These 10 non-conference Pac-12 football games are mostly about the big showdowns involving USC, but there are some new, interesting matchups.
10. Texas Tech at Arizona State, Sept. 10
It’s only the second time the two teams played, with ASU losing the 2013 Holiday Bowl in the last meeting. It’s still early and the Sun Devils need to rebuild, but this should be a wild shootout.
9. Texas at California, Sept. 17
The two teams first played in 1959 – a 33-0 Texas win – but last year the Bears came away with the win in a 45-44 thriller. The Longhorns made it interesting against Jared Goff, but it turned out to be a key moment in a 5-0 start for Cal. This time, Texas has to make the road trip to Berkeley.
8. UCLA at BYU, Sept. 17
It was a fun ride last year in a 24-23 UCLA win with BYU and Tanner Mangum making it interesting. UCLA went on to a 4-0 start before being UCLA and underachieving. Considering what BYU has to deal with schedule-wise, this is a must-win at home – the Bruins have to be ready for a desperate fight.
7. Washington State at Boise State, Sept. 3
Boise State has Oregon State on the slate, and other than that, this is the other Power 5 matchup for a team good enough to be in the CFP hunt if everything breaks right. Washington State hasn’t faced the Broncos since 2001, winning 41-20. This is the fifth meeting between the two with the Cougars winning all four other matchups.
6. BYU at Utah, Sept. 10
The Holy War continues with Utah winning the last five games including last year’s Royal Purple Bowl thriller. The Utes got up early after a slew of BYU turnovers, and then held on for dear life. Now the rivalry continues in the regular season for the first time since 2013.
5. UCLA at Texas A&M, Sept. 3
It’s the fourth meeting between the two teams, first hooking up in 1940 with a 7-0 UCLA win, and last getting together in the 1998 Cotton Bowl – a 29-23 A&M victory. Both teams need the opener for PR purposes, if nothing else. The loser will have a ton of grouchy, torch-wielding fans to deal with.
4. Oregon at Nebraska, Sept. 17
It’s the first meeting since a 48-14 Nebraska win back in 1986, and it’s a huge, huge moment for a Husker team that needs to come up with a splashy victory to really get the Mike Riley era off the ground. For Oregon, this is an early shot to show that it’s business as usual in the hunt for a CFP shot.
3. Stanford at Notre Dame, Oct. 15
Last year Stanford managed to pull out a thriller to keep Notre Dame from – maybe – getting in the College Football Playoff. This time around, the two play in a midseason showdown with the Cardinal sandwiching in the date between home Pac-12 games against Washington State and Colorado.
2. Notre Dame at USC, Nov. 26
Losers of three of the last four in the series, USC gets the game at home and gets a chance to show that it’s really and truly back to being a real live national player again depending on what happens in the final few games. The Trojans close out the Pac-12 season with Oregon, at Washington and UCLA before kicking up the Fighting Irish rivalry again.
1. Alabama vs. USC (in Arlington, TX), Sept. 3
In a big weekend of games to kick off the season, this should be the most important.
It’s the eighth all-time meeting between the two superpowers, with the last hookup a 24-3 Crimson Tide win in the 1985 Aloha Bowl. They’ve played some monster battles including the 1978 date that was Bama’s only loss of the season – a 24-14 USC win – and games in 1977 and 1971 with juggernaut Alabama teams winning both.
They also played in the 1945 Rose Bowl, with Alabama completing an undefeated season with a blowout win. This time around, the two open up the season with a whole slew of question marks from the rebuilding of the Crimson Tide to whether or not Clay Helton is really up to the USC head coaching task.