If the opening weekend of the 2022 season provided the Pac-12 with high-profile opportunities on big stages — opportunities since wasted — then Week 2 is something entirely different.
It’s the nothing-to-lose weekend.
The Pac-12 has six non-conference matchups with Football Bowl Subdivision opponents, including showdowns with the Big Ten, Big 12 and SEC.
The conference is a double-digit underdog in four of the six and a one-point favorite in a fifth — a state of play that’s remarkable but wholly justified based on the matchups, locations, and recent performance. (The Pac-12 was 0-3 against Power Five opponents last week and 0-3 in bowl games last season.)
Arizona State and Washington State are substantial underdogs on the road against ranked opponents (Oklahoma State and Wisconsin), respectively.
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Meanwhile, Arizona is a double-digit dog, at home, against Mississippi State. (The betting public doesn’t think much of the Wildcats’ victorious opener at San Diego State.)
So gloomy is the outlook for the conference that Colorado is a 17.5-point dog against a Mountain West opponent (Air Force).
Given all that, we wouldn’t be surprised if the lone conference game of the week, USC’s trip to Stanford, somehow ended with two losses for the Pac-12.
With so many big underdogs, there’s little to lose.
To the picks:
Last week: 3-5
Five-star special: 1-0
Spreads taken from vegasinsider.com using lines listed for BetMGM
Game total in parentheses
Not included (FCS opponents): Oregon, UCLA, Utah and Washington
Washington State at No. 19 Wisconsin
Kickoff: 12:30 p.m. (Ch. 11)
Line: WSU +17.5 (total: 49.5)
Comment: The Badgers will be content to grind, as always. We expect a close game for three quarters, but will WSU’s defensive front hold up in the fourth? Not without more help than we expect from Cam Ward and the offense.
Pick: Wisconsin -17.5
Colorado at Air Force
Kickoff: 12:30 p.m. (Ch. 13)
Line: Colorado +17.5 (total: 48.5)
Comment: Which is worse: Losing by 25 points at home to TCU or being a 17.5-point underdog at Air Force? The correct answer, of course, is losing by more than 17.5 at Air Force. But we don’t think that will happen. Get ready for the JT Shrout show.
Pick: Colorado +17.5
Cal at UNLV
Kickoff: 1 p.m. (Pac-12 Networks)
Line: Cal -13.5 (total: 48.5)
Comment: The last time UNLV coach Marcus Arroyo matched wits against Justin Wilcox, in 2019, the former was calling plays for Oregon and had a quarterback named Justin Herbert. And the Ducks managed all of 17 points.
Pick: Cal -13.5
No. 10 USC at Stanford
Kickoff: 4:30 p.m. (Ch. 9)
Line: USC -9.5 (total: 67.5)
Comment: The coaching advantage Stanford enjoyed for so many years in this rivalry no longer exists. Now, it’s all about the talent. The Cardinal has enough on offense to keep pace but not enough on defense to close the deal. Stanford covers; USC wins.
Pick: Stanford +9.5
Arizona State at No. 11 Oklahoma State
Kickoff: 4:30 p.m. (ESPN2)
Line: ASU +11.5 (total: 57.5)
Comment: We expect the Sun Devils to benefit immensely from quarterback Emory Jones’ experience in SEC road games. However, the Cowboys have too much of everything and should be in control early in the fourth quarter. Future intra-conference matchup?
Pick: Oklahoma State
Oregon State at Fresno State
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. (CBS Sports Network)
Line: OSU -1 (total: 61.5)
Comment: The Beavers play USC, Stanford, Utah, Washington and Oregon in coming weeks but will face no better quarterback than FSU’s Jake Haener. If they contain the Bulldogs, it bodes well for the rest of the year. Very, very well.
Pick: Oregon State
Mississippi State at Arizona
Kickoff: 8 p.m. (Fox Sports 1)
Line: Arizona +10.5 (total: 59.5)
Comment: Bulldogs coach Mike Leach is no stranger to night games in Tucson and will have a smart plan of attack for the improved Wildcats defense. Should be one of the best games of the day and worthy of the #Pac12AfterDark attention.
Pick: Arizona +10.5
Straight-up winners:Wisconsin, Air Force, Cal, USC, Oklahoma State, Oregon State and Mississippi State.
Five-star special:Arizona +10.5. It will take weeks for the point spreads to adjust to Arizona’s improvement. During that time, there’s money to be made, folks.