After the usual, seemingly endless run-up to the college-football season, we get going tonight, including a pair of Pac-12 games. Which means another year of forecasting them (and just maybe, giving you another plus-.500 season against the number).
Utah State (plus 2.5) at Utah – Seems odd that the line is so low for this one, given that the Utes have revenge going for them and the Aggies are breaking in a new head coach in Matt Wells. But Chuckie Keeton of USU is a dynamic quarterback, and obviously, the oddsmakers are impressed with the Aggies’ 11-win season in 2012. I just see a resolve about Utah to prove itself after a 5-7 year. Utah 30, Utah State 20.
USC (minus 23.5) at Hawaii – Very tough to put the right spin on this one, with a huge amount of variables, including the fact it’s two head coaches, Norm Chow of the Warriors and Lane Kiffin of USC, who used to work together for Pete Carroll. Then there are matters like the uncertainty over the Trojans’ quarterback position – Cody Kessler and Max Wittek are both supposed to play, though we don’t know how much – and running back Silas Redd stayed at home to continue rehabilitating a knee injured in the spring. My inclination is to assume Troy will get a fight from the Warriors. USC 37, Hawaii 21.
Northern Arizona (no line) at Arizona — Upset alert: NAU went 8-3 last year, returns 18 starters and is ranked 18th in the FCS poll. Meanwhile, the Wildcats are breaking in a new quarterback and as you recall, were generally woeful on defense last year. Don’t go to sleep, ‘Zona. Arizona 34, Northern Arizona 30.
Nicholls State (no line) at Oregon — This could be frightful, because Oregon, as the home team, can roll through a lot of reserves and probably still keep scoring. Mark Helfrich won’t run it up in his Duck debut, but it’ll get run up, anyway. Oregon 84, Nicholls State 13.
Eastern Washington (no line) at Oregon State — The Beavers got ambushed by Sacramento State in this spot two years ago, and this Eastern team is better than Sac State. I’d be wary; the Eagles don’t back down. Oregon State 31, Eastern Washington 23.
Washington State (plus 15.5) at Auburn — Lots of uncertainty around this one (seems to be a common theme in week one). Much of it surrounds whether WSU will be significantly improved, and whether it will show conclusively against a program under a new coach, Gus Malzahn, trying to prove that last year’s 3-9 was an aberration. I’m thinking the Cougars make it a game. Auburn 27, WSU 23.
Boise State (plus 3.5) at Washington — Given the fervor over Washington’s new stadium and the belief that the Huskies may have their best team in awhile, this seems like a relatively low line. It’s testimony to Boise State’s experience on the big stage. But I don’t see the UW spoiling the big occasion. Washington 35, Boise State 27.
Nevada (plus 21) at UCLA — Seems like an awful lot of points, probably reflecting a new coach at Nevada in Brian Polian. Quarterback Cody Fajardo could be a problem for the Bruins, although their vulnerability in the secondary might not be exposed. If the transition to Polian isn’t severe, the Wolf Pack just might make this competitive. UCLA 34, Nevada 24.
Northwestern (minus 6) at Cal — Just too many variables on the Cal side to go with the Bears here — new head coach, different defense, freshman quarterback in Jared Goff, while Northwestern goes with two vets there, Kain Colter and Trevor Siemian. Northwestern 31, Cal 20.
Colorado State (minus 2.5)-Colorado at Denver — A year ago, CSU upset the Buffs and it soon turned into a disastrous season for CU. Meanwhile, the Rams went 4-8, following their opening win with a six-game losing streak. Somehow, I think Mike MacIntyre gets his first victory with the Buffs here. Colorado 23, CSU 20.