All PAC-12 teams have games scheduled this week, and I have predictions for all of them, beginning with the ratings buster, Oregon, at national champion Georgia. You can see all 71 of the Savvy Index college football predictions here.
Yes, I know, this game is scheduled for a neutral site because folk down south like treatin’ their elite guests with politeness.
But, once we understand that Atlanta is 60 miles from the Georgia campus and Oregon is over 2600 miles, the relativity of politeness begins to appear like a bad uncle hidden in the closet.
As far as the game goes, Georgia has an advantage in returning coaches, while Oregon has an advantage in returning overall talent.
Kirby Smart of Georgia and Dan Lanning of Oregon are wearing shiny new national championship rings, but Smart got his as head coach while Lanning got his as defensive coordinator; both at Georgia.
Georgia ranks 82nd on my Savvy Index system of evaluating overall returning talent, not including quarterbacks, while Oregon is ranked 31st.
When we look at quarterbacks, we see that Georgia returns Stetson Bennett while Oregon is looking to Auburn transfer Bo Nix. I suspect it is inarguable that Bennett has better passing efficiency and rushing numbers, but I think it is equally inarguable that Oregon has gained more at the quarterback position than Georgia.
In searching the various Savvy trend lines of these two teams, the most noticeable differences point to the rushing game as the primary determinant of which team will win. Both ran the ball at precisely 5.3 yards per carry, but the Georgia defense was much better at stopping the run (4th in the nation) than Oregon (54th). Both are expected to have top 20 offensive lines, which means that Georgia’s advantage in defending the run is probably going to be a significant factor.
Oddsmakers are predicting a margin of greater than 17 points for the Bulldogs, but the Savvy Index is trimming that to just five based on the projected success of two strong defenses, which will reduce total scoring and compress the final margin. Other factors are likely to compress the final margin as well:
- These two secondaries combined for 33 interceptions last year, and if that happens this week, we can expect to see the ball on the ground more, which will bring down total points and the final margin. Both lost key secondary players, but both return as many interceptors now as they did a year ago, so I’m expecting to see some turnovers.
- If secondaries prevail with interceptions, the ball will likely see more time on the ground.
Oregon will likely keep the margin under the 17.5 betting line, but it isn’t likely that a new coaching staff with a new quarterback can beat the reigning national champion even if it is at a “neutral site.”
Oregon State 32
Boise State 31
I’m surprised the predicted margin for this one isn’t more significant because trend lines for these two programs are going in different directions. Oregon State is showing positive lines in nearly all of the important elements, while Boise State is heading the other way.
Both have experienced quarterbacks, but Oregon State has more of them. The Beavers run three-deep at the position, while the Broncos have a good starter in Hank Bachmeier, but all three of his backups are gone.
Oregon State has jaw-dropping freshman running back Damien Martinez and three others. Boise State returns top-toter George Holani, but the next three yardage-makers are all gone.
Oregon State has amassed one of the ten best offensive lines in America, while Boise State’s ranks average on a national scale and miserable when it comes to run blocking.
I expect Boise State to have a better defense than the Beavers. When it comes to opening games, more robust defenses are sometimes all a team needs to come out on top. I also expect the Broncos to have an advantage in fewer penalties.
The game is a pure toss-up with the exception that Oregon State gets it at home.
San Diego State 38
Arizona finished in the bottom 25 last season and is now breaking in a new quarterback.
San Diego State finished in the top 25 last season and is now breaking into a new stadium.
Arizona State 37
Northern Arizona 14
Arizona State usually beats the teams it is supposed to beat, so this is a pretty safe entry for the win column.
Unfortunately, the Sun Devils also lose to teams they’re supposed to lose to. That makes it essential for them to enjoy this one while they can because the following schedule has Utah, USC, Washington, UCLA, Oklahoma State, and Oregon State, and all of those are likely to be favored.
A friend of mine complained that I never have anything good to say about ASU and that it would be like pulling teeth for me ever to say, “Arizona State will win the PAC-12.”
I proved him wrong right then and there. I told him, “Arizona State will win the PAC-12 — shot put.”
