Conferences in the Crosshairs: ACC, Pac-12 Picks

Ken Cross

September 13, 2017 at 9:48 am.

Sep 9, 2017; Clemson, SC, USA; Clemson Tigers quarterback Kelly Bryant (2) celebrates with teammates after scoring a touchdown during the third quarter against the Auburn Tigers at Clemson Memorial Stadium. Photo Credit: Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

Sep 9, 2017; Clemson, SC, USA; Clemson Tigers quarterback Kelly Bryant (2) celebrates with teammates after scoring a touchdown during the third quarter against the Auburn Tigers at Clemson Memorial Stadium. Photo Credit: Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports


Clemson at Louisville – The idea on this game goes two ways. If there is a team that can move the ball on this Clemson defense, it is Louisville. And if there is a defense that can stop Cardinals quarterback and Heisman incumbent Lamar Jackson, it’s Clemson.  Jackson has weaponry developing on offense after Saturday’s 525-yard, six-touchdown performance in the 47-35 win over North Carolina.  He faces a Clemson defense that tallied 11 sacks, four by Austin Bryant, in a 14-6 win over Auburn.  Maybe this comes down to how well Tigers quarterback Kelly Bryant can perform against a Cardinals defense that has been very average in the first two weeks.
Tigers (-3) 34, Cardinals 31
Oklahoma State at Pitt – Many think an early afternoon road matchup against the rebuilding Panthers could be a land mine for an Oklahoma State offense that hasn’t missed a beat in the first eight quarters of the Cowboys’ 2-0 start.   Quarterback Mason Rudolph is 45 for 62 in amassing 652 yards with a myriad of wide receivers led by James Washington and Marcela Ateman.  He also has a rushing attack behind him that averages 6.7 yards per carry.  The Panthers controlled the clock and held Penn State in a 33-14 loss last week.  Ball control is the key again and erasing turnovers.
Cowboys (-14) 38, Panthers 20
Baylor at Duke – The Blue Devils’ 41-17 pounding of Northwestern put to rest any thoughts that opening week’s 60-7 win over North Carolina Central had to do with an inferior opponent rather than Duke efficiency.  Daniel Jones threw for 413 yards and four scores in Saturday’s win, while the Blue Devils’ defense held Northwestern to 22 yards on the ground and forced three turnovers.  Duke is feeling more and more like an ACC Coastal Division sleeper.  Baylor is in “Rebuilding Phase I” as UTSA beat them, 17-10, after the opening weekend loss to Liberty.  The Bears are looking at a quarterback change as Zach Smith steps in for Anu Solomon.
Blue Devils (-14) 45, Bears 10
Notre Dame at Boston College – The turnover prone Eagles have to get the 34-10 loss to Wake Forest at arm’s length after playing a good defensive game in that loss, but losing four turnovers.  The Eagles must find a starting quarterback as neither Anthony Brown nor Darius Wade has looked like the answer in the first two weeks.  The Fighting Irish only scored one touchdown against a much more athletic Georgia defense.  Terse Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly became ill after the game as Indianapolis Star reporter Laken Litman suggested nothing had changed as the Irish dropped the 20-19 decision in much the same way as they did several of last season’s close calls.  The pressure mounts in South Bend.
Irish 24, Eagles (+13 1/2) 13
Utah State at Wake Forest – The Aggies roll into Winston-Salem after a 51-13 pummeling of Big Sky opponent Idaho State and don’t forget that they led Wisconsin, 10-7, at the half of their 59-10 loss in Week One.  Wake Forest looks like it is capable of molding a solid defensive game plan with consistency all season.  A lack of offensive playmakers may be of concern, but not on Saturday.
Demon Deacons (-13 1/2) 27, Aggies 10
Virginia Tech at East Carolina – The Pirates of Greenville no longer pillage and raid as regaining that swagger and identity hasn’t happened yet after two decisive losses to James Madison and West Virginia to start the season.  Quarterback Josh Jackson has settled in for the Hokies’ offense rather well with a 57.4 percent passing percentage, while leading the Fighting Gobblers in rushing in the first two weeks with 19 carries for 120 yards.  Jackson needs the running game and receivers to step up though after Delaware held Tech to 303 yards on offense last week in 27-0 VT win.
Hokies (-21) 34, Pirates 7


