Pac-12 picks of the week: Oregon, Cal and Colorado cover as huge underdogs

Utah Utes quarterback Jason Shelley (15) falls to the ground as Brigham Young Cougars defensive lineman Corbin Kaufusi (90) and Brigham Young Cougars linebacker Sione Takitaki (16) rush in as BYU and Utah play at Rice Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Nov. 24, 2018.

Utah Utes quarterback Jason Shelley (15) falls to the ground as Brigham Young Cougars defensive lineman Corbin Kaufusi (90) and Brigham Young Cougars linebacker Sione Takitaki (16) rush in as BYU and Utah play at Rice Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Nov. 24, 2018.



The Pac-12 has been hoping, clamoring and desperate for coast-to-coast media exposure since the twin grim realities of night games and Pac-12 Network distribution materialized four or five years ago.

With that lust for eyeballs in mind, may we present Week Two of the 2021 season …

One-two-three-FOUR games on broadcast television, from 9 a.m. (Pacific) until 10:30 p.m. and with limited overlap involved.

There are three showdowns with high-profile nonconference opponents and one unprecedented broadcast of a conference game.

The morning-to-late-night nature of the programming was made possible by Fox Sports, which selected Oregon-Ohio State for its 'Big Noon Kickoff' on FOX and agreed to air Stanford-USC at 7:30 p.m. on the broadcast network, as well.

It's the first time FOX will show a Pac-12 night game, which are typically on FS1.

Of the 10 games scheduled for Saturday, only two will be shown on the Pac-12 Networks: Portland State at Washington State and San Diego State at Arizona.

Fewer games on the Pac-12 Networks means more potential eyeballs on the product.

To the picks …

Last week: 4-4

Season: 4-4

Five-star special: 1-0


All picks against the spread

Lines taken from vegasinsider.com

All times Pacific

Idle: UCLA

No line listed (FCS opponents): Washington State


Oregon +14.5 at Ohio State

Kickoff: 9 a.m. on FOX

Comment: The line opened at 11.5 and has ticked up, no doubt because of Oregon's wobbly showing against Fresno State and Kayvon Thibodeaux's gimpy ankle. The Buckeyes' pass defense is vulnerable, but can Ducks quarterback Anthony Brown take advantage? And will Oregon provide any resistance to OSU's stupendous skill-position talent? Feels like oddsmakers are daring the public to take the Ducks. That extra half-point could loom large. Pick: Oregon


Cal +10.5 at TCU

Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. on ESPNU

Comment: The Bears head halfway across the country for an early start in blazing heat in the middle of the day — not ideal for a team coming off a brutal loss. The Horned Frogs smacked Duquesne around in the opener — yes, Duquesne plays football — and usually play stout defense. (They're a lot like Cal, actually.) Not sure the Bears can make enough plays to collect an outright win, but covering that double-digit spread is well within their grasp. Pick: Cal


Colorado +17 vs. Texas A&M (in Denver)

Kickoff: 12:30 p.m. on FOX

Comment: Another double-digit point spread with the Pac-12 team as the underdog. This number is a whopper, but understandably so: The Aggies are a top-10 team that possesses a load of NFL talent. The Buffaloes aren't and don't. What's more, they have a freshman quarterback (Brendon Lewis) making his second start. We believe CU's defense is undervalued, especially at linebacker. And with a point spread of that size, a few third-down stops could make all the difference. Pick: Colorado


Washington +6.5 at Michigan

Kickoff: 5 p.m. on ABC

Comment: Classic example of a Week Two point spread being impacted by a Week One performance. Had the Huskies beaten Montana, even unimpressively, the line this week would be closer to a field goal. Was their performance an outlier, or a reasonable reflection of reality in Seattle? We suspect a bit of both, which translates to a fairly close first half in Ann Arbor, followed by a Maize and Blue takeover. Without steady help from the offense, Washington's stout defense will wear down late. Pick: Michigan


Arizona -1.5 vs. San Diego State

Kickoff: 7 p.m. on Pac-12 Networks

Comment: The Wildcats came mighty close to almost being in position to possibly upset BYU. (Yes, the bar is low in Tucson.) We expect an inspired performance in the home opener, but seeing Arizona as a favorite gives us pause. SDSU wasn't exactly overwhelming against New Mexico State but always plays well against Pac-12 competition. Coin flip game that could have a field-goal finish. Pick: Arizona


Utah -7 at Brigham Young

Kickoff: 7:15 p.m. on ESPN

Comment: The 101st Holy War will look much like the past nine meetings. The only question is whether Utah runs BYU off the field or waits until the fourth quarter to secure the victory. The games in Provo are typically close: Nine of the last 11 have been decided by a touchdown or less. We would jump on Utah at 6.5 points, but the oddsmakers are well aware that a half-point line move to the Utes would spark a flood of money the other way. Pick: Brigham Young


Arizona State -32 vs. UNLV

Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. on ESPN2

Comment: The Sun Devils opened with an FCS opponent and now face one of the worst teams in the FBS. (UNLV lost its opener to Eastern Washington.) Yes, that's a load of points, but ASU has a load of playmakers, and the Rebels are in a load of trouble. Pick: Arizona State


Stanford +17 at USC

Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. on FOX

Comment: Stanford announced Tuesday that Tanner McKee would start at quarterback, and that may very well matter — to the point spread, not the outcome. The Cardinal's only path to victory seemingly requires a spate of USC turnovers (not out of the question) and an offensive awakening against a Trojans defense that appears fairly stout. No middle ground here: Either Stanford delivers an upset or USC cruises to an easy win. Pick: Stanford


Oregon State -11 vs. Hawaii

Kickoff: 8 p.m. on FS1

Comment: The Beavers won't name a starting quarterback until later in the week. Whether it's Sam Noyer or Chance Nolan, the position should be more efficient at home against a lesser opponent. The ground game, which managed just 78 yards at Purdue, is the key. If OSU's attack has balance, points should come quickly and frequently. (UH yielded 44 points to UCLA and 35 more to Portland State.) But if the Beavers can't run effectively, this could be much closer than the line indicates. Pick: Hawaii


Five-star special: Cal. Far too many points (10.5) for a program that has risen to the occasion more often than not under coach Justin Wilcox. The Under (48) is also enticing.

Straight-up winners: Ohio State, TCU, Texas A&M, Michigan, Arizona, Utah, Arizona State, USC and Oregon State.


Jon Wilner's Pac-12 Hotline is brought to KSL.com through a partnership with the Bay Area News Group.


Jon Wilner has been covering college sports for decades and is an AP Top 25 football and basketball voter as well as a Heisman Trophy voter. He was named Beat Writer of the Year in 2013 by the Football Writers Association of America for his coverage of the Pac-12, won first place for feature writing in 2016 in the Associated Press Sports Editors writing contest and is a five-time APSE honoree. You can follow him on Twitter @WilnerHotline or send an email at jwilner@bayareanewsgroup.com.

Pac-12 Hotline: Subscribe to the Pac-12 Hotline Newsletter. Pac-12 Hotline is not endorsed or sponsored by the Pac-12 Conference, and the views expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the views of the Conference.

Jon Wilner

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