College Football Predictions 2011: Predicting the Pac-12's 10 Biggest Games

Pat MarrujoContributor IApril 6, 2011

College Football Predictions 2011: Predicting the Pac-12's 10 Biggest Games

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    The Pacific-12 Conference is preparing for one of its most anticipated seasons ever. Now known as the Pac-12, the conference should have a strong 2011 season filled with exciting games.

    Every team wants to make the inaugural Pac-12 championship game to prove that it is going to be a force to be reckoned with in the new conference for years to come. 

    These are the top 10 conference games that will have the biggest impact on the 2011 Pac-12 football season.

10. California at Arizona State or Colorado at Utah

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    November 26

    These two games share a spot because they each hold the same significance.

    Arizona State and Utah are the early favorites to win the Pac-12 South and these are the last games on their schedules. If either team finds itself in a position to win the division, these games will be must wins.

    California has always given Arizona State trouble. The Sun Devils have not beaten the Golden Bears since 2007 and were defeated 50-17 in the matchup last season.

    However, this Sun Devils team appears to be headed in the right direction, while California seems to be sliding.

    Utah’s visit to Colorado is the rekindling of an old rivalry. From 1902 to 1962, the schools were bitter rivals. However, the two have not played since that time. It will be interesting to see how old hate will carry over into this meeting.

    The 2011 matchup appears to be a one-sided battle in Utah’s favor, but anything can happen in college athletics.

9. Oregon at Washington

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    November 5

    At first glance, this game seems like it will be an easy blowout for the Oregon Ducks. A trip to Seattle should be the least of Oregon’s worries.

    However, this has trap game written all over it.  Washington is a vastly underrated team led by superstar running back Chris Polk.

    This game is scheduled the week before Oregon’s trip to Stanford, so the Ducks could be looking ahead.

    Chip Kelly better keep his team focused, or else the Ducks might be upset by the Huskies.

8. Arizona State at Oregon

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    October 15

    If Arizona State can live up to the preseason hype, they could have one of the best chances to take down the defending conference champions.

    The Sun Devils return 19 starters from a season ago, including menacing linebacker Vontaze Burfict. The Ducks return 12 total starters, including Heisman-candidate running back LaMichael James.

    Last season, the Sun Devils came as close as anyone in the conference did to taking down Oregon. They gained 597 yards on Oregon’s defense and forced the Ducks to punt a season-high 11 times.

    This game is a can’t miss. These are two of the fastest teams in the nation and it should be a thriller at the Autzen Zoo.

7. Oregon State at Oregon

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    November 26

    This game, nicknamed “The Civil War,” is one of the most heated rivalries in college football. It is a game that is usually filled with heckling, heartbreak and cheap shots.

    Like California at Arizona State and Colorado at Utah, this game will most likely be a clinching game for Oregon.

    Oregon State is losing its best players from both sides of the ball, running back Jacquizz Rodgers and defensive tackle Stephen Paea. However, the Beavers are returning four starting linemen and great defensive backs from a season ago.

    If their inconsistent quarterback, Ryan Katz, can improve, this could be a tough game for Oregon.

6. Stanford at USC

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    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    October 29

    The Stanford versus USC rivalry dates back to 1905. During the early 2000s, it was relatively one-sided in favor of USC. But as of late, Stanford has turned the table on the Trojans.

    Stanford has won three of the last four meetings, all more controversial and as memorable as the previous one.

    This season’s showdown will not disappoint. It slates the conference's two best quarterbacks against each other in Stanford’s Andrew Luck and USC’s Matt Barkley.

    This game will help decide Stanford’s fate as a contender for the Pac-12 crown.

5. USC at Oregon

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    November 19

    This matchup also features a star-studded quarterback battle, featuring Barkley of USC and Darron Thomas of Oregon.

    Most people would agree that this is a statement season for teams in the Pac-12. Programs want to prove to the rest of the conference that they are to be feared.

    The two most powerful and consistent programs in the conference are Oregon and USC. Since USC isn’t eligible to play in the conference championship game, the consequences are somewhat one-sided.

    This doesn’t hold as much of an importance on the outlook of the conference in 2011, but it could shape the outlook of years to come.

4. Arizona State at Utah

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    October 8

    It seems to be a near unanimous prediction that Utah and Arizona State will be the main contenders for the Pac-12 South title. So it is quite obvious why this game holds so much significance.

    The winner of this game could decide who goes to the conference championship game.

    Arizona State ended 2010 red hot and there is quite a buzz coming out of Tempe, while Utah has consistently been one of the best mid-majors in college football.

    A Pac-12 South championship will be proof to the nation that mid-major schools can hang with the big boys.

    The crowd should be electric for this game and the Sun Devils will need to play a great game if they want to escape Salt Lake City with a win.

3. USC at Utah

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    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    September 10

    This is one of the most historic games of the 2011 college football season. It is the first ever Pac-12 Conference game and will be Utah’s first game in a BCS conference.

    Cameras will be flashing, national media will be everywhere and everyone will be watching.

    Can Utah handle the pressure?

    USC has been in this situation many times before, but all this exposure is new for the Utes. It will be interesting to see how they handle it.

2. Oregon at Stanford

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    Steve Dykes/Getty Images

    November 12

    This is probably the most star-studded of all of the Pac-12 matchups.

    Andrew Luck, Darron Thomas, LaMichael James, Stepfan Taylor, the list of superstars goes on and on.

    This is a game that could have Pac-12 North championship or even national championship implications.

    Last season, Oregon was impressive