The Washington Huskies bring Jake Locker and a bunch of other offensive weapons to Provo to take on a BYU team that was very vulnerable to high-powered offenses in 2009 and will likely be again in 2010 given how much rebuilding they need to do on defense. Moreover, if Washington's biggest weakness is run defense (my guess), BYU doesn't seem built to take advantage without Harvey Unga.
On the Other Hand:
BYU generally has a good home field advantage (FSU game last year aside), and Washington hasn't won away from Seattle since winning at Stanford back in 2007. That's not a good trend to bring into this game. And don't forget, BYU was an 11-2 team that had a convincing win against Oregon St last year (Washington got blown out by the Beavers). Even if some of the matchups favor the Huskies, this is definitely not going to be an easy game for them.
I think that Washington is the better team, and I think that overall, the matchups favor them. If they can handle themselves on the road (a big if), they should win this game.
Washington 31, @ BYU 23
Oregon St (+13.5) @ TCU
Everyone know Oregon St sucks on the road early. Everyone knows Oregon St struggles when they break in a new quarterback. Everyone knows TCU is going to be a really good team this year. Is this pick really that easy?
On the Other Hand:
At some point, even if by blind luck, Oregon St is going to get a QB that doesn't need to slowly climb up the learning curve to reach competence. If that happens this year, the Beavers could actually win this game. They've got a solid defense, strong offensive line, and the Rodgers brothers may be the two best players on the field (though TCU's Andy Dalton and Tank Carder may have something to say on the matter). At the least, if they get a decent performance from Katz, two touchdowns is too big of a line, even for Oregon St on the road in week one.
It's Oregon St, on the road, in week one, with a new quarterback. When that many trends scream "take the other guys!", and the other team should be better, the pick almost makes itself.
@ TCU 28, Oregon St 13
UCLA (+1.5) @ Kansas St
The season hasn't even started yet, and UCLA is already feeling the pain of injuries, especially on the offensive line. Throw in Kevin Prince's questionable status, and they've got serious issues on offense. And with the defense looking like it's rebuilding, it could be tough for the Bruins to go on the road and beat anyone good.
On the Other Hand: Admittedly I'm no KSU expert, but I'm really not buying the Wildcats. They lose their starting QB, a bunch of guys on defense, and most of their receivers. As it was, they were only 4-6 last year against 1-A teams, with the best teams they beat either being Texas A&M or Kansas. And did I mention they lost to Louisiana (Sun Belt Louisiana, not LSU)? It's no wonder that Bill Snyder wanted no part of annual games with Texas and Oklahoma starting in 2012 ( link here ).
Bottom Line: Winning in Manhattan (KSU usually does pretty well there) is a tall task for a Bruin team that frequently struggles on the road. That said, they still do have better talent than the Wildcats, and this is an absolute must-win if they are to have any remotely realistic chance of making a bowl game in 2010. Something tells me they find a way to get it done.
UCLA 24, @ Kansas St 21
Arizona (-16) @ Toledo
The real question here is whether Toledo is one of the mediocre teams that Arizona makes a living crushing, or whether they're good enough to hang with the ‘Cats, in which case this could actually be an upset. Unfortunately for Toledo, they look like they're in the first group. Their defense was a sieve last year against the run and the pass, only once holding an opponent under 20 points, and three tims giving up over 50. The Wildcats will run or throw at will, and the Rockets don't have the offense to keep up on the scoreboard. This one should get ugly.
Arizona 38, @ Toledo 17
USC (-21.5) @ Hawaii
This feels like a fairly boring game where USC wins by 17 – 28 points. Hawaii has a good home-field advantage, USC is rebuilding at a number of key positions… but a minor blowout still seems pretty likely. The talent difference is just too big to think that this should be an interesting game. 21.5 may be a touch high for a spread, but not by much.
USC 35, @ Hawaii 14
Washington St (+15.5) @ Oklahoma St
Something tells me that NO ONE will be picking the Cougars to cover, and that makes this a dangerous line. Moreover, the Cowboys are in a severe rebuilding mode, which will be especially difficult for them early in the year. If this is really a matchup of the 70th best team and the 100th best team (a reasonable guess on both ends), then anything over two touchdowns in just too much. And finally, if there's any chance that almost everyone is wrong about the Cougars, and that having more depth, more experience, and a healthy James Montgomery makes them substantially better, then this might actually be a winnable game. I'm definitely not going that far… but I could definitely see this being competitive.
@ Oklahoma St 31, Washington St 21
New Mexico @ Oregon (-34)
The only real question here is whether how hard Oregon tries to cover the line. Since they're breaking in a new QB, I'm guessing they spend a lot of time trying to go through the whole playbook and doing everything they can do to give him more experience. That means they won't likely let up until later in the game, and it's unlikely that the Lobo offense can do much of anything against Oregon's very good defense.
@ Oregon 48, New Mexico 7
Portland St @ Arizona St (NL)
@ Arizona St 45, Portland St 3
UC Davis @ Cal (NL)
@ Cal 45, UC Davis 3
Sac St @ Stanford (NL)
Yawn (though Stanford did gag against the last AA team they played five years ago, so I guess you never know).
@ Stanford 45, Sac St 3
National Games of the Week:
Boise St (-2.5) @ Virginia Tech
This is a really tough game to pick. Honestly, I think it's a 10-14 point win waiting to happen, accompanied by the endless "of course this was going to happen, how could any of you idiots pick the other side" by the winning team's fans. That said, I really don't know which team it will be, so I'm going with the wimpy pick instead.
Boise St 24, @ Virginia Tech 23
UNC vs LSU (-3)
Before all the off-field problems for UNC, I liked them to ride a stifling defense to a nice early season win. Now, though, a number of the defensive players may be out, perhaps the whole season. Presuming at least a couple have to site (wild, uninformed guess on my part), I'll take LSU. If they all return, I'd take UNC. In other words, I need to make a guess, but this isn't exactly a high-confidence pick.
LSU 24, UNC 17
Pitt @ Utah (-3)
Another tough game to call. On a neutral site I'd give Pitt a small talent edge, but since it's at Utah…
@ Utah 28, Pitt 27
Colorado St +12
This game is usually fun. Seven of the last eight have been decided by a TD or less, and I don't think that the Buffs have improved enough to pull off another 2008 blowout.
Middle Tennessee St +3
MTSU has had a good tendency to cover at home vs AQ teams (covered against Louisville in 2006, covered vs Virginia in 2007, won outright vs Maryland in 2008), were arguably the better team in 2009, and return a lot more than the Gophers. I think they win outright.
Questions, comments or suggestions? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org