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College Hotline - Pac-12 football picks of the week: UCLA and USC take on the SEC

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    The best Week One schedule in college football history features several Pac-12 teams in high-profile games.

    * Love USC and UCLA agreeing to play Alabama (neutral) and Texas A&M (road), respectively.

    * And good for Oregon State (Minnesota), Stanford (Kansas State) and Arizona (Brigham Young).

    But the conference, which usually puffs its chest when the topic is scheduling, only has two-thirds of a leg to stand on this week.

    Four teams — four! — are facing FCS opponents.

    You know how many SEC teams are facing FCS opponents? None.

    Yes, the SEC deserves criticism for its some of its scheduling practices, and yes, the Pac-12 generally sets the Power 5 standard. But there’s some nuance to the situation.

    This weekend, SEC teams will face Wisconsin, North Carolina, West Virginia, UCLA, USC, Florida State and Clemson.

    Roast ’em for the eight-game conference schedule, but don’t say they don’t play anybody.




    Last season: 40-39-3
    This season: 0-0 (Did not pick the Cal-Hawaii game.)
    Five-star special: 0-0

    All picks against the spread.
    Lines taken from vegasinsider.com (opening lines used – for entertainment purposes only)

    Teams not listed below (i.e., FCS opponents): Utah, Oregon, Arizona State, Washington State.

    Bye: Cal.

    OREGON STATE (plus-13) at MINNESOTA (Thursday): Line opened at OSU plus-7, and a jump of that magnitude demands that I take a realistic approach and play the current number. Gary Andersen’s familiarity with the Gophers should help keep this somewhat tight. Pick: Oregon State.

    COLORADO (minus-10) vs. COLORADO STATE (Friday in Denver): Series is usually close but the expectation here is for the Buffs to take a leap from their level of recent years. Healthy quarterback Sefo Liufau should pick apart a rebuilt CSU defense. Pick: Colorado.

    KANSAS STATE (plus-16.5) at STANFORD (Friday): Stanford will avoid another Week One calamity, of that there is little doubt. But that’s too many points to give a veteran Bill Snyder defense (nine returning starters) against a new Cardinal quarterback (Ryan Burns: one career pass). Pick: Kansas State.

    UCLA (plus-1) at TEXAS A&M: Josh Rosen makes an early statement, as does the UCLA defense, against a program that seems wobbly. Would be an important win for the Pac-12 given the daunting task in its other matchup with the SEC. Pick: UCLA.

    USC (plus-9) ALABAMA: Forget the Lane Kiffin angle. This prime time collision is intriguing because both teams have new quarterbacks and because it matches the nation’s top defensive line (Bama) against one of the best offensive lines (USC). If that’s a draw, or close or a draw, then the outcome likely will hinge on how well USC’s vulnerable defensive front holds up in the second half against Alabama’s power running game. I would be very surprised if the Trojans get wiped out early. Pick: USC.

    ARIZONA (minus-3) vs. BRIGHAM YOUNG (in Glendale): First installment of a three-game series is good timing for Arizona in that BYU is breaking in a new coaching staff. Expect Cougars quarterback Tanner Mangum to have some success through the air, but the difference will be Nick Wilson and the Wildcats’ running game. Line has dropped to 1. It’s headed the wrong way. Pick: Arizona.

    RUTGERS (plus-22) at WASHINGTON: Hugely anticipated season is finally here for UW, and it starts with a Big Ten bottom feeder with a new staff. The Huskies might misfire early but should be in charge late. Not sure about the line, however. Backdoor cover worries me. Pick: Rutgers.

    STRAIGHT-UP WINNERS: Minnesota, Colorado, Stanford, UCLA, Alabama, Arizona and Washington.

    FIVE-STAR SPECIAL: UCLA. I’m on the Jim Mora bandwagon … err, make that the Josh Rosen bandwagon … until there’s reason to hop off. That could come soon, but not this week. An impressive start for the Bruins.

    * Follow me on Twitter: @WilnerHotline



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    by Jon Wilner
     

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