Predicting the outcome of every Week 1 Pac-12 game – Sports Illustrated

The Pac-12 is home to some of the most intriguing matchups around college football in Week 1

The dreadful period without actual football games are over, which means we will now have football games every week from now until December. 

There are always good games in the early weeks, but the Pac-12 might be home to some of the best non-conference games across the country. There are top dogs taking on other conference’s best, and very talented group of five teams who may be taking on future conference foes

As it currently sits, the Pac-12 has three ranked teams ranked with all of them being within the top-15. Of those three teams, two of them will be taking on SEC teams in away/neutral site games. Those two games have some of the biggest playoff implications across the country, and it is only Week 1.

With that being said, I will now attempt to predict the outcome of every Pac-12 game each week and will keep an updated score to show how accurate I am. So, let’s dive in!

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Northern Arizona vs. Arizona State

This game is a Thursday night game, as Arizona State looks to get in the win column early. This will be the first time we see Emory Jones as a Sun Devil, and this should provide Arizona State with a much needed confidence boost early in the season. This is the Northern Arizona team that beat Arizona last season, but the Wildcats were putrid all season so that win doesn’t carry much weight here. 

The Sun Devils are 5-1 in the past 6 seasons in Week 1, it is hard to imagine that they slip up here even with the mass exodus of transfers that left. Northern Arizona finished 5-6 last season, and start this season off No. 7 in the Big Sky in both the coaches and media polls. The Sun Devils should have few issues in this game. 

Prediction: ASU 38, NAU 10

TCU vs. Colorado

A return to the Pac-12 for Sonny Dykes who is now the head coach at TCU after a ton of success at SMU. This will be a very tough matchup for Colorado. TCU is favored by two touchdowns, and it wouldn’t surprise me if they win by more. The new look TCU defense under former Tulsa defensive coordinator, Joe Gillespie, will make life difficult for whoever gets the starting nod at quarterback for the Buffs. 

What will be interesting in this game is the TCU quarterback battle between multi-year starter Max Duggan, Oklahoma transfer Chandler Morris, and redshirt freshman Sam Jackson as all three are expected to receive some run. When an opposing team is using you as somewhat of a scrimmage environment, that has to be a tough look but I fully expect Morris to excel given that he is the most gifted passer of the three, and I am confident this game will not be close. Colorado lost a lot of key players on defense in linebacker Nate Layman, defensive lineman Mustafa Johnson, and safety Christian Gonzalez, which will make stopping this likely electric TCU offense very difficult.

Prediction: TCU 38, Colorado 15

Bowling Green vs. UCLA

There is a ton of pressure on UCLA to succeed this season given the fact that they are coming off the first winning season in the Chip Kelly era. Also in part due to the fact that they were able to return a fifth-year senior at quarterback in Dorian Thompson-Robinson, while having one of the best running backs in the country in Zach Charbonnet come back as well. 

This is a Bowling Green team who finished 4-8 overall and 2-6 in Mid-American Conference play last season, and a team that the Bruins should have no issue unleashing their rushing attack against. Bowling Green lost by an average of nearly 20 points last season, and I expect this loss to be pretty ugly for them. 

Prediction: UCLA 50, Bowling Green 14

#11 Oregon vs. #3 Georgia

While they are both top-15 teams, ESPN’S FPI heavily favors the defending champs giving them a 91.5% chance of winning. This is technically a “neutral” site game given that it is the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game, but considering they are playing in Atlanta, there won’t be much green in the stands. There is a 17 point spread for this game, as the Ducks are viewed as major underdogs against a team that just sported the best defense the sport has ever seen. 

On the bright side for Oregon, Georgia lost 15 starters to the NFL with majority being from that defense, and also added Georgia’s defensive coordinator from a year ago, Dan Lanning, as their head coach. This game has playoff implications, as this will be a signature win for either team but it would mean more to Oregon. They are believed to be starting Bo Nix at quarterback who has SEC experience, and is back with Kenny Dillingham as his offensive coordinator, which is when he was at his best at Auburn. I think this game will be closer than the spread and FPI are giving Oregon credit, but I still think Georgia will be tough to overcome. 

Prediction: Georgia 25, Oregon 19 

Arizona vs. San Diego State

This is one of the more underrated games when it comes to Week 1 matchups. Arizona may be coming off a horrendous 1-11 season, but were able to add elite transfers in quarterback Jayden de Laura and receiver Jacob Cowing. This San Diego State team beat the Wildcats at home last season, but Arizona will surely put up a better fight this season. This can also be considered a potential future Pac-12 matchup. 

This will be the first game played at Snapdragon Stadium, the Aztecs’ new home field, which could add some extra motivation to both sides. San Diego State is typically home to one of the best defenses in football, while on offense they will rely on journeyman Braxton Burmeister to lead the way. The Aztecs lost quite a few key players from their 12-2 roster a year ago, but Brady Hoke seems to have his system locked and loaded. I think Arizona will hold their own, but I am calling for a costly turnover and San Diego State winning the time of possession, which leads to another Aztec win. 

Prediction: San Diego State 29, Arizona 20

UC Davis vs. Cal

A down the street battle, which will likely be closer than it should be. This also will be a battle of mentor and mentee, as when UC Davis coach Dan Hawkins was at Boise State, he employed Wilcox as a graduate assistant. Cal on the other hand is hoping to finally get out of the offensive rut that they find themselves in, and are turning to Purdue transfer Jack Plummer at quarterback. The Golden Bears’ linebackers will be a stout bunch led by Washington transfer Jackson Sirmon. They will need a huge performance by them to stop UC Davis’ rushing attack.

