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Pac-12 Football Picks: Week Three

An eleven game slate is in store for the teams of the Pac-12 in Week Three.

NCAA Football: Pac-12 Media Day Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Week Two showed an improvement around most of the Pac-12, as well things really couldn’t get much worse than were in Week One for most of the teams around the league. However, it does looks like the herd is beginning to separate itself after just two short weeks of football. Washington, USC and Colorado all routed their opponents in Week Two, displaying their nationally ranked potential, while the lows of the week came when Washington State and California both fell to Mountain West opponents. In an exciting rivalry game, Utah held on against a tough BYU and let’s not forget Arizona State’s record breaking week, in their shootout win over Texas Tech. Week Three will see the return of Oregon State to the Pac-12 schedule, as the Beavers get back in action against Idaho State. The game will be fully covered here at Building The Dam but take a look at the rest of the conference games below and see who our contributors think will come out on top in each match-up.

Recap: It’s rare to see anyone pull off the perfect week in Pac-12 Football Picks but there must’ve been something in the water during Week Two for Robert Ingle, who selected the winner of every game correctly. On the year, Robert Ingle has picked only two incorrect victors, which both came in Week One, when he chose UCLA over Texas A&M and Washington State over Eastern Washington. Those were two games almost impossible to foreshadow. Nice going so far, Mister Ingle.

Moving on from Robert Ingle’s big week, Arizona State’s shootout win over Texas Tech gave three of our contributors (Marcus Russell, The_Coach, DavidMays) another notch in the loss column, as did Utah’s handling of BYU (Marcus Russell, DavidMays, Brian J. Moore). These early season showdowns are just too close to call in most scenarios.

Heading into Week Three, Robert Ingle’s perfect week has pushed him to the top of the standings, with a two-way tie for second place between Marcus Russell and The_Coach, within closing distance. Brian J. Moore sits just a game behind Marcus Russell and The_Coach at 17-5, while DavidMays brings up the rear, as the first contributor to reach the daunted double-digit loss tally.

Friday, September 16th

UT-San Antonio (1-1) v. Arizona State (2-0) [9:30 PM ET, ESPN2]

Ingle Win Probability Calculator: Arizona State (83%)

The surprise of the Pac-12 South Division thus far, Arizona State has gone from conference unknown to legitimate contender, after two explosive weeks to start off the 2016 season. Can the Sun Devils keep it going is the question now? Having scored 112 points through their first two games, Arizona State’s electric offense has been the root of all their successes, most recently highlighted by the Kalen Ballage’s record-breaking eight touchdown day in their 68-55 Week Two win over Texas Tech. If someone is going to stop the Sun Devils, it’s going to begin with containing their now high-octane offense. The big key in Week Three for Todd Graham’s program seems to be focus, as after a week in the national media spotlight, things can always get interesting. The Sun Devils are also on the verge of the beginning of their Pac-12 slate next week, when California visits Tempe, and they can’t get caught looking too far ahead just yet. UT-San Antonio is the odd customer here as they are the home team in this one, which should only give the Roadrunners a wealth of confidence. Coming off a slow-paced, nine point loss at Colorado State, be prepared for UT-San Antonio to try and muddy up this game as much as possible.

Marcus Russell: Arizona State

The_Coach: Arizona State

DavidMays: Arizona State

Robert Ingle: Arizona State

Brian J. Moore: Arizona State

Saturday, September 17th

Washington State (0-2) v. Idaho (1-1) [2:00 PM ET, PAC12]

Ingle Win Probability Calculator: Washington State (79%)

Washington State’s dismal start to the season got even more interesting over the past week, as enigmatic head coach Mike Leach acted as only the veteran coach tends to, keeping his winless program relevant in the lead-up to their meeting with Idaho in some curious ways. In the aftermath of their Week Two loss to Boise State, Leach first fired up comments about his football team, referring to them as a “JC softball team” and also calling them the “easiest team in the country to tackle”. In addition, he weighed some of his team’s current on-field issues as an example of the epitome of what is wrong in America, as well as promising depth chart changes for their meeting with the Vandals. And he wasn’t done yet. Leach also brought the Pullman Police Department to the forefront, explaining that in his belief, with help from the media, the PPD targeting Washington State football players in their investigations is the reason for some of the program’s recent off-field transgressions. But let’s not get too caught up in the hoopla. There’s a football game to be played on Saturday. If Washington State can find some focus through all this strange chaos surrounding them, the Cougars could be able to snag their first win of the season over an Idaho team, who is coming off a lashing at the hands of Washington. However, don’t think the Vandals are some simple walkover foe. Junior quarterback Matt Lineman showed improvement in Week Two against the Huskies and Idaho could keep things interesting for some time in this one, if he plays well.

