Before any football season starts fans and writers take a look at what games look to be considered the big games. Sometimes it’s a non-conference game, but most of the time it turns out to be a few games during the regular season that fans look forward to. It’s time to take a look at what the Pac-12 big games will be for 2016.
September 3: UCLA at Texas A&M. The Bruins are considered by many to be the favorites in the South division and by some to be the favorites to win the conference. However, if they want to live up to those expectations they need to get a win at College Station. Heisman Trophy talk will certainly pick up for Josh Rosen if he can lead his team to a convincing win against the Aggies, so there will be a ton of eyes on this opening game for the Bruins. This is a table-setting type of game for UCLA if they can get the win.
September 3: USC vs Alabama. Head coach Clay Helton has a daunting task in front of him and his team right out of the gate by taking on the defending national champion. Many people consider this game a win for Alabama, but the outcome of this game will have repercussions for both the Pac-12 and SEC for the rest of the year. The playoff committee will certainly have their eyes on this game and it will be appointment television because of the tradition for both of these programs.
September 17: USC at Stanford. This will be the first big game test for the Cardinal and their own quarterback issues for which they still haven’t named their starter. Will Stanford be able to make a statement in terms of the playoff race and conference crown with a win here? Can USC avoid being 0-2 after a possible loss to the Crimson Tide or will they be building off an incredible win? At least we won’t have to worry about Pat Haden coming down from the press box to defend his coach.
October 1: Oregon at Washington State. This will be another one of those statement games for both teams. Washington State is coming off a season in which they had a lot of success. Some of that success was beating the Ducks in Eugene and that is no easy feat. This will be the first big game for new Duck quarterback Dakota Prukop and we will see if he can handle the pressure of a hostile crowd. This will also be a game in which Luke Falk can put his name into some possible Heisman Trophy talk.
October 8: Washington at Oregon. This is a rivalry game that hasn’t been much of a rivalry. The Ducks have 12 straight victories over the Huskies, but I think this is the year that Washington breaks through. The Huskies may have one of the best backfields in the conference and possibly in the country. Jake Browning, Husky quarterback, is looking to stay away from the sophomore slump and prove that he is an elite Pac-12 quarterback. For the first time in a while, the Huskies may have the same amount of talent that Oregon does, so keep your eye on this game in early October. I’m taking the Huskies in this one.
October 22: Utah at UCLA. Once the season rolls around to this game we may be looking at both of these teams being in a spot to challenge for the division title and certainly a conference title game berth. Utah has Joe Williams replacing Devontae Booker this season and Williams proved he is more than capable of replacing the All-American Booker. Will UCLA be able to put the Utes challenge down in a pivotal game at The Rose Bowl?
November 19: USC at UCLA. This just may be the game that decides the Pac-12 South division. Will Josh Rosen have the Bruins primed to crash the College Football Playoff? Do the Trojans come into this game with an undefeated record or with one loss? If the scenario is having both teams vying for a playoff spot or at the very least being in the conversation then the eyes of Southern California and probably the rest of the country will be on this game. I will take the Bruins in this game because I believe Rosen will have the Bruins rolling by this time.
The Pac-12, as always, will be a conference that will eat its own. The 2016 season will be no different and I still believe that the conference is left out of the playoff for a second consecutive season. I hope that I am wrong with that statement, but with a ton questions at the quarterback position, it’s going to be tough for a Pac-12 team to break through.
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