The Aggies are led by fifth-year senior and running back, Ulonzo Gilliam Jr, as they will look to ride him to victory, but Cal should be able to slow down the run. It is typically their offense that is their achilles heal. 

Prediction: Cal 24, UC Davis 12

Rice vs. #14 USC

Our first look at the newly revamped USC football program won’t tell us much. They are favored by over 30 points, and were given a 96.1% chance to win over a Rice team who finished 4-8 last season.  If anything this will be a tune up game before what could be a very intriguing matchup at Stanford for the Trojans. 

This will be the first time we see Caleb Williams with Jordan Addison, and I fully expect this USC offense to run circles around Rice and have the backups in the game by the third quarter. The only thing I will closely be paying attention to is how USC’s defense looks. They are the weak link of the team, which is no surprise when it comes to Lincoln Riley led teams but it will be interesting to see if they sputter at first. 

Prediction: USC 55, Rice 6

#7 Utah vs. Florida

One of the most talked about matchups across the country is this one right there. The defending Pac-12 champs are traveling to The Swamp to take on the Billy Napier led Florida Gators. Although Florida isn’t ranked, they will provided the Utes defense with an interesting test, led by dark horse Heisman candidate Anthony Richardson who compiled over compiling 930 yards as the backup last season. He has a cannon and is one of the fastest players on the team, and often draws comparisons to Cam Newton. If the Utes lose this game, you can likely kiss their playoff chances goodbye based on how the voters view the Pac-12.

However, they really shouldn’t lose this game even though they are favored by just three. There is one nugget that doesn’t bode well for Utah, which is Florida owns the longest active season-opening home win streak in FBS (32) since 1990. Utah’s defense should be the difference in this game, which is why I have them winning. It also helps having one of the countries most underrated quarterbacks in Cam Rising, along with touchdown machine Tavion Thomas in the backfield. This game will be an early wakeup call for Utah, who could possibly be still riding the high of last season. 

Prediction: Utah 33, Florida 28

Colgate vs. Stanford

This game is the one game on the Stanford schedule that you can comfortably look at and say they should win. Colgate was one of the worst teams in the FCS last season, and lost some key players from their roster.

If anything, this game will be more so a showcase of Stanford’s finally healthy roster as they were injury depleted all year in 2021. Look for the Cardinal to establish the run with E.J. Smith, and maybe let Tanner McKee uncork some big throws to his very talented group of receivers. This will be a good soft opening for the new 4-3 defense for Stanford, who is looking to be much better on that side of the ball. If the Cardinal lose this game, it will be tough sledding the rest of the way. 

Prediction: Stanford 38, Colgate 10 

Idaho vs. Washington State

If you haven’t heard of or seen Cam Ward play quarterback, you are in for an absolute treat. The Incarnate World transfer is viewed as one of the best arm talents across the country after throwing for nearly 5,000 yards and 47 touchdowns a year ago.

The Idaho Vandals are coming off a 4-7 season that saw their defense get torched for over 400 yards per game last season. The ESPN FPI gives the cougars a 95.4% chance to win, and I fully expect this game to get out of hand pretty quick. The most fun fact I could think of is the fact that these schools are separated by just a nine minute drive, whilst Washington State is 4.5 hours away from Seattle. I’m calling for a huge win for the Cougars, and an electric performance by Ward. 

Prediction: Washington State 36, Idaho 3

Boise State vs. Oregon State

Another game that I am calling a potential future Pac-12 matchup, Oregon State is looking to build off their great season last year under Johnathan Smith. The only issue, Boise State is no pushover by any means. The Beavers were given a 49.8% chance to beat the Broncos, and to make matters worse the Beavers have lost six consecutive season openers.

Boise State is led by one of the best group of five quarterbacks in Hank Bachmeier, and are hoping to win the Mountain West this year. If the Beavers offensive line can prevent the Bronco’s experienced defense from getting to the quarterback they have a great chance to win. However, something inside of me is calling for the Mountain West to sweep the Pac-12 this week. I think its close, but I think Boise State wins.

Prediction: Boise State 25, Oregon State 21

Kent State vs. Washington

After the bizarre Jimmy Lake era, Washington has turned to Kalen DeBoer who had great success at Fresno State. He also will have is guy from Indiana, Michael Penix Jr., starting at quarterback as the Huskies look to turn around the program after a 4-8 season. If he can stay healthy he will provide this offense a major boost. 

Whoever made Kent State’s schedule must hate them, as they take on Washington, No. 9 Oklahoma, and No. 3 Georgia in three of their first four games.  They have a new quarterback after the departure of Dustin Crum, and it likely won’t be a fun month of September. This game might be a shootout at first, but Washington should have no issue pulling away. The Huskies are favored by nearly 23 points, and I think they will exceed that mark.

Prediction: Washington 44, Kent State 17

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Stanford Cardinal

Stanford Cardinal

USC Trojans

USC Trojans

UCLA Bruins

UCLA Bruins

Georgia Bulldogs

Georgia Bulldogs

Oregon Ducks

Oregon Ducks

Florida Gators

Florida Gators