There are some big games this week for Pac-12 teams – or, rather, one big game featuring two of the Pac-12′s biggest players.
Here’s the lowdown of what to watch for around the league:
Washington State at UNLV, Friday, 9 p.m., ESPN
Mike Leach‘s return to coaching has not been as glorious as Leach fans had hoped. The Cougars lost to BYU in their opener and then eked out the win over Eastern Washington. WSU quarterback Jeff Tuel was 20 of 26 but he injured his knee in the game and may not play in Vegas. Either Tuel or backup Connor Halliday could have a big day and lead the Cougs to a big win over UNLV, but the team hasn’t looked good enough yet for this to be a definite “W”.
California at Ohio State, noon, ESPN
Buckeyes’ quarterback Braxton Miller has been the offense for Ohio State in two games this season. Miller rushed for more than 100 yards in each – and with two running backs injured, he really didn’t have a choice. Cal has had a disappointing year so far, losing to Nevada and letting Southern Utah stick around much too long last week. Ohio State has its own issues, but this could turn into a painful trip to the Horseshoe for the Golden Bears.
Tennessee Tech at Oregon, 3 p.m., Pac-12 Network
TTU’s trying to match up to Oregon by debuting snazzy new uniforms, because the Golden Eagles won’t come anywhere near matching up with the Ducks on the field. Oregon just needs to jump out to a big lead so it can get its starters off the field. Their schedule is still in warm-up mode, but they’ve already lost a few players to injury.
Portland State at Washington, 4 p.m., FX
Former Washington running back Nigel Burton is the head coach at Portland State, but don’t expect the Huskies to show their alumnus much love. UW couldn’t clear out of Baton Rouge fast enough after a 41-3 beatdown by LSU, and they’ll be looking to take their frustration and embarrassment out on their next opponent. I don’t envy the Vikings this week.
Arizona State at Missouri, 7 p.m., ESPN2
Missouri QB James Franklin could be the key to the game: he’s a “game-time decision” with a shoulder injury, but several reports think that’s more than a little optimistic. The Tigers lost a heartbreaker to Georgia last weekend, surrendering 24 unanswered points, and backup Corbin Berkstresser doesn’t have much game experience. ASU won this matchup last year but the team hasn’t played on the road yet, and even without Franklin, the Tigers are much fiercer than Northern Arizona and a Nathan Scheelhaase-less Illinois.
USC at Stanford, 7:30 p.m., FOX
Last year’s triple overtime thriller (Stanford won) was the highest-scoring game in USC history – and it’s one of several close ones between these two teams in recent years. With Andrew Luck, Stanford beat the Trojans three years in a row. Without Luck, USC QB Matt Barkley can tick off another item of “unfinished business” with a win. The Trojans will be without kicker Andre Heidari and probably fifth-year center Khaled Holmes, who was injured against Syracuse, but the Barkley-Robert Woods-Marqise Lee combination can go up against any team in the country, especially one with a suspect secondary like the Cardinal.
Colorado at Fresno State, 8 p.m., CBS Sports Network
The Buffaloes have gotten off to a bad start, and a date with Fresno State might not make it any better. CU plans to play two quarterbacks – Kansas transfer Jordan Webb and backup Connor Wood from Texas – and they might have two freshman cornerbacks in the lineup after Greg Henderson suffered an ankle sprain. Colorado needs the win but they might not be able to beat the Bulldogs.
BYU at Utah, 10 p.m., ESPN2
The Utes will have a new quarterback after Jordan Wynn medically retired following his fourth shoulder injury in three years. Utah coach Kyle Whittingham hasn’t named his new starter, but BYU will be solid behind Riley Nelson. It’s a spirited rivalry, and Utah will play with a lot of emotion – but that’s not necessarily a good thing.
Houston at UCLA, 10:30 p.m.
Houston lost quarterback Case Keenum and coach Kevin Sumlin, and they haven’t won yet this season. UCLA hired a new coach and inserted a dynamic redshirt freshman at quarterback and the Bruins are off to a 2-0 start. These are teams on very different trajectories, and while it could be a let-down game for UCLA after upsetting Nebraska, Houston is struggling way too much to beat UCLA at home.
South Carolina State at Arizona, 10:30 p.m.
Don’t expect any surprises. It should be an easy win for the Wildcats.