Texas at USC – Any doubt USC may have created in the Week One win over Western Michigan was extinguished in a big way as a balanced run/pass attack saw Sam Darnold craft a 42-24 win over a Stanford team that may have lost its only game of the season in The Coliseum.  The Trojans are operating with a strong offensive line that is as adept at run-block as it is pass-block.  Trojans linebacker Uchenna Nwosu has been all over the field in the Trojans first two wins.  The depth and athleticism of the USC defense is back.  Texas bombed San Jose State, 56-0, but it doesn’t mean that the Longhorns are formidable.  Questions surround quarterback Shane Buechle’s injury status for the game.
Trojans (-17) 42, Longhorns 17
UCLA at Memphis – Josh Rosen picked up where he left off in the thrilling 45-44 win over Texas A&M.  He completed 22 of 25 passes for 329 yards and five scores as the Bruins rolled to a 56-23 win over Hawaii.  While the passing game is bourgeoning, UCLA is still looking for a featured back in its rushing game.  Memphis’s matchup last week against South Florida was postponed due to Hurricane Irma.  Tigers coach Mike Norvell knows the Pac-12 very well as he was an assistant coach at Arizona State from 2012-2015.  The 9 a.m. start (PST) shouldn’t have much impact on the Bruins.
Bruins (-3) 35, Tigers 17
Oregon State at Washington State – The Cougars trailed Boise State, 31-10, with eight minutes to play before before Tyler Hilinski, substituting for the injured Luke Falk, orchestrated an improbable comeback that saw Wazzu take a 47-44, triple overtime victory.  Mike Leach’s pass offense and program has revived Washington State to the point where many think the Cougars can nip at Washington’s heels and knock off the Huskies for a Pac-12 title game berth. Oregon State’s season has been a major struggle in a1-2 start. The Beavers gave up 252 yards on the ground in Saturday’s 48-14 loss to Minnesota.
Cougars (-21 1/2) 48, Beavers 16
Oregon at Wyoming – The Ducks cruised to 42 first half points in defeating Nebraska, 42-35, in a game that was more decisive than the score.  Oregon’s offense continues to streak behind running back Royce Freeman and signal-caller Justin Herbert.  After that 4-8 season of a year ago, the Ducks’ defense proved it may be on the road to rebound in allowing only 109 yards on the ground and picking off Nebraska quarterback Tanner Lee four times. Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen has the potential to take off and put up prolific numbers, so this is another opportunity for the Ducks defense on the road in Laramie.
Ducks (-13 1/2) 31, Cowboys 16
Arizona State at Texas Tech – The score here could look like a basketball game if the Texas Tech passing game asserts its will early.  A big issue though is that the Sun Devils gave up 279 yards on the ground, including 216 on 18 carries to Rashaad Penny in last week’s 30-20 loss to San Diego State.  ASU running backs Demario Richard and Kallen Ballage are questionable due to injuries. Texas Tech doesn’t usually pack a running game that is very efficient, but quarterback Nic Shimonek looks like he could be following in a long line of Red Raiders greats as he was 26 of 30 for 384 yards in the season opening 56-10 win over Eastern Washington.  There are lots of defensive issues for the Sun Devils.
Red Raiders (-7 1/2) 48, Sun Devils 37
Stanford at San Diego State – The Cardinal was served notice by a USC running game that saw Ronald Jones and freshman Stephen Carr both go over 100 yards as the Cardinal lost to the Trojans, 42-24.  Stanford will present a much more physical running attack that did Arizona State with Bryce Love carrying the ball for the Cardinal. The Aztecs, a run-first squad, may have to throw to win behind an average quarterback Christian Chapman.
Cardinal (-9 1/2) 28, Aztecs 17
Ole Miss at Cal – The Rebels are off to a 2-0 start behind an excellent quarterback in Shae Patterson who has thrown for 918 yards and nine touchdowns and competed 76 percent of his passes as the Rebels have beaten South Alabama and UT-Martin, two games which they should have won in an even more convincing fashion.  The Bears, 2-0, feature a sophomore quarterback in Ross Bowers who has been very efficient in completing 71 percent of his passes over those two games.  The running game may be the key in a game which would then favor Cal and running backs Patrick Laird and Tre Watson.
Bears (+3 1/2) 37, Rebels 31
Last week overall: 9-4
Last week vs. the spread: 6-7
Season overall: 17-8
Season vs. the spread: 10-15 – Operating with a very cloudy crystal ball that only likes matchups; not numbers.
Follow Ken on Twitter @KennyBuckets333 or @PigskinKenny.