as in carrying out responsibilities, especially on defense. I think there might be some rough edges here, but it’s unlikely NAU will be able to take advantage. ASU 34, NAU 13.

WSU at Brigham Young (minus 12.5) – There’s a lot of buzz that this looks tempting from the red Cougars’ perspective. I see that. But I also see an alarming lack of experience, especially on the defensive side of the ball. BYU 44, WSU 27.

Friday night

San Jose State at Stanford (minus 25.5) – Last year, Stanford won this game, 57-3. But that was last year, when it had Andrew Luck. Now Josh Nunes is the guy, while San Jose State goes with JC transfer David Fales. Enough things are different that the Cardinal may have some kinks to iron out. Stanford 31, San Jose State 20.

Saturday

Hawaii at USC (minus 42) – It’s a new day for the Warriors under first-year coach Norm Chow, who says he wants to run the ball more so the defense can benefit from the physical game. Early in camp, he named Duke transfer Sean Schroeder the starter at quarterback. This one matches Chow with Lane Kiffin; the two were staffmates under Pete Carroll. USC 51, Hawaii 14.

Toledo at Arizona (minus 10.5) – The Rockets will alternate quarterbacks Austin Dantin and Terrance Owens, then go with the hotter hand. It’s a meeting of two first-year coaches, Arizona’s Rich Rodriguez and Toledo’s 32-year-old Matt Campbell, youngest head coach in FBS. Arizona 27, Toledo 14.

Nevada at California (minus 11) – Cal quarterback Zach Maynard, describing his rocky transition from Buffalo to California last year, told the Oakland Tribune, “I went from playing checkers to playing chess.” The guess here is that the Bears, who I think might be good this year, will take motivation not only from a waxing administered by Nevada in Reno a couple of years ago, but their newly refurbished digs at Memorial Stadium. Cal 34, Nevada 13.

Arkansas State at Oregon (minus 37) – If Gus Malzahn hadn’t decided to jump from his coordinator’s job to the head position at Ark State after last season, he probably could have had the Arkansas job when Bobby Petrino drove himself and his mistress into a ditch. Instead, Malzahn finds himself in Eugene, trying to figure out a way to stop De’Anthony Thomas. Good luck with that. At least Malzahn has a veteran quarterback, Ryan Aplin. Oregon 54, Arkansas State 21.

San Diego State at Washington (minus 14.5) – I’m a little surprised this line isn’t higher. It probably has something to do with the fact the public no doubt remembers the last time it saw the Huskies, getting chills from Baylor running backs blowing past. SDSU is without a very good running back of 2011, Ronnie Hillman, and also breaks in a new quarterback. Washington 37, San Diego State 16.

Sunday

Colorado-Colorado State (plus 6.5) at DenverJim McElwain, a 1984 grad of Eastern Washington and later an assistant with the Eagles, takes over the CSU program after a stint as offensive coordinator at Alabama. He inherits a 1,130-yard back in Chris Nwoke. CU wide receiver Paul Richardson just announced that he’s going to give his knee, surgically repaired in the spring, all season to heal rather than try to play. CSU 24, Colorado 23.

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