Marcus Russell: Washington State

The_Coach: Washington State

DavidMays: Washington State

Robert Ingle: Washington State

Brian J. Moore: Washington State

Saturday, September 17th

#4 Michigan (2-0) v. Colorado (2-0) [3:30 PM ET, BTN]

Ingle Win Probability Calculator: Michigan (66%)

A battle of two undefeated teams at the Big House, this Pac-12/Big Ten meeting could get a bit more interesting that most people in the national consensus would figure, especially considering the form and confidence of this Colorado team. The Buffs will head to Ann Arbor with absolutely nothing to lose and all of the pressure on the Wolverines. That’s a perplexing spot to be in for Jim Harbaugh’s team. Michigan has had some lackluster “tune-up games” to ease them into the 2016 campaign (Hawaii, UCF) which has made the Wolverines look like all the preseason rambles and hype was rightly attributed. How they fare against a stronger opponent like Colorado will be much more interesting to see. The Buffs have outscored their own first two opponents (Colorado State, Idaho State) by a margin of 100-14 and have looked like a team on a mission to prove their worth in the conference. To have a shot in this one, Colorado will need quarterback Sefo Liufau to keep the offense balanced and allow players like running back Phillip Lindsay to assert the ground game. As prolific as Colorado’s offense has been, a different kind of defensive speed and physicality await the Buffs in Week Three. Colorado will have their hands full with the Big Ten favorites on Saturday afternoon.

Marcus Russell: Michigan

The_Coach: Michigan

DavidMays: Michigan

Robert Ingle: Michigan

Brian J. Moore: Michigan

Saturday, September 17th

Nebraska (2-0) v. #22 Oregon (2-0) [3:30 PM ET, ABC]

Ingle Win Probability Calculator: Oregon (51%)

The friendly confines of Memorial Stadium awaits Oregon next, as the boys from Eugene will head to the middle of America to take on former Oregon State head coach Mike Riley and his current Nebraska program. Nothing like another Week Three, Big Ten/Pac-12 showdown to measure the trajectory of this conference against the rest of the country. A unique quip in this game could be Riley’s familiarity with the Ducks and his (potential) ability to take factions away from Oregon’s high-octane offense, if Nebraska can convert strategy to execution. It’s hard to see these two team’s defenses “turning it up” for this one so there’s strong logic behind the idea that this one could turn into an all-out shootout. The Ducks and Cornhuskers are averaging 48.5 and 47.5 points per game respectively and show no signs of slowing down as their hit their gear into Week Three. Look for the match-up between Oregon’s defensive line and Nebraska’s offensive line to be a true indicator of how this game goes. When the Cornhuskers are able to move people up front, they usually keep a firm grasp on the hold of the game.

Marcus Russell: Nebraska

The_Coach: Oregon

DavidMays: Nebraska

Robert Ingle: Oregon

Brian J. Moore: Nebraska

Saturday, September 17th

Oregon State (0-1) v. Idaho State (1-1) [5:00 PM ET, PAC12]

Ingle Win Probability Calculator: Oregon State (70%)

The Beavers finally get back on the field, after what felt like way too long of a bye week and still reeling in some ways from their hard-fought loss at Minnesota, this match-up could be a well-needed outing. It’s time for Beaver football people! A full preview on this one is upcoming here at Building The Dam, while site manager Marcus Russell did do a preview on the Bengals game back in the preseason, that you can read here. The group of contributors all saw this one going the same way as Oregon State should be healthy and running on all cylinders after their early season break.

Marcus Russell: Oregon State

The_Coach: Oregon State

DavidMays: Oregon State

Robert Ingle: Oregon State

Brian J. Moore: Oregon State

Saturday, September 10th

#8 Washington (2-0) v. Portland State (1-1) [8:00 PM ET, PAC12]

Ingle Win Probability Calculator: Washington (74%)

The Huskies continued their assertion of dominance, steamrolling Idaho in Week Two to jump out to a 2-0 start on the season. Things are looking good for the state’s namesake up in the Evergreen State. While head coach Chris Petersen has been cautious to overly praise his team after their two lopsided wins, Petersen is seemingly trying to keep his team focused and level-headed as FCS opponent Portland State comes into view. Petersen’s main goal is to have the Huskies avoid falling into the same fate as their in-state rivals in Washington State did last season, when the Vikings marched into Pullman and walked away with an early season win. The chances of that happening are a bit more slim for a Washington team who has playmakers and standout talents across the board. Quarterback Jake Browning has lived up to the hype, slinging for 581 yards and 8 touchdowns on the season, and the sophomore talent has begun to develop solid chemistry with critical receiving talents in John Ross, Chico McClatcher and Dante Pettis. It’s hard to expect Portland State not to give this one a valiant effort but even the Vikings are aware of the Goliath talent that they’re up against in this one.

Marcus Russell: Washington

The_Coach: Washington

DavidMays: Washington

Robert Ingle: Washington

Brian J. Moore: Washington

Saturday, September 10th

#7 Stanford (1-0) v. USC (1-1) [8:00 PM ET, ABC]

Ingle Win Probability Calculator: Stanford (55%)

Stanford are in similar shoes to Oregon State, as an early bye in their schedule gives them fifteen days off in-between games, to help prepare for a tough USC team who will be hoping to knock-off the top ten ranked Cardinal and get their season back headed in the right direction. Don’t think it’s too farfetched for the Trojans to pull off such a feat as well. While Clay Helton’s team looked dazed and confused in their season opener against Alabama, the takeaway from that game has really become more about Alabama’s likely ability to dominate the college football world again, more than anything that was completely wrong with USC. It was just one, awfully timed, bad outing for the Trojans. To avoid a similar fate against Stanford, USC has to become less vanilla with their play calling and allow their receivers to make plays in space and stretch the field. When the Trojans are unable to stretch the field vertically, the intermediate passing game struggles for quarterback Max Browne, which tends to have a domino effect. That’s likely why the Stanford Cardinal are the odds-on favorite in this one against their old Golden State foe. Stanford has more playmaking weapons to help jumpstart any offensive inconsistencies and of course, the luring threat of Christian McCaffery is always there, magnified this week by the return of fellow running back Bryce Love. If Stanford’s defense doesn’t have a head-stractching day, there’s potential for the Cardinal to stymie the Trojans enough to hold off a tough and hungry USC squad.

Marcus Russell: Stanford

The_Coach: Stanford

DavidMays: Stanford

Robert Ingle: Stanford

Brian J. Moore: Stanford

Saturday, September 10th

BYU (1-1) v. UCLA (1-1) [10:15 PM ET, ESPN2]

Ingle Win Probability Calculator: UCLA (54%)

While BYU head coach Kalani Sitake probably wanted his coaching career to start under a bit less-stressful of terms, it’s safe to say that his implementation of BYU’s “never say die, fight to the finish” culture is now well-established. If nothing else, the Cougars are going to sell some tickets. BYU has started the year with two of the most memorable games of the young college football season, where first they clipped Pac-12 foe Arizona on a late field goal and then fell to another Pac-12 team in rival Utah, with a failed two-point conversion play with less than twenty seconds in the game. Pac-12 opponent number three is now on the horizon for BYU, who has been a staple so far this season of Pac-12 Football Picks. The concern for BYU is that in their match-up with Utah, the Utes turned the ball over six times and somehow, the Cougars managed just 19 points on the night. It’s safe to say capitalizing on other team’s mistakes and offensive chemistry is still a work in progress for this BYU team. The reason that UCLA is the probable favorite, despite this game going down in Provo, is that the Bruins have the playmakers on both side of the football to capitalize on any Cougars’ miscues. Write it down, UCLA is going to make BYU pay for their mistakes. If Sitake’s guys can take care of the football and begin to score more effortlessly, this game should come down to the classic “power (BYU) against speed (UCLA)” scenario. The Bruins lost to Texas A&M in a lower-scoring duel to start the season, while trouncing UNLV last week in a combined 63 point affair. Look for tempo to play a huge role in the context of this outing.

Marcus Russell: UCLA

The_Coach: BYU

DavidMays: UCLA

Robert Ingle: UCLA

Brian J. Moore: BYU

Saturday, September 10th

San Jose State (1-1) v. Utah (2-0) [10:30 PM ET, CBSSN]

Ingle Win Probability Calculator: Utah (67%)

The Utes are adding to a growing list of Pac-12 teams that have been severely less than prolific offensively but at 2-0 on the year and with a victory already in the Holy War, there’s not too much that head coach Kyle Whittingham can be mad about at this point. Still, that doesn't mean there aren’t issues that need to be fixed across the board for Utah. While the offensive line instantly became a wildcard after their shutout win over Southern Utah, in their rivalry meeting with BYU, the Utes’ quarterback Troy Williams began to struggle, throwing for three interceptions in the contest. Maybe things will begin to iron themselves out in Week Three for Utah. It sounds almost repetitive at times to say but if Utah can win the turnover battle (meaning Williams doesn’t have another turnover-prone outing) and if they can establish their run-game with a bit more consistency (169 yards on 42 carries against BYU), the Utes are going to give themselves a shot to win every single week. Now it’s just finding that consistency. San Jose State can make themselves into a tough out for Utah if the Spartans have another strong offensive display, like they did in Week Two against Portland State. San Jose State’s quarterback Kenny Potter is a big-time playmaker, who tallied five scores in their 66-35 win over the Vikings. Containing Potter, as well as running back Deontae Cooper, should be at the top of Whittingham’s priority list.

Marcus Russell: Utah

The_Coach: Utah

DavidMays: Utah

Robert Ingle: Utah

Brian J. Moore: Utah

Saturday, September 10th

California (1-1) v. #11 Texas (2-0) [10:30 PM ET, ESPN]

Ingle Win Probability Calculator: Texas (54%)

Heading into the 2016 season, it was hard to see how the Longhorns would become a totally revamped unit from their lowly 5-7 outing in 2015 but with the addition of a new offensive coordinator in Tulsa’s Sterlin Gilbert and some changes in personnel across the board, head coach Charlie Strong has things clicking so far in Austin. So far, of course. Texas begins a difficult three-game stretch, that starts with a road trip to California, before next visiting an Oklahoma State team who can’t afford another loss and then hosting rival Oklahoma in one of college football’s best rivalries. Staying with momentum on their side will be key for the Longhorns. While California has probably a better chance than most people are giving them credit for, the Golden Bears inability to stop San Diego State’s Donnel Pumphrey in Week Two, allowing the tailback to take 29 carries for 281 yards and 3 touchdowns, was downright alarming. If Cal can’t defend, they simply can’t win. Sure, Pumphrey may be one of college football’s most gifted tailbacks but it’s pretty obvious that Texas will be lining up with some of it’s own “next-level” talents across their depth chart as well. The Golden Bears need Texas’ secondary to have a rough outing and allow California to jump-start their pass-heavy offense.

Marcus Russell: Texas

The_Coach: Texas

DavidMays: Texas

Robert Ingle: Texas

Brian J. Moore: Texas

Saturday, September 10th

Arizona (1-1) v. Hawaii (1-2) [10:45 PM ET, PAC12]

Ingle Win Probability Calculator: Arizona (82%)

The want to pick Hawaii in this one is very strong after two weeks of Arizona playing just about as bad as they can play but still, somehow, there’s something about this Wildcats team that is so very intriguing. Arizona posted just 16 points in their Week One loss to BYU and in Week Two, the Wildcats needed to rally from 18 points down to knock off Grambling State. Only two games in for head coach Rich Rodriguez and already, the season has felt like a marathon. The first half of the Grambling State game probably best magnified how rough life without quarterback Anu Solomon can be for this Arizona offense but the game was a tale of two halves, as Solomon’s replacement in sophomore Brandon Dawkins ended up orchestrating the game-winning turnaround, while passing for 223 yards and rushing for 97 more. Overall, Dawkins accounted for 3 touchdowns in the ten point victory and more importantly, Arizona consistently moved the football for probably the first time all season long. And they’ll need to score some points to knock off the Rainbow Warriors. Hawaii has been warm (41 points against UT-Martin and 31 points against California) and freezing (3 points against Michigan) but the Rainbow Warriors never stray too far from their offensive philosophy. Hawaii is going to toss the ball around the field and try to turn this one into a shootout, which may end up playing more into Arizona’s hands than anything else. Remember this game as the potential outing that gets the Wildcats’ season trending in the right direction.

Marcus Russell: Arizona

The_Coach: Arizona

DavidMays: Arizona

Robert Ingle: Arizona

Brian J. Moore: Arizona