Caple: Picking UW Huskies opener, rest of Pac-12’s Week 1 slate
Aug 31, 2023, 2:26 PM | Updated: 3:53 pm
(Steph Chambers/Getty Images)
For the record, I’m already in the hole.
Yes, I foolishly missed my prediction for USC in its Week 0 opener against San Jose State (we made our picks on Ep. 66 of Say Who, Say Pod). While the Trojans won comfortably, they allowed four touchdowns and took their foot off the gas late in a 56-28 victory.
So, it’s time to correct course with On Montlake’s inaugural Pac-12 picks column. Picking games on the podcast last season, I used a 10-2-1 record against the spread over the final two weeks to finish with a 34-29-1 overall record for the regular season.
Not bad. Can we do better predicting the Pac-12’s farewell tour?
Every conference team is in action this weekend, with two games Thursday night, one Friday, eight Saturday and another on Sunday.
• Florida at Utah
5 p.m. Thursday, ESPN
I’ll take Florida, particularly in light of reports that star quarterback Cam Rising won’t play for the Utes. Expect Utah to lean heavily on tailback Ja’Quinden Jackson, with Bryson Barnes expected to start at quarterback. Florida is full of unknowns, too. Wisconsin transfer Graham Mertz replaces Anthony Richardson at quarterback. I do like the Utes this season, but Rising’s absence makes this a tough call.
Pick: Utah 24, Florida 23
• Southern Utah at Arizona State
7 p.m. Thursday, Pac-12 Networks
Kenny Dillingham’s restoration project meets the mighty Thunderbirds of the … United Athletic Conference, a new league resulting from the merger of the ASUN and WAC. Southern Utah, for what it’s worth, finished in a tie for seventh (out of nine teams) in the UAC’s preseason coaches poll. ASU doesn’t have a bowl game to play for, but that shouldn’t matter in this one.
Pick: ASU 51, Southern Utah 17
• Stanford at Hawaii
8 p.m. Friday, CBS Sports Network
Hawaii was right there with Vanderbilt in Week 0. If the Rainbow Warriors can hang with any SEC team (even Vanderbilt), shouldn’t they be able to handle perhaps the Pac-12’s worst team? Then again, we know so little about what Stanford will look like under new coach Troy Taylor — including the identity of the starting quarterback — that it’s difficult to project. Ultimately, my assumption is that while the Cardinal lack playmakers, they should have better overall talent than Hawaii. Expect running back E.J. Smith to touch the ball a bunch.
Pick: Stanford 29, Hawaii 23
• Colorado at TCU
9 a.m. Saturday, FOX
Interesting story by Matt Fortuna this week on TCU being perhaps the most disrespected team in college football. You sure haven’t heard much about them this summer despite last year’s CFP title game appearance, have you? Of course, the Horned Frogs are a different team, with few returning offensive starters (though quarterback Chandler Morris was the starter last year before an injury thrust Max Duggan into the spotlight). The fact that all the focus will be on Colorado and Deion Sanders should only fuel TCU further. Don’t think this one will be close, though I am curious to see how the Buffaloes hold up on the lines of scrimmage. And everywhere else.
Pick: TCU 45, Colorado 21
• Portland State at Oregon
12 p.m. Saturday, Pac-12 Networks
It’s a tune-up affair for the Ducks, who are breaking in new offensive coordinator Will Stein and several key defensive transfers. Expect the Ducks to run the ball a ton, Bo Nix to play three quarters and Autzen Stadium to empty out early. You won’t learn a lot about Oregon from this one.
Pick: Oregon 52, Portland State 13
• Boise State at UW Huskies
12:30 p.m. Saturday, ABC
I don’t think the Broncos are coming to Husky Stadium scared. They have a talented quarterback, a great backfield and a defensive-minded head coach who assembled a quality group last year. Still, Boise State is replacing a few key players in the secondary, and Michael Penix Jr. and Co. should be able to take advantage. You should also see an overall talent gap show up, eventually, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Boise State quarterback Taylen Green and running backs George Holani and Ashton Jeanty give tge UW Huskies defense some trouble. Interested to see how stout Washington is up the middle. This will be a good test, but I think UW wins by a couple scores. Also think Boise State covers.
