These are the 10 biggest Pac-12 football games that’ll define the championship chase for the 2016 season.
10. USC at Utah, Sept. 23
It’s a rough early Pac-12 run for the Trojans starting out at Stanford the week before and with the date in Utah six days later. Win those two, and everything eased up for a while with four home games in the next five. Utah starts out the year with three home games in the first four – this is its Pac-12 opener.
9. Stanford at Washington, Sept. 30
Just how quickly can Stanford reload? It’s going to be a really, really nasty start to the season with USC and at UCLA coming before a Friday date with the Huskies just six days after going to L.A. The Huskies are coming off a trip to Arizona and get Oregon next – this is the key stretch.
8. USC at Washington, Nov. 12
If all goes well for Washington early, this might be a preview of the Pac-12 championship. Coming off a run of three road games in four dates, the Dawgs are finally back at home. The Trojans are coming off a date with Oregon as part of a brutal stretch with at UCLA and Notre Dame to finish things up.
7. Arizona State at USC, Oct. 1
If the Sun Devils are able to rebuild at all, this becomes one of the biggest games in the South race. USC will be coming off road games at Stanford and Utah, while ASU will probably 4-0 if it can get by Texas Tech at home.
6. Utah at UCLA, Oct. 22
This ends a rough run of three road games in four weeks for Utah – that that comes off a home game against USC. However, going to Cal and Oregon State isn’t all that bad. If the Utes can beat the Trojans at home, this becomes a really big deal. The Bruins get a home oasis with road games at Arizona State and Washington State before and a trip to Colorado to follow.
5. USC at Stanford, Sept. 17
It’s the Pac-12 opener for both, with Stanford getting 15 days to prepare after kicking off the season with Kansas State. USC will be dealing with a little more with Alabama and Utah State under its belt.
4. Washington at Oregon, Oct. 8
Stanford might be the reigning Pac-12 North champion, but this might be to take over the title. It’s been 14 straight Duck wins in the series going back to the 2003 42-10 Husky blowout, but this should be Chris Petersen’s best team yet in Seattle.
3. Stanford at Oregon, Nov. 12
Oregon pulled off the win last season, but Stanford’s been the Kryptonite over the last several years for the Duck attack winning two of the last four. All the concerns about lost talent should be gone by this point for the Cardinal, and they should be on a bit of a roll with home games against Colorado and Oregon State and a road trip to Arizona before this. This is Oregon’s final home game of the season, but it’s coming off a road trip to USC.
2. Oregon at USC, Nov. 5
Oregon closes out the year with three road games in the final four November weeks, and the build-up isn’t easy with Washington, at Cal and Arizona State before dealing with the Trojans. For USC, this is the last game in a great run of four home games in five dates, and with a few extra days playing Cal on Thursday the week before.
1. USC at UCLA, Nov. 19
If all goes according to plan, this should be for the Pac-12 South title and maybe even for the conference championship. USC still has to play Notre Dame after this, and it has to deal with a road game at Washington and home date against Oregon before.
The Bruins aren’t home free even with a win, having to go to Cal to close out the Pac-12 season, but this is a three home game in four dates and they should be on a streak with Utah, at Colorado and Oregon State before.