While there will be plenty of PAC-12 conference games crucial to all 12 teams, there are also a few interesting non-conference match ups on the slate that could prove interesting and even vital to some, while others could struggle to stay awake for 60 minutes.
The best and worst kick it off right away, with both a snoozer and a doozy on the Sept. 8 schedule, officially the second week of the season.
Washington at LSU, Saturday, Sept. 8
Last year, Oregon dropped a 40-27 loss to LSU in their season open, immediately damaging the Ducks’ national title dreams. This time, Washington gets a shot and will represent the conference against the Tigers, who played for the title only to lose to Alabama after owning the No. 1 spot for much of the season. This year’s Huskies will be no pushover and LSU is not expected to be the powerhouse it was in 2011, but a new quarterback, Georgia transfer Zach Mettenberger, could make things interesting. However, this game could either be a blowout win for LSU or a down-to-the-wire affair that would certainly thrust Washington back onto the national stage.
Cal at Ohio State, Saturday, Sept. 15
The PAC-12-Big 10 series won’t begin for three years, but the the Golden Bears, who are tired of being lost in the pack of the North Division, could be up for an early upset. Ohio State has already popped up in the preseason Top 25 prediction and should not disappoint; Cal will have a hard time getting anyone’s attention with Oregon, Stanford and Washington ahead of them. Still, head coach Jeff Tedford will surely come out with his big running game and much-improved defense and could catch the Buckeyes napping. At least, Cal could make a game of it.
Notre Dame at USC, Saturday, Nov. 24
The Fighting Irish also have Stanford on the schedule this year, but this late-season non-conference event could prove crucial in both team’s post-season plans, and possibly have an immediate impact on USC if the Trojans are to live up to the preseason hype of being the eventual No. 1 team in the country.
Duke at Stanford, Saturday, Sept. 8
While the Blue Devils have the potential to earn a bowl bid with at least six wins this year, the blowout factor in this one at Stanford could prove fatal for Duke if it drops a few key games down the road. For the Cardinal, this one is a workout, a tune-up before the PAC-12 before things get serious.
Tennessee Tech at Oregon, Saturday, Sept. 15
It almost seems unfair, doesn’t it? Sure, you play the schedule you get, but really, what will Tennessee Tech gain from this one, aside from seeing a top-shelf Div. I-A team and maybe getting a few autographs from DeAnthony Thomas and Kenjon Barner? The potential lopsided score could be a record breaker if Oregon is in mood to let the horses out of the gate early.
Portland State at Washington, Saturday, Sept. 15
We still need to see how strong Washington will be in 2012, but it’s likely that head coach Steve Sarkisian and quarterback Keith Price will let loose in this mismatch, if only to workout some kinks and try out a few things they’ll need to bring against their tough North Division opponents.