UC Davis 20
California needs help in its secondary, and until that is taken care of, UC Davis from the FCS must be seen as a threat. The Bears received a boost in the offseason when Purdue quarterback Jack Plummer announced his transfer to Berkeley, and he arrives with stellar passing stats. He has a decent offensive line ahead of him, but the rest of the Cal roster has lost a lot of talent. He’ll have some initial difficulty finding receivers since only one of the top five returns, so expect Cal to turn to the ground game. Expect the defense to be solid.
UC Davis head coach Dan Hawkins has his team in the top 20 of the FCS, but unfortunately, that puts him behind four others from his same conference. UCD will come to town with flare and bravado, but against a bore-ball team like Cal, there won’t be enough snaps to produce a win.
I know the Savvy Index tends to govern the margins of early season games, but this four-point spread seems far too conservative to me, especially with Sonny Dykes now running the TCU program. I also think that both Savvy (52) and the gambling lines (56) have the total points set far too low.
I see TCU winning this by 14 and total points surpassing 60. My prediction for this game is TCU 38, Colorado 24.
This game is in Florida, which means a long flight for Utah. But, the Utes have the second longest-tenured coach at the FBS level in Kyle Whittingham, while Florida is in its first year under Bill Napier. Whittingham has proven himself at the Power Five level, whereas Napier’s most elite history is building the program at the University of Louisiana Lafayette.
Napier has hired a decent staff and brought in a lot of talented transfers, so I expect ULL to get off to a good start. Unfortunately, a new system with new coaches and a new starting quarterback tells me there will be some hiccups in the early going, and no one can afford to have hiccups against Utah.
The Utes return sensational quarterback Cameron Rising, plenty of running backs, receivers, and a pretty good number of defenders. The offensive line is still not together, but it will be good enough against Florida in its first game ever under Napier.
Colgate was 5-6 last year in the FCS and is not expected to be as good in 2022.
Stanford was 3-9 and not likely to make much of a stir this year. Tanner McKee is outstanding at quarterback, and he’ll look like a pro in this one against a purely outmatched Colgate group.
Bowling Green 17
Bowling Green is better than most analysts have given credit, but this just isn’t a game that will show it.
UCLA is loaded and ready to make a strong run for a division title in a power five conference. Running back Zach Charbonnet will be unstoppable against Bowling Green behind an offensive line that is one of the 20 best for rush blocking.
I don’t think USC is held under 40, and I doubt Rice gets above 10. Naturally, USC has too much talent, but the Trojans also have a whole lot of enthusiasm and renewed hope. All of that won’t be enough to dethrone Utah later in the year, but it will be more than enough to cast Rice from the coliseum.
Kent State 21
Make no mistake, Washington wants to throw the football. The problem is, the entire UW quarterback room is filled with quarterbacks who throw a horrendous number of interceptions. Because of that, I expect to see UW start with the ground game and only put the ball in the air in the second half and then only if the Huskies have a three-score lead.
Kent State is not a strong program without Dustin Crumm running the show at quarterback, and there are plenty of analysts questioning if KSU can come up with any semblance of a passing attack. Last year, the Flashes ranked ninth in our Savvy assessment of run-blocking offensive lines, but so much of last year’s roster is gone, and that makes it hard to know if KSU can run the ball either. One thing is sure, and that is that new starting QB Collin Schlee will show his magnificent running ability. Unfortunately, he will do so out of necessity for self-preservation.
Washington State 39
Two teams with new coaches bring a lot of hope to each. It also brings a lot of change and uncertainty. Washington State has looked better to me in Summer workouts than in the Spring, but so much of the Cougars’ success depends on new quarterback Cameron Ward. Ward was a second-team all-American at Incarnate Word (FCS) last year, but he has no experience whatsoever at the FBS level, let alone against power five opponents. Luckily, his first draw in FBS is against an FCS, so he should have 60 game minutes of practice before jumping into the real thing next week.
WSU’s defense should prove to be pretty strong again this year.
With a superior defense and a quarterback who is accustomed to teams at the Idaho level, this game should be in WSU’s control by halftime.