Conference favored in eight games against FBS foes as anticipated season begins
The Pac-12’s final season (at least in its current form) begins Thursday with four consecutive days of games.
The conference is favored in eight of nine games against FBS opponents, including Utah’s crucial clash with Florida. Eight victories combined with three wins over FCS opponents would make for a fantastic first weekend.
However, the betting outlook is not as promising. Pac-12 teams are road favorites in four games against Group of Five opponents, and double-digit road favorites in two.
Historically, the conference has not performed well in this capacity.
Welcome to another season of Hotline picks against the spread, where we aim to finish above.500 and pick a winner in every Pac-12 game — even the ones we’d rather not watch.
Last season, the Hotline went 47-40-1 against the spread (54%).
Let’s get started.
All bets are against the spread. BetMGM (via VegasInsider.com) provided the lines.
Arizona, Arizona State, and Oregon are not included as FBS opponents.
(All times are in Pacific)
Florida at Utah (Thursday) Kickoff: 5 p.m. on ESPN Line: Utah -6.5 (Total: 45.5) Comment: All eyes are on Utah quarterback Cam Rising, who is out with a knee injury but is listed as the starter. Will he take the first snap and perform at or near his peak? That is, without a doubt, a significant factor. But keep one eye on the trenches, where Utah’s offensive line must provide consistent protection for Rising (or backups Bryson Barnes and Nate Johnson) while also opening up enough running lanes to create the necessary balance. We like the Utes to win but not cover in a rematch that could be as close as Florida’s 29-26 victory in The Swamp last season. Notable: Utah kicker Cole Becker made 11-of-13 field goals for Colorado last season. Pick: Florida
Stanford at Hawaii (Friday) Kickoff: 8 p.m. on CBS Sports Network Line: Stanford -4 (Total: 60.5) Comment: Coach Troy Taylor should make the most of his limited personnel in the first year of his rebuilding project. Most weeks, that will not be enough to win the game. However, the Cardinal has the potential to be a fantastic underdog play until the betting public adjusts and the point spread reflects the improvement. Stanford should be able to hold its own against a shaky opponent like Hawaii, which finished 3-9 last season under rookie coach Timmy Chang.
Colorado at TCU Kickoff: 9 a.m. on Fox Line: Colorado +21 (Total: 59.5) Comment: The Deion Sanders era begins against last season’s CFP finalists in one of the weekend’s main events. The Horned Frogs return only 10 starters from their magical run, and quarterback Max Duggan is no longer available to calmly navigate late-game mayhem. Meanwhile, Sanders must assemble a cohesive team from a roster that includes over 60 newcomers. We don’t see an upset, but the Buffaloes could get a backdoor cover. Pick: Colorado
Boise State at Washington Kickoff: 12:30 p.m. on ABC Line: Washington -14.5 (Total: 58.5) Comment: With two returning quarterbacks, two potent offenses, and two evolving defenses, this game could be the most entertaining of the weekend. (Watch for Boise State’s veteran receivers to test UW’s inexperienced secondary.) Last season, the Huskies went over the total eight times, and we expect this match to go over 58.5 points. As for the outcome, expect a close game in the first half before UW’s playmakers take control in the second half. Pick: Washington
Cal at North Texas Kickoff: 1 p.m. on ESPNU Line: Cal -7 (Total: 56.5) Comment: A risky game for the Bears, who open the season on the road against a mid-level Group of Five opponent with 15 returning starters. These teams, however, are not the foreign adversaries you might expect: North Texas coach Eric Morris was the offensive coordinator at Washington State last season, so he is familiar with Cal’s defense and the Bears’ offense. (After breaking open a close game in the fourth quarter, WSU won the head-to-head matchup 28-9.) We despise the Bears as a road favorite, but we love the Under whenever a Justin Wilcox team goes over 55 points. Pick: North Texas
Nevada at USC Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. on Pac-12 Networks Line: USC -38 (Total: 66) Comment: The Trojans don’t need a competitive advantage against the Wolf Pack, but they do have one: They played last week (against San Jose State) and were able to work out season-opening kinks, whereas Nevada will have to deal with the unavoidable Week 1 hiccups. Something has gone very wrong for the home team if USC quarterback Caleb Williams is on the field in the fourth quarter. Pick: USC
Washington State at Colorado State Kickoff: 4 p.m. on CBS Sports Network Line: Washington State -11.5 (Total: 54.5) Comment: The Cougars are in the unusual (for them) position of being road favorites, and according to our research, they have not been a double-digit road favorite since the end of Mike Leach’s tenure (2019). CSU is in its second year under coach Jay Norvell and should be significantly better than the three-win team we saw last season. WSU playcaller Ben Arbuckle, who is in his first Power Five game, is only a few weeks away from turning 28. His rapport with quarterback Cam Ward is high on our list of concerns. Pick: Colorado State
Coastal Carolina at UCLA Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. on ESPN Line: UCLA -14.5 (Total: 65.5) Comment: UCLA’s starting quarterback will not go by the initials DTR for the first time since the 2017 season. How will veteran Ethan Garbers handle the first-string quarterback position, and how will coach Chip Kelly’s planned quarterback rotation with Collin Schlee and Dante Moore affect UCLA’s continuity? Coastal Carolina has a first-year head coach (Tim Beck) and a slew of unknowns in the post-Jamey Chadwell era. Pick: UCLA
Oregon State at San Jose State (Sunday) Kickoff: 12:30 p.m. on CBS Line: Oregon State -17.5 (54.5) Comment: If you’re looking for a big Week 1 upset, this has everything. We expect quarterback DJ Uiagalelei to have an uneven game in his OSU debut, but the main reason for an unexpected result is the competitive tilt toward the home team: While the Beavers were at home watching Week 0 action, SJSU played last week (at USC). Expect the Spartans to effectively move the ball behind quarterback Chevan Cordeiro (three touchdowns, no interceptions against USC) and push OSU to the brink of defeat. Pick: San Jose State
Utah, Stanford, TCU, Washington, North Texas, USC, WSU, UCLA, and Oregon State are the clear winners.
San Jose State is a five-star special. The game will be close throughout. Even if the Spartans lose decisively in the final minutes, the backdoor cover could be in play.