NCAA Football

Big Ten Visits, Nervous Coaches Highlight Pac-12 Weekend

I don’t want to be the one to say this but, this is a big weekend for a few coaches who lead Pac-12 programs.

Most observers would look at the slate of coming Pac-12 games and be hard pressed to find a big time nationally relevant match-up.  Oh how such thinking is so far off.

Yes, Oklahoma State is ranked 18, and yes they visit a Rich Rodriguez led Arizona squad.  I do know that 16th ranked Nebraska is in the Rose Bowl to tangle with UCLA, and their new addition at head coach Jim Mora Jr.

Don’t forget about Illinois visiting the Southwest to play Todd Graham’s new digs, Arizona State. All the aforementioned games should provide great entertainment, and I truly look forward to watching them.  However, Graham and Rich-Rod are in their first seasons at their respective institutions.  In other words, this is their honeymoon period.

There is another Big Ten school that will be on a Pac-12 campus this weekend where the honeymoon is over.  On Wisconsin.

The mighty 13th ranked Badgers step foot into Reser Stadium Saturday which is sure to garner a ton of interest for Beaver fans hoping to see improvement.  Fans always want to win, but perhaps it is OSU head coach Mike Riley, that wants this win more.

It is no secret that the seat of which Riley occupies is at least warm.  A victim of his own success, Riley helped to ignite the Oregon State program.  Folks in Corvallis saw their school go to a bowl game about every other ice age then  Dennis Erickson brought life into the program immediately in 1999.  Erickson only stuck around for four seasons.

Since Riley took over, OSU has kept the momentum going, by appearing in six bowls in seven seasons.  Lately, its been a little rough.  The past two seasons, the Beavers have won five, and three games respectively.  A win against a ranked opponent would go a long way toward buying some lost favor with the orange and black.

Northwest Oregon is not the only hot spot this weekend.  Boulder Colorado is aflame after a loss to in-state rival and “little brother” Colorado State.  Jon Embree is on year two of his Buffalo rebuilding project or BRP.  Colorado, is also coming off a three win season.

Unlike OSU, the Buffs already have a game under their belt, and the outcome was less than favorable.  The home opener in Folsom Field should make for an easy September afternoon.  Should.  Sacramento State is an FCS program and a clear underdog.

That hasn’t stopped the Buffs before.  Remember the Montana State game in 2006?  If, and I know this is an if, but if Embree’s squad lays an egg Saturday… its over.  CU Athletic Director Mike Bohn has already declared the expectation for 2012 as being bowl eligible.  No way Colorado gets close to that with another non-conference loss.

As unlikely as a bowl is, only one game into the season, Embree can ill-afford to falter.  This is very possibly the last game CU is favored in.

Another FCS program visiting a Pac-12 school is Southern Utah.  Berkeley fans left the newly renovated Memorial Stadium with a sour taste in their mouth after Nevada dispatched of the Bears last weekend.  Cal head coach Jeff Tedford might want to start pounding Tums if this weeks game is close entering halftime.

Tedford has by all accounts been successful when one considers his .617 winning percentage and eight bowl trips.  Bears fans do not look at his tenure as golden, however.  The last time Cal made the Rose Bowl Dwight D. Eisenhower was President.  It has been a while.  The impatience is growing in the Bay Area.  Close but no cigar will not go over well for the umpteenth time.

Enjoy week two Pac-12 fans.  The Big Ten is in town and several Pac-12 coaches are trying to avoid being kicked out of it.


James Gomez is a Pac-12 and Mountain West columnist for Rant Sports and member of the Football Writers Association of America

You can follow James on Twitter as well.