Pick: UW Huskies 35, Boise State 24
• California at North Texas
1 p.m. Saturday, ESPNU
Eric Morris, Washington State’s former offensive coordinator, takes over the Mean Green this season. Jake Spavital, formerly the head coach at Texas State, takes over as Cal’s offensive coordinator. I hear good things about new Cal quarterback Sam Jackson V, a transfer from TCU, and sophomore running back Jaydn Ott should see a bunch of touches. I’m cautiously optimistic that you could see significant progress from Cal’s offense this year. Think it starts here.
Pick: California 38, North Texas 27
• Nevada at USC
3:30 p.m., Pac-12 Networks
New Mexico was the only Mountain West team picked to finish behind Nevada in the league’s preseason media poll. The Wolfpack went 2-10 in 2022 under first-year coach Ken Wilson, and didn’t win a conference game. This trip to Los Angeles should yield a nice paycheck, and also a lopsided defeat after seeing USC’s defense in action against San Jose State last week.
Pick: USC 55, Nevada 20
• WSU Cougars at Colorado State
4 p.m., CBS Sports Network
For what it’s worth, the Cougars beat the Rams 38-7 in Pullman last year. They sacked quarterback Clay Millen seven times. CSU allowed 59 sacks total, most in FBS. Second-year coach Jay Norvell brought in a few transfers up front, but have they shored up that group well enough to fend off WSU edge rushers Ron Stone Jr. and Brennan Jackson? CSU’s defense could be sneaky good, but I like Cam Ward throwing to the Cougars’ group of transfer receivers, and think Nakia Watson and Jaylen Jenkins will be plenty involved, too.
Pick: WSU 31, Colorado State 14
• Northern Arizona at Arizona
7 p.m., Pac-12 Networks
NAU was picked to finish ninth out of 12 teams in the Big Sky preseason media poll. There was a time when Arizona was plenty susceptible to an FCS upset, but I’m guessing those days have passed. Still tons of questions about the Wildcats’ transfer-laden defense, but their offense alone will be enough to win this one comfortably. Expect big numbers for receivers Jacob Cowing and Tetairoa McMillan.
Pick: Arizona 51, Northern Arizona 17
• Coastal Carolina at UCLA
7:30 p.m., ESPN
Coastal’s record the last three seasons under Jamey Chadwell: 31-6. Of course, Chadwell is the coach at Liberty now, and the Chanticleers replaced him with Tim Beck, who will coach his first game in the Rose Bowl. Coastal does still have ageless quarterback Grayson McCall, who first threw passes for the Chanticleers in 2019 and has won Sun Belt Offensive Player of the Year three times. He has some talented receivers to throw to. UCLA turns to Ethan Garbers at quarterback after a competition with five-star freshman Dante Moore and Kent State transfer Collin Schlee, though coach Chip Kelly says all will play. We’ll see how Kelly divides carries between talented running backs T.J. Harden and Ball State transfer Carson Steele. We’ll also see how many people show up to watch.
Pick: UCLA 35, Coastal Carolina 20
• Oregon State at San Jose State
12:30 p.m. Sunday, CBS
Interesting to see former Hawaii quarterback Chevan Cordeiro jumpstart his career with the Spartans. He made some nice plays in a 56-28 loss to USC. Will the Beavers present a stiffer defensive challenge? They’re replacing a lot of talent on that side of the ball but still have some nice pieces, too. All eyes will be on Clemson transfer DJ Uiagalelei at quarterback. My guess is the Beavers will rely heavily on their ground game to take care of business in this one, and the Spartans might wear down after facing a pair of top-20 Power 5 opponents in consecutive weeks. And like WSU-Colorado State, this could well be a matchup of future conference foes.
Pick: OSU 42, San Jose State 24
This article was originally published at OnMontlake.com, the new home for Christian Caple’s full UW Huskies football coverage. Subscribe to On Montlake for full access to in-depth UW coverage.
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