The Pac-12 looks like it will be a very entertaining conference in 2015 and one where I will look to pick a lot of games against the spread. Here are five games I will look to be involved in this season:
September 25- Stanford at Oregon state: Stanford has an early season conference test at USC on national TV. Six days later they go up to Oregon State. Not a game you have to bet because Oregon State is going through a rebuilding process but something to keep an eye on early in the season.
October 22- California at UCLA: In a odd scheduling situation, UCLA play on Thursday nights in back-to-back weeks. They play at Stanford before hosting California. Stanford is a physical team that could wear down UCLA at the line of scrimmage. This could setup well for a California team that will look to play in a high tempo offense. I’m also high on California this season and think they will finish third in the Pac-12 North. The Golden Bears are off a bye week and I think they will keep it close in Pasadena.
The first ever College Football Playoff National Championship sees Ohio State and Oregon play in Arlington, Texas. The talent level on both teams are about equal. The Buckeyes have the coaching edge with Urban Meyer, who thrives in the role as an underdog. The reason Oregon is a touchdown favorite over Ohio State is because of the quarterback edge. Marcus Mariota has been decorated with awards throughout this collegiate career and has the chance to win the most important prize tonight. Mariota is very consistent, doesn’t turn the ball over much and has great foot work. Ohio State is starting Cardale Jones who is only making his third start. He impressed in wins over Wisconsin and Alabama but it’s hard to say if his success will continue on Monday night. If Jones plays like he did in the Sugar Bowl, then Ohio State will stay close in this game throughout. I think Urban Meyer will come out with a game plan to control the clock early, which will lead to a lower scoring first half. The first half under 37.5 looks attractive. I think Jones will play well and there has been something with Oregon not playing well in big games in the past. I think Ohio State can win this game but will take the points just in case.
Pick: Ohio State (+7) over Oregon
Don’t have time for analysis but here are the five games I like today:
North Carolina State (+14.5) over Virginia
Grizzlies (+3.5) over Hawks
Pistons (+9) over Mavericks
Maryland (-2.5) over Illinois
California (-1) over USC
It’s not often that an undefeated team is more than a touchdown underdog. Well that’s the case in the Rose Bowl where Florida State puts their 29-game win streak on the line against Oregon. Anyone who watched college football the last two season knows that the 2013 version of Florida State was significantly better than the 2014 Seminoles. Florida State had close calls against Clemson, Notre Dame, Louisville, Miami, Boston College, Florida and Georgia Tech but the only thing that matters is they won each of the games.
Oregon had one slip up back in October against Arizona but showed why they are one of the best teams in the country the rest of the way. Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota was especially strong this season. They are getting a lot of respect in the point spread because they played a Pac-12 schedule. But are they getting too much respect?
I think the spread is too high and will take Florida State plus the points. The Seminoles will have used the break before the Rose Bowl to get healthier and clear their minds of any off the field issues. I still think Oregon will win this game but Florida State will keep it close.
Pick: Florida State (+8.5) over Oregon
Boise State gets the opportunity to play in a big name bowl game after being the highest ranked team from outside the power five conferences. The Broncos play the Arizona Wildcats who won the Pac-12 South.
The handicap for this game is similar to the Utah-Colorado State bowl game. Arizona is the Pac-12 team who played very tough schedule and have impressive wins at Oregon, at Utah and against Arizona State. Boise State played in the Mountain West, a conference struggling this bowl season. The Broncos opened the season with a loss to Ole Miss and also lost at Air Force in conference play before ending the season on a eight-game win streak.
This line has dropped since it opened, which makes me like Arizona even more. Some would argue that they ended their season in disappointment by losing to Oregon in the Pac-12 title game. However, there was no shame in losing that game and Arizona will still be motivated to finish the season strong close to home.
Pick: Arizona (-3) over Boise State
USC and Nebraska play Saturday night in the Holiday Bowl. It’s a short trip for the Trojans to San Diego, while the Cornhuskers have to do some traveling. Nebraska will be without head coach Bo Pelini who was fired after his per usual nine-win season in Lincoln. Apparently that doesn’t cut it at Nebraska, and the Cornhuskers surprisingly hired Oregon State coach Mike Riley to take over the program. Riley won’t be on the sideline yet and I don’t see Nebraska having any motivation in this game.
USC has been to better bowl games before but this program has been quickly rebuilt after facing sanctions and scholarship losses. This bowl game is important for the Trojans to gain momentum into 2015. The USC offense led by quarterback Cody Kessler might be able to score at will against a Nebraska defense that really fell off towards the end of the season.
Another reason to pick USC is to pick against a Big Ten school. Nebraska’s best win was probably out of conference against Miami. They did beat Iowa but it took an epic Hawkeyes collapse for the Cornhuskers to win the game. USC had the better schedule and should have a slight home field advantage.
Pick: USC (-7) over Nebraska
*Note my Week 17 NFL picks will be posted on the website after 11 pm central time on Saturday night.
Utah and Colorado State meet in Las Vegas on Saturday afternoon in a battle between two former Mountain West rivals. Now Utah is in the Pac-12 and back in a bowl game after a two-year absence. The Utes finished 8-4 overall and 5-4 in a challenging conference slate. Colorado finished 10-2 but only played five teams that reached a bowl game.
The Utah offense is led by quarterback Travis Wilson and running back Devontae Booker. I think Booker will able to run on the Colorado State defense. Rams head coach Jim McElwain won’t be on the sideline because he took the Florida job. I don’t think McElwain’s absence will make much of a difference but I’m going to pick Utah in this game.
Utah played a tougher schedule and I like to pick teams from a power conferences when they are playing a “mid-major”. The talent level might not be much of a difference here but I think the Utes are a more motivated team in this spot after being left out of postseason play for two seasons.
Pick: Utah (-2.5) over Colorado State