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Pac-12 Week 1 Predictions

Todd Graham

Todd Graham

The Pac-12 has its share of one-sided matchups in Week 1, but the conference also boasts intriguing games with Boise State-Washington, Oregon-Eastern Washington, Utah-Michigan and Texas A&M-Arizona State. Stanford is a dark horse pick to get to the College Football Playoff, but the Cardinal opens 2015 with a tricky road test at Northwestern.

Oregon quarterback Vernon Adams faces his former team (Eastern Washington) in his first start with the Ducks, which also happens to be the first game in the post-Marcus Mariota era. With a game against Michigan State up next, Adams has a chance to get acclimated to his new teammates and offense in live action.

On Thursday, the Pac-12 takes center stage with Michigan traveling to Utah, and Colorado visits Hawaii to close out the first night of action.

Athlon Sports offers its Pac-12 Week 1 predictions from three editors: Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven), David Fox (@DavidFox615) and Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch).

Pac-12 Week 1 Game Power Rankings & Predictions

1. Arizona State vs. Texas A&M

Kickoff: 7 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV Channel: ESPN

David Fox:

Mike Bercovici could have an easy time against the Texas A&M secondary … provided his line can keep Myles Garrett from getting up field. 

Arizona State 35–28

Steven Lassan:

Easily one of the weekend’s most intriguing games and should be no shortage of fireworks between these two offenses. An underrated matchup to watch is the Arizona State offensive line against Texas A&M’s defense – under new coordinator John Chavis – with Myles Garrett coming off the edge. The Sun Devils will land their share of big plays, but the Aggies score a key non-conference win.

Texas A&M 34-31

Mitch Light:

John Chavis takes over an A&M defense that allowed a staggering 509.5 points per game against SEC opponents last season. The Aggies will be tested by strong-armed Arizona State quarterback Mike Bercovici. 

Arizona State 34-31

2. Michigan at Utah

Kickoff: 8:30 p.m. ET (Thursday)

TV Channel: Fox Sports 1

David Fox:

I’m not sure if Utah can contend in the Pac-12 South, but Devontae Booker, that defense and the home field advantage will help the Utes steal a game or two.

Utah 24–21

Steven Lassan:

Jim Harbaugh’s debut. Not much else needs to be said for the must-see value of this one. Wouldn’t expect a ton of points on Thursday night, as both teams are solid on defense and enter the season with question marks on offense. Utah’s defense is the difference in this matchup.

Utah 23-20

Mitch Light:

Michigan outgained the Utes 308-to-286 and held Devontae Booker to 34 yards on 11 carries in a 26–10 loss at home last season. The Wolverines will need to duplicate that defensive effort. 

Michigan 24-20

3. Washington at Boise State

Kickoff: 10:15 p.m. ET (Friday)

TV Channel: ESPN

David Fox:

Washington’s defense is rebuilding. So is Boise State’s backfield. I’ll throw my lot in with the Broncos. 

Boise State 35–28

Steven Lassan:

Chris Petersen returns to Boise with a young Washington team. Who will start at quarterback for the Huskies? Interested to see if Jake Browning gets the nod over K.J. Carta-Samuels and Jeff Lindquist. The Broncos are the top Group of 5 team this year, but they are breaking in a new quarterback and starting running back. However, Boise State’s defense is more than enough to win this Friday night matchup.

Boise State 34-20

Mitch Light:

Chris Petersen will get it done at Washington, but the program might take a small step back in Year 2. Boise State continues to rule the Mountain West and should open the season with a nice win against the Pac-12. 

Boise State 31-23

4. Stanford at Northwestern

Kickoff: Noon ET (Saturday)

TV Channel: ESPN

David Fox:

Stanford will have a lopsided advantage in the trenches and has the more experienced quarterback. The Wildcats could go 0-for-the-Bay Area the last two openers. 

Stanford 28–21

Steven Lassan:

Intriguing matchup between two academic powers. Lots of intrigue on both sides, as Northwestern breaks in a talented new quarterback (Clayton Thorson), and Stanford looks to build off last year’s late momentum. The 12-point spread seems too high.

Stanford 27-20

Mitch Light:

Stanford has emerged as a dark horse College Football Playoff contender by some college football observers — including one of my colleagues at Athlon Sports. I disagree. 

Northwestern 24-20

5. Eastern Washington at Oregon

Kickoff: 8 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV Channel: (Pac-12 Networks)

David Fox:

How often does a transfer start his first game with a new team against his old team? Vernon Adams will be under pressure in this one. 

Oregon 49–21

Steven Lassan:

There’s no shortage of storylines here, as new Oregon starter (and Marcus Mariota’s replacement) Vernon Adams makes his first start against his former team. With a trip to East Lansing against Michigan State next week, this is a critical game for Adams and the Ducks’ offense to get on track. Oregon keeps rolling with Adams under center.

