Posted: 9:00 a.m. Monday, Aug. 26, 2013
By Jack Follman
Each week, Avinash Kunnath and I will be breaking down which Pac-12 games you need to watch most and why, along with when and where you can catch them on TV.
Game of the Week - Boise State at Washington - Saturday 7 p.m. PT Fox Sports 1
Avinash: The last time we saw Boise State and Washington, it was Boise State and Washington! The Vegas Bowl was a pretty close-end affair that saw the Huskies and Broncos play things pretty close all the way through the end. This game is slightly more significant for UW: Expectations for this season pretty much hinge on how well they can handle the easiest non-conference slate they have in years. Washington's offense needs to take advantage of a thin Boise State defensive front and continue to show the gradual improvement it made over the second half of 2012.
Jack: I have probably said this like five times in the past couple of seasons, but this is the most important game thus far of Steve Sarkisian's career at Washington, and their best (though not most important) player (Austin Seferian-Jenkins), is still a question mark. The Huskies lost a heartbreaker in the Las Vegas Bowl to the Broncos in their last game and both teams look to be very similar going into this game. Could the magic of the debut of the new and improved Husky Stadium be the advantage that the Huskies need?
2. Northwestern at Cal - Saturday 7:30 p.m. PT ESPN2
Avinash: Northwestern is going to be a good litmus test for how quickly Sonny Dykes can change things around at Cal. The Bears are not expected to do much this season, which should put the Big Ten title contenders in danger of an upset bid late in Berkeley. Northwestern also has lost a lot in the secondary and doesn't possess a particularly strong pass rush, so how will they fare against the Bear Raid?
Jack: Want to watch a true freshman quarterback start in a new coach's very first game with a school in a brand new offense that includes the words "Bear" and "Raid" against one of the Big Ten's better, but utterly beatable teams on college football's opening Saturday night. (nods head)
3. Utah State at Utah - Thursday 5 p.m. PT Fox Sports 1
Avinash: Utah State managed to nudge Utah at home last year, but this was with a really good Aggies team and a not-so-great Utes team. Utah State has lost most of their coaching staff, their wide receivers, their star running back, and will have to rely heavily on Chuckie Keaton. The Utes will be aiming to rebound and winning OOC would be a big step in that process.
Jack: It would have seemed improbably just a few years ago, but I feel like these programs seem to be heading in opposite directions, and that has to sit very poorly with the Utah contingent. On top of that, since in-conference wins are going to be very tough to come by for the Utes this season, this is a must win. Hard to believe that there will a rivalry game with this much pride on the line on the season's opening night.
4. Washington State at Auburn - Saturday 4 p.m. PT ESPNU
Avinash: Airraid meets up-tempo spread option. Pure passing meetings pure running. Question marks meet question marks.
Mike Leach was the king of innovators a decade ago, but the present seems to belong to Gus Malzahn. Can Leach regain the magic touch against a rebuilding Auburn team? Washington State seemed to find something at the end of the Apple Cup, and they'd love to build on that momentum going into this year.
Jack: One of the Pac-12's worst programs traveling across the country to play a night game against an SEC power sounds like a recipe for disaster, but there is hope here due to potential weakness of the Tigers. The Tigers struggled mightily to beat Utah State and Louisiana-Monroe in their last two home openers, so the Cougars could have a very good shot if Mike Leach's air attack can perform the way it did in the Apple Cup.
5. Colorado vs. Colorado State (at Denver) - Sunday 3 p.m. PT CBS Sports Network
Avinash: This will be a fascinating one to watch just because of how bad Colorado looks on paper. Can they actually do something with this team? Colorado State isn't a great team by any measure, so this game serves as a measuring stick for what Mike MacIntyre can do in a short period of time with a bare cupboard.
Jack: Colorado couldn't possibly be worse in 2013 than they were in 2012, could they? I don't think so, but I wouldn't chime in on that until after this game. This one is also a savior on a September Sunday without an NFL game.
6. Nevada at UCLA - Saturday 7 p.m. PT - Pac-12 Network
Avinash: With Chris Ault gone, the Nevada game should be a little bit less of a challenge for a UCLA team set on taking the next step toward a Rose Bowl. Nevada is returning none of their running backs, their two best offensive lineman, and their backline defense is wiped out. UCLA does have big issues on defense, but the front seven doesn't have to worry about too much with regards to the pass game.
Jack: This certainly isn't your older brother's Nevada team with Chris Ault and Colin Kaepernick, but regardless, they have always seemed to be a pesky squad for Pac-12 teams in recent history. Even if this one isn't that close, it will be really interesting to see how fast of a start Brett Hundley can get off to this season and if their backfield by committee can truly fill Johnathan Franklin's shoes.
7. USC at Hawaii - Thursday 8 p.m. PT - CBS Sports Network
Avinash: The last time USC came to the isles, Monte Kiffin got lit up for 10,000 yards. Clancy Pendergast has generally performed better against pass-heavy schemes (Airraid teams barely got off the ground during his tenure at Cal), and he gets a bad Hawaii team to tee off on to start the season. But it'll be more important to see how the Trojans fare on offense with a new quarterback under center.
Jack: The Warriors have quickly turned into an opponent that is as comfortable to face as their state's weather so I don't think this one will be in question long, but it will be a must see for Pac-12 fans to get a first look at USC's 2013 quarterback situation. I wouldn't be surprised if both Cody Kessler and Max Wittek get significant snaps and Lane Kiffin uses it as a scrimmage of sorts to further analyze who should be his full-time starter if they can assert their dominance early enough in the game on the ground.
8. Eastern Washington at Oregon State 3 p.m. PT - Pac-12 Network
Avinash: Eastern Washington has played competitive games against Washington and WSU, so facing an Oregon State team with an uncertain quarterbacking situation could have some upset special. Did you know Eastern Washington has a student group called Scary Feminists?
Jack: The Eagles are an FCS team and the Beavers are a pre-season Top 25 team, so why is this not necessarily an automatic blowout? Well, the Eagles are one of the best FCS programs in the nation, came very, very close to beating Washington and Washington State the past two seasons and the Beavers are known to start the season slowly under Mike Riley and are still unresolved at quarterback. So do I think the Eagles will keep this one close? Probably not... but just sayin.
9. Northern Arizona at Arizona 7 p.m. PT - Pac-12 Network
Avinash: Northern Arizona lost by 57 points to Arizona State last year, and ASU isn't exactly known for its offense. Arizona is. Did you know it snows in Northern Arizona?
Jack: It's Friday night, you got nothing else to do right? Oh, you do? Nevermind... but, this one will be interesting to watch to see who Rich Rodriguez starts at quarterback, how effective he is, and if Rodriguez sticks with him throughout.
10. Nicholls at Oregon 1 p.m. PT - Fox Sports 1
Avinash: Nicholls State won one game in the FCS and lost by 74 points to Oregon STATE last year. Did you know you can get a Bachelor of Science in Petroleum Services in Nicholls State?
Jack: I think the Ducks could have replaced Chip Kelly with an actual Duck and they still could roll up 50 plus on Nicholls with the talent and offensive system they have in place. This one might be fun to watch to see if the Ducks can break the 80-point barrier.