Thursday, Oct. 11
Arizona State at Colorado (6:00 p.m. PT, ESPN)- One of the positives of conference expansion is that you get to see different high-level football programs acquaint themselves with one another. The Sun Devils have never lost to the Buffaloes in this storied rivalry that dates all the way back to 2006. In their first meeting as conference foes, the Forks made quick work of the Buffs by beating Colorado 48-14 in what would be Arizona State’s last win of the season. If Arizona State makes it 4-0 against Colorado, the Sun Devils will get to .500 all-time against Pac-12 foes (166-166-5). The Buffaloes better appreciate home while it lasts, because their next two games are at USC and in Eugene against the Ducks. How’s that for two straight on the road?
Saturday, Oct. 13
Utah at UCLA (12:00 p.m. PT, FOX)- It snowed last year when these two teams met in Salt Lake City (marking the first time since 1964 that UCLA had played in snow), but I have a hunch that won’t be an issue at the Rose Bowl barring rapid global climate change. Last year’s 31-6 victory over the Bruins made Utah bowl-eligible for the ninth consecutive year. If all goes well in Berkeley, a win against the Utes could make UCLA bowl-eligible for the second straight season.
Oregon State at BYU (12:30 p.m. PT, ABC)- The Beavers have answered every question thrown their way this year, but another one will arise on the 13th: Can Oregon State beat a quality non-conference opponent on the road? BYU, which is also having its Homecoming this weekend, is 1-1 against the Pac-12 this year, beating Washington State 30-6 in the Aug. 30 opener and losing to Utah 24-21 in a crazy finish that saw Ute fans rush the field on three occasions. This is the return trip for the Beavers, as they lost to BYU 38-28 in Corvallis last October.
Stanford at Notre Dame (12:30 p.m. PT, NBC)- The Cardinal have won the last three in this series, including a 37-14 beatdown of the Irish the last time they played in South Bend. In that game, Stanford two-way player Owen Marecic scored on consecutive plays from scrimmage; first on a 1-yard run, then on a 20-yard pick-six of now-Kansas QB Dayne Crist. That 2010 victory put the Cardinal in the top 10 for the first time under Jim Harbaugh, the first of many weeks spent in the upper-echelon of the college football rankings over the next couple of years.
USC at Washington (4:00 p.m. PT, FOX)- Despite beating the Huskies 40-17 in the Coliseum last year, the Trojans have had their fair share of troubles with Washington in recent years. Case in point: 2010, when Jake Locker engineered a late fourth quarter drive to set up Erik Folk’s game-winning 32-yard field goal as time expired in the Coliseum. The 2012 match-up won’t be any easier for USC, as they will face a battle-tested Husky squad that has already knocked off Stanford. Consider this the hump week of a brutal five-game stretch (Stanford-Oregon-USC-Arizona-Oregon State) for Washington.
Cal at Washington State (7:30 p.m. PT, Pac-12 Networks)- Even if these teams aren’t sporting snazzy records, it’ll be a fun one to watch; it always is when an Air Raid offense and Keenan Allen take the field. Expect a lot of big plays in a game the features two of the best wide receivers in the conference- the aforementioned Allen and Marquess Wilson of Washington State. Speaking of Allen, he became the sixth Golden Bear to surpass the 1,000-yard receiving mark for a season in last year’s 30-7 victory over the Cougars in San Francisco. Washington State hopes a new coach can put an end to their recent struggles against Cal; the Cougars have lost seven straight to the Golden Bears.