Oregon 48-20

Mitch Light:

The real test for Vernon Adams and the Ducks will come in Week 2 when they visit Michigan State, but this game is loaded with intrigue. An upset is highly unlikely, but don’t be surprised if this is a bit closer than expected. 

Oregon 44-27

6. Virginia at UCLA

Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV Channel: FOX

David Fox:

UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen’s first start comes against a team rebuilding the pass rush. 

UCLA 35–21

Steven Lassan:

Last year’s matchup was closer than most anticipated (28-20). Virginia’s defense can keep this one close for a while, but will the offense provide enough of a spark behind new starter Matt Johns to pull off the upset? All eyes will be on true freshman quarterback Josh Rosen for UCLA.

UCLA 31-17

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Mitch Light:

UCLA’s 28–20 win in Charlottesville last season was far more difficult than expected. The Bruins, who will be starting true freshman Josh Rosen at quarterback, won’t have to work quite as hard this time around. 

UCLA 34-20

7. Colorado at Hawaii

Kickoff: 1 a.m. ET (Thursday night/Friday morning)

TV Channel: CBS Sports Network

David Fox:

This is actually an interesting late-night game. Well-traveled USC transfer Max Wittek might give the Warriors a chance, and those late games at Hawaii are always tricky.

Colorado 28–21

Steven Lassan:

Colorado is trending in the right direction, and a win over Hawaii would be a good way to bolster the bowl hopes in 2015. Intriguing quarterback battle between Sefo Liufau (Colorado) and USC transfer Max Wittek (Hawaii). Be sure to set the DVR for this one.

Colorado 38-24

Mitch Light:

Mike McIntyre appears to have things moving in the right direction at Colorado, but wins might be tough to come by in the difficult Pac-12 South. This is a an opportunity for the Buffs to steal a road win.

Colorado 38-27 

8. Arkansas State at USC

Kickoff: 11 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV Channel: Pac-12 Networks

David Fox:

Offseason drama gives way to a talented team that should be more than a match for Arkansas State. 

USC 42–10

Steven Lassan:

Red Wolves have some firepower on offense, but USC simply has too much on both sides of the ball. Keep an eye on the defensive line as it looks to find Leonard Williams' replacement.

USC 45-17

Mitch Light:

USC boasts as much top-end talent as any team in the college football. We’ll find out if the Trojans have the depth and coaching to contend for a national championship. 

USC 38-10

9. UTSA at Arizona

Kickoff: 10 p.m. ET (Thursday)

TV Channel: Pac-12 Networks

David Fox: 

UTSA has zero returning starters on offense. That seems tough to do.

Arizona 42–10

Steven Lassan:

Last year’s meeting in San Antonio went down to the wire (26-23). Don’t expect a repeat this season. UTSA returns only three starters, while Arizona is loaded with firepower on offense and one of the nation’s top defenders in linebacker Scooby Wright.

Arizona 45-13

Mitch Light:

The veteran Roadrunners put a scare into Arizona last year in Week 2, falling 26–23 at the Alamodome. Almost all of the key personnel are gone for UTSA. This will not be close. 

Arizona 41-10

10. Portland State at Washington State

Kickoff: 2 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV Channel: Pac-12 Networks

David Fox:

Washington State will start better than it did last year when the Cougars lost to Rutgers and Nevada. Wazzu’s first win in 2014 was, incidentally, over Portland State 59–21. 

Washington State 49–20

Steven Lassan:

The Cougars knocked off Portland State 59-21 last season. It won’t be close this time around either. Good opportunity for quarterback Luke Falk to build confidence before a road trip to Rutgers next week.

Washington State 51-17

Mitch Light:

Washington State led the nation in passing by more 100 yards per game — a staggering difference between the No. 1 (477.7 ypg) and No. 2 (374.3 ypg) teams in the nation. All the Cougars need is a running game and a defense.  

Washington State 41-17

11. Grambling State at California

Kickoff: 5 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV Channel: Pac-12 Networks

David Fox:

A nice stat-padding game for Jared Goff. 

Cal 48–14

Steven Lassan:

California’s high-powered offense should have no trouble putting points on the board in this one.

California 52-13

Mitch Light:

Expectations are high at California in Year 3 of the Sonny Dykes era. If the Bears can fortify what was an alarmingly bad passing defense, a bowl game is well within reach.

California 63-10

12. Weber State at Oregon State

 Kickoff: 8 p.m. ET (Friday)

TV Channel: Pac-12 Networks

David Fox:

Gary Andersen won’t have a ton of wins to savor in Year One. This could be one of them. 

Oregon State 35–14

Steven Lassan:

Gary Andersen’s tenure in Corvallis should get off to a good start. The quarterback battle is worth watching, as the Beavers expect to play at least two freshmen (Seth Collins and Marcus McMaryion).

Oregon State 40-10

Mitch Light:

Gary Andersen is a proven winner who has enjoyed success at Utah State and Wisconsin. However, his first season at Oregon State will be a challenge. Anything but a last-place finish in the Pac-12 North should be considered a success. 

Oregon State 28-13