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FILE - In this Nov. 23, 2018, file photo, Oregon coach Mario Cristobal stands with players before the team's NCAA college football game against Oregon State in Corvallis, Ore. The Ducks are the highest-ranked Pac-12 team and the North Division favorite. They go into Saturday night’s game against Auburn, the opener of Cristobal’s second season, with a three-game winning streak after a 9-4 season. (AP Photo/Timothy J. Gonzalez, File)
FILE - In this Nov. 23, 2018, file photo, Oregon coach Mario Cristobal stands with players before the team's NCAA college football game against Oregon State in Corvallis, Ore. The Ducks are the highest-ranked Pac-12 team and the North Division favorite. They go into Saturday night’s game against Auburn, the opener of Cristobal’s second season, with a three-game winning streak after a 9-4 season. (AP Photo/Timothy J. Gonzalez, File)|Associated Press
NCAAF

Pac-12 football: Madwed picks Washington vs EWU, Stanford vs Northwestern, UC Davis vs Cal, Oregon vs Auburn, NMSU vs Wash St., USC v Fresno

Games start Saturday at 3 pm EDT.

Jesse Madwed

Jesse Madwed

WASHINGTON -21 over Eastern Washington, 3 PM EDT

The Huskies have a tough opening weekend game as far as FCS matchups go. The Eagles made the FCS championship game before losing to powerhouse North Dakota State. The key here will be Eastern Washington's inexperience in the defensive secondary. Washington's highly touted transfer quarterback Jacob Eason, combined with a veteran receiving corps, should carve up Eastern's defense. The Huskies lose nine defensive starters from their Pac-12 leading unit from 2018, but the coaches are the same and there are highly regarded young players stepping up.

STANFORD -6 over Northwestern, 4 PM EDT

A bad Northwestern offensive line proves to be the key in this game. While they are returning some talent at running back and receiver, none of that matters if the quarterback has no time to operate. Speaking of which, the Wildcats have yet to name their starter. I believe Hunter Johnson will get the bulk of the snaps, but it does not give me confidence that they are sure either Johnson or TJ Green will take hold of the job. Stanford has to replace several starts, most importantly Bryce Love, but their usual solid defense and returning starter KJ Costello will get their season started off with a win.

UC Davis +13 over CALIFORNIA, 6:30 PM EDT

UC Davis is one of the best FCS teams in the country. While it is doubtful that they will pull off the outright victory, this game should be closer than one might think. The Aggies return most key members of their explosive offense from last season. They should be a worthy match for the powerful Cal defense, led by an elite secondary. Cal has struggled on offense the past few seasons and simply will not put up enough points to beat the spread.

Oregon +3.5 over Auburn, 7:30 PM EDT

Oregon returns 17 starters, including ten on offense. The most important is returning quarterback Justin Herbert, who could have been a top 5 pick if he left school early. True freshman Auburn starter Bo Nix will have his work cut out for him in his first collegiate game. Oregon has a powerful secondary returning and a lot of talent on the defensive line. Auburn's clear strength is their front seven, but Oregon is equipped to handle the pressure with an extremely experienced offensive line. This one

should be a close game at a neutral site in Arlington, Texas. I see Oregon beating the spread if not winning outright.

New Mexico State +32 over WASHINGTON STATE, 10 PM EDT

Washington State should run away with this one, but I believe the Aggies have enough talent to avoid a beat down of the proportion the spread indicates. NMSU returns enough talent and experience on the offensive side of the ball to put up some points on a rebuilding Cougars defense. New Cougars starting QB Anthony Gordon has had a few years in the program to learn the offense, but replacing star running back James Williams' production won't be easy. Expect a blowout, but it will take a few weeks for Washington State to really get going.

USC -13.5 over Fresno State, 10:30 PM EDT

USC is one of the more difficult teams to pin down at the start of this season. They have plenty of talent on both sides of the ball, but that did not translate to wins last season. Fresno State is looking to build on a successful 2018 season, but many of their important pieces are not returning. The Trojans will be debuting a more pass heavy offense than they have shown in the past. I expect the Trojan's superior talent and explosive offense to lead them to an easy victory.

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