Week 1 – September 3rd, 2022
College football is officially back! It has been a long 8 months since the clock hit 0:00 after Georgia had defeated mighty Alabama to capture their first National Title since 1980.
While it does look pretty unlikely that anyone in the PAC-12 is going to compete for a national championship this year, I do want to go through and highlight each game in the “Conference of Champions” and give my thoughts on the outlook for each team’s game.
Since Arizona State and Colorado have already played each of their first week 1 games, I will keep each of their summaries brief.
The Sun Devils were able to dominate from start to finish during their 40-3 rout of Northern Arizona on Thursday night, a team that actually was able to shock ASU’s rival in Arizona and beat the Wildcats 21-19 in Tucson last year. Florida QB transfer Emory Jones looked fairly comfortable in his debut for ASU, but I’m just not putting that much stock into this win until I see this ASU next week go up against #12 Oklahoma State in Stillwater, Oklahoma.
Colorado is off to a rough start to their 2022 campaign after a 38-13 loss to TCU in Boulder. The Buffs offense played two quarterbacks, had 113 rushing yards on 29 carries, but didn’t turn the ball over. However, it was the Colorado defense that allowed 275 rushing yards for TCU on 30 carries that allowed the Horned Frogs to control the game from start to finish while putting up 21 points in the fourth quarter. Colorado travels to Air Force next week, but the Buffs unfortunately project to be one of the worst teams in the PAC-12 this season.
UCLA hosts Bowling Green as the Bruins are 23.5 point favorites. UCLA returns an experienced Dorian Thompson-Robinson at quarterback and one of the better running backs in the conference in Zach Charbonnet. However, the biggest storyline for the Bruins during the 2022 season will be if Chip Kelly, who is in his 5th season at UCLA, can build off of a successful 8-4 2021 season and take that next step to potentially compete for a PAC-12 title. I expect the Bruins to cover the spread against Bowling Green and move to 1-0 ahead of their week 2 matchup against Alabama State in the Rose Bowl.
The Oregon Ducks and first year head coach Dan Lanning travel to Atlanta to take on the defending national champions in the Georgia Bulldogs. Lanning, the former Dawgs’ defensive coordinator, first test as head coach is going to be a serious challenge for Auburn QB transfer Bo Nix and a young wide receiver core under new offensive coordinator Kenny Dillingham. While the Dawgs are certainly replacing a lot of talent they lost to the NFL, I fully expect Kirby Smart’s team to win comfortably against the Ducks and cover the 16.5 point spread they are favored by.
Arizona travels to (a potential future PAC-12 target after USC and UCLA leave) San Diego State as a 6.5 point underdog. The Aztecs are coming off an extremely impressive 12-2 campaign where they beat Arizona in Tucson 38-14 and Utah in 3OT at home before finishing off their season with a Tropical Smoothie Cafe Frisco Bowl win vs UTSA. The Wildcats are coming off a difficult 2021 season where they finished 1-11. Their future has the potential to be very bright as Jedd Fisch’s team was able to secure the No. 25 recruiting 2022 class in the country and No. 3 in the PAC-12. While Arizona should improve in the win column this year, I do believe the Aztecs will be able to come away with a win at home in week 1 before the Wildcats host Mississippi State in Tucson next week.
Cal hosts FCS opponent UC Davis in Berkeley. With Justin Wilcox in his 6th year as the Golden Bears, it will be interesting to see if Cal can put together another winning season after a 5-7 season in 2021. While there are a lot of new faces on this year’s team, Cal should be able to put together an easy win over 21 point underdog UC Davis before getting ready for UNLV next week.
The Lincoln Riley era has begun as No. 14 USC hosts Rice. There was a huge amount of turnover on the Trojans roster with players transferring in and out even though they were able to add some of the best available transfers that will be immediate contributors and day one starters. USC’s week one game versus 32.5 point underdog Rice should be a good feel out game for the Trojans to test where they are on both offense and defense. There might be some growing pains at certain points during the game, but I believe USC wins comfortably before getting ready to travel to Stanford for week 2’s game against the Cardinals.
The other biggest game in the PAC-12 this weekend will take place in The Swamp when Utah travels to Gainesville to take on Florida. The Gators are also experiencing a lot of changes with their roster and first year head coach Billy Napier will face a very difficult test against the No. 7 Utes and Kyle Whittingham who return a very experienced team. Utah is favored by 2.5, but I actually think the Utes will win by at least one touchdown before traveling back home to prepare for Southern Utah in week 2 in Salt Lake City.
Stanford is at home to start the 2022 season when they host Colgate. David Shaw is still one of the best coaches in the PAC-12, but the Cardinals are coming off a difficult 3-9 2021 season. It’s hard to judge the trajectory of Stanford because we’ve seen Shaw do some incredible things with teams in the past, but it will be interesting to see if he can get this team to another bowl game in 2022. Stanford should be able to easily defeat Colgate before preparing to host USC in week 2.
Jake Dickert is now in his first full season as head coach of Washington State as the Cougs host Idaho in week 1. Even after Dickert took over for the final six games of the 2021 season, he was still able to lead WSU to a winning season and an impressive big rivalry win versus Washington in Seattle. Wazzu lost their starting quarterback in Jayden de Laura to Arizona, but should still be able to comfortably handle Idaho in Pullman, before a difficult week 2 road test against Wisconsin.
PAC-12 after dark is back with the Washington Huskies kicking off at 7:30PST as they host Kent State in Seattle. First year head coach Kalen Deboer and UW will be 23 point favorites in week 1 as they also test out their new look offense and defense with a new coaching staff and a few key transfers including starting quarterback Michael Pennix. The Huskies will remain in Seattle as they prepare for FCS opponent Portland State in week 2.
PAC-12 after dark part 2 will be on ESPN as the Oregon State Beavers host Boise State in Corvallis in what is the most even and competitive week 1 game in the PAC-12. Jonathan Smith’s rebuild of the OSU program is in year 5 and coming off their most successful season in almost a decade after going 7-6 last year and making a bowl game. This will be a great test for the Beavers as the Broncos are always one of the better Mountain West teams and play particularly well against PAC-12 teams. OSU is favored by 2.5 and return 14 total starters with one of the best offensive line groups in the country. I have gone back and forth on this game for months but in the end I see the Beavers winning by at least one touchdown and pulling off an impressive week 1 win before they get ready for a tough road test against Fresno State in week 2.