It's the first week of the season, and unlike last year, there are actually a few watchable games on the schedule in week one, starting tonight. Below is your UCLA fan viewing guide for the weekend.
5:30 p.m. FS1
Michigan at Utah
Rice-Eccles Stadium. Salt Lake City, UT
You know, for a game between two unranked teams on a Thursday night in Salt Lake City, this sure is getting a hell of a lot of hype. This should be a grinding game between two teams that are going to try to play a similar, defense-first style of football. It will also be a test of wills between two head coaches who seem to lack any real interpersonal skills of any kind, though we have to give it to Jim Harbaugh in that battle. Kyle Whittingham, at least, seems to just be an unlikeable guy to work with; on the other side, there’s a non-zero chance that Harbaugh has eaten at least one human being. For UCLA’s purposes, the obvious rooting interest here is Utah. First, it looks good for the Pac-12 to have Utah win, and second, the Bruins actually recruit more against Michigan.
Pick: Utah 24, Michigan 20
6:00 p.m. ESPN
No. 2 TCU at Minnesota
TCF Bank Stadium
This isn’t really interesting for UCLA’s purposes, at least not at this early juncture, but this game probably features the best combination of mascot names in this week’s slate of games, and if Utah vs. Michigan turns into too much of a slog, this will give you something to turn to. TCU is a year removed from going 4-8, but apparently we, as a nation, have agreed to believe that TCU was in no way playing above its head last season.
Pick: TCU 31, Minnesota 23
7:00 p.m. Pac12 Networks
UTSA at No. 22 Arizona
Arizona’s non-conference schedule is full of weak, fluffy nonsense, and that slate kicks off tonight against something called UTSA. Knowing absolutely nothing about UTSA, if that is a real college, 31.5 points seems like a lot against a team that still has some major issues on the offensive line after presumed starting center Carter Wood went down with a foot injury during fall camp. Arizona might be good by the end of the year, but the Wildcats could have some issues out of the gate.
Pick: Arizona 34, UTSA 17
10:00 p.m. CBS Sports Network
Colorado at Hawaii
Guys, do you remember when Rick Neuheisel tried to make Norm Chow, who made a 30-year career out of molding players into a pro-style system, coach the pistol, a formation and offense he had about zero familiarity with? How did anyone think that was a good idea?
Anyway, Chow is nearing the end of his career, and his first and last head coaching stint is not going well. It’s going so not well, in fact, that a Colorado team that went 2-10 last year is favored by more than a touchdown on the road against Hawaii. We’re expecting ugliness.
Pick: Colorado 38, Hawaii 21
5:00 p.m. Pac12 Networks
Weber St. at Oregon State
Oregon State -everything
Just awful scheduling. Oregon State is going to be hard up for wins this year, granted, but Weber State is a basketball school that isn’t even good at basketball. This is like playing a local junior college. The Beavers are going to be terrible this season, and they should beat Weber State by five touchdowns.
Pick: Oregon State 49, Weber State 14
7:15 p.m. ESPN
Washington at No. 23 Boise State
Boise State -12.0
This would be a lot more fun if Washington were any good this year, but the Huskies are going to be pretty bad. Boise State has a strong defense, which should beat up Washington’s weak offense, and the Huskies’ defense will have to hope to generate some kind of pressure against Boise’s new quarterback. Chris Petersen is not a magician, and winning this kind of game with this kind of team requires a magician.
Pick: Boise State 31, Washington 17
9:00 a.m. ESPN
No. 21 Stanford at Northwestern
Stanford should be pretty good this year, with a weak Pac-12 schedule and a manageable enough non-conference slate. The thing is, in the David Shaw era, Stanford has had a tendency to start seasons slowly, and we wouldn't be stunned if this game ended up being some godawful dreary mess that Stanford wins on a field goal with three minutes to go in the 4th quarter. The most intriguing thing to watch will be who Shaw selects to be his sacrificial lamb in the Wildcat this year after his security blanket Ty Montgomery graduated last season.
Pick: Stanford 21, Northwestern 17
11:00 a.m. Pac12 Networks
Portland State at Washington State
Pick: Washington State 48, Portland State 14
12:30 p.m. FOX
Virginia at No. 13 UCLA
The Rose(n) Bowl
Oh, well, lookie here: a nice 6500-word preview on this very subject.
Pick: UCLA 27, Virginia 13
12:30 p.m. CBS
Louisville vs. No. 6 Auburn
SEC! SEC! SEC! Auburn is the latest SEC team to draw a ton of preseason hype for some reason we'll have to figure out later. The Tigers had a bad defense last year and lost their starting quarterback, but hey, whatever. SEC! SEC! SEC!
Pick: Louisville 34, Auburn 31
12:30 p.m. ABC
BYU at Nebraska
This should actually be an interesting game for UCLA fans! The Cougars play UCLA September 19th, so this game could give a really good indication of what kind of team BYU is. This will be quarterback Taysom Hill's first game back from a season-ending injury last year, and if he is firing on all cylinders in Lincoln, that could be a big concern for UCLA in a couple of weeks. This will also be Uncle Mike Riley's first game as the Nebraska head coach, and it'll be interesting to see how he marries his pro-style offense to a quarterback who can't throw.
Pick: BYU 23, Nebraska 17
2:00 p.m. Pac12 Networks
Grambling State at California
Pick: Cal 69, Grambling State 17
4:00 p.m. ESPN
No. 15 ASU vs. Texas A&M
So, this is probably the most significant Pac-12 game on the slate for Saturday, and should be the first thing you turn on after the UCLA game. The Sun Devils are Todd Graham's best. team. ever. per usual, but A&M is one of those darkhorse SEC West teams that many are picking to crash the Playoff party. This game could hinge on exactly how ready Mike Bercovici is to step in as a starting quarterback without the receiving weapons he had last season. A&M has a pillowy soft secondary, so Bercovici could put up some big numbers in the opener. Todd Graham may or may not cut his hair with a Bowie knife, and may or may not believe he's a pop star, but the dude can coach.
Pick: ASU 36, A&M 31
4:30 p.m. NBC
Texas at No. 11 Notre Dame
Notre Dame fans might lose patience with Anger McRedface this year if the Irish put together another disappointing season. The target of most of McRedface's ire last year, quarterback Everett Golson, is now gone, but all that really means is that new starting quarterback Malik Zaire better get ready for a spit bath the first time he throws an interception. Texas is still deep into Charlie Strong's rebuilding process, and at the rate at which he dismisses players, that process should be complete some time around 2021. Texas has some talent, but the Irish have more experience and better depth.
Pick: Notre Dame 24, Texas 14
4:30 p.m. CBS Sports Network
UNLV at Northern Illinois
Huskie Stadium, Dekalb Illinois
If you want to see a high school team get blown out on national television two weeks in a row, take a gander at this one.
Pick: NIU 49, UNLV 17
5:00 p.m. ABC
No. 20 Wisconsin vs. No. 3 Alabama
Do you think Nick Saban was just trying to add a degree of difficulty to winning a national championship when he added Lane Kiffin to the staff as the offensive coordinator? Kiffin pretty much prevented Alabama from reaching the championship game a year ago, and it wouldn't be stunning if he gacked away a couple of games this year in his second year with the Crimson Tide. Wisconsin had a coach leave for friggin' Oregon State in the offseason, which should tell you all you need to know about how fun it is to work for Barry Alvarez.
Pick: Alabama 31, Wisconsin 16
5:00 p.m. Pac12 Networks
Eastern Washington at No. 7 Oregon
Ugh x3, but with the added benefit of watching Vernon Adams smoke a school that he was literally attending four weeks ago. The beauty of modern college football.
Pick: Oregon everything, Eastern Washington nothing.
8:00 p.m. Pac12 Networks
Arkansas State at No. 8 USC
Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum
The flying Sarkisians actually get a point spread against Arkansas State, so I guess we can't call this ugh x4. Arkansas State is actually pretty decent for a Sun Belt school, but USC just has too much talent across the board. Even Steve Sarkisian couldn't blow this one.
Pick: USC 41, Arkansas State 21
5:00 p.m. ESPN
No. 1 Ohio State at Virginia Tech
Lane Stadium, Blacksburg Virginia
THE Ohio State University went from the winner of a crap league last season to the Best. Team. Ever, thanks in large part to the gift of Lane Kiffin in the first round of the playoffs. But few seem to recall that the Buckeyes lost to what turned out to be a largely crappy Virginia Tech team last season (at home), and this year they have to play a marginally better Virginia Tech team on the road to open the season. At various points during the season, they also struggled with Penn State (which was just OK), Minnesota (which was just pretty good), and Indiana (which was terrible). It's completely justified to have Ohio State as the favorite this year, since Urban Meyer is a warlock, but the Buckeyes being the first unanimous No. 1 in the history of the AP Poll is, honestly, a little insane. They were losing to the Hoosiers in the second half last season! In football! And it was the 11th game of the season!
Pick: Ohio State 27, Virginia Tech 24