The Pac-12 season will kickoff on Thursday with Utah hosting Michigan and #22 Arizona preparing for a blowout over UTSA. There’s plenty of action this weekend in the Pac-12 with three or four very interesting games. I went 49-19 with my Pac-12 picks last season.
Here are my Pac-12 Week 1 Picks:
Thursday, September 3
30 Michigan at Utah 27
Utah returns 16 starters to a team that went 9-4 last season, but they do have to replace Kaelin Clay and Dres Anderson on offense. The team also loses six defensive contributors, with four of those players in the secondary. Quarterback Travis Wilson struggled at times for the Utes in 2014, but he should be much better under new co-offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick this season.
This game should be the best game of the Thursday’s night bunch. Jim Harbaugh makes his Michigan coaching debut against a team that might be the sleeper in the Pac-12, which makes this game a very entertaining one. Both teams have had quarterback battles, with the Utes announcing Wilson as their starter and the Wolverines announcing Shane Morris or Jake Rudock as the Michigan starter (Harbaugh has reportedly told the QBs who the starter will be). Utah returns Devontae Booker, who could be a potential sleeper for the Heisman Trophy after his 2014 performance. The Wolverines defense was one of the more underrated platoons in football last year and 24 of the 29 players from the last season’s defense are back. Michigan will also get to see the debut of highly touted safety Jabrill Peppers. The Michigan defense will play a major role in the game and I think they’ll shut down the Utah offense and pull out a three point victory.
9 UTSA at #22 Arizona 42
Friday, September 4
30 Colorado at Hawaii 24
3 Weber State at Oregon State 41
21 Washington at #23 Boise State 27
Chris Petersen makes his first trip back to the blue turf on Friday since leaving Boise State for the Huskies. Petersen’s team returns just nine starters from his squad that went 8-6 last year. The team lost all of their talent on defense with the departures of Danny Shelton, Marcus Peters and Shaq Thompson, who were all first round picks in the 2015 NFL Draft. They’ll also have to replace most of both lines and a new quarterback. Washington’s secondary should be fine with freshman All-American Budda Baker returning at free safety. The Huskies also return running back Dwayne Washington, who started to show his potential at the end of the 2014 season. Boise State returns all but one player on their defensive line, two linebackers and two All-Conference defensive backs. The Broncos clearly have more depth and this should be an interesting game since both teams break in a new starting quarterback. But I think defense wins this game and I’ll go with Boise State on this one.
Saturday, September 5
37 #21 Stanford at Northwestern 16
10 Portland State at Washington State 38
20 Virginia at #13 UCLA 24
This game is a tough one to predict especially after watching these two teams play last year, seeing UCLA score three defensive touchdowns. The Bruins also lost quarterback Brett Hundley, who was drafted by the Packers and they’ll replace him with freshman Josh Rosen. Virginia’s defense is very good and have a chance to pull off the upset on Saturday. Rosen will have a tough time throwing on safety Quin Blanding and cornerback Maurice Canady. The Cavaliers front seven lost Eli Harold and Max Valles, with both players leaving early for the NFL. The D-line has potential, but I think they still need to gain experience. This could be a game with a lot of mistakes, since both teams debut their fair share of new players. UCLA will rely on running back Paul Perkins to carry their offense and their gifted offensive line should have no problems pushing Virginia’s D-line around.
3 Grambling State at California 49
38 #15 Arizona State vs Texas A&M 35
This is one early game with huge playoff implications, with Arizona State looking to be a contender in the Pac-12 and Texas A&M looking to be a sleeper in the SEC. The Aggies defense had consistently been bad and they look to improve on that unit by adding coordinator John Chavis. The Sun Devils have plenty of talent on offense with Mike Bercovici returning as their starting quarterback and D.J. Foster being his number one target. The Aggies also have a talented quarterback in sophomore Kyle Allen, with receivers Speedy Noil and Ricky Seals-Jones being his main targets. I think this game will be a high scoring affair with almost no defense.
0 Eastern Washington at #7 Oregon 56
13 Arkansas State at #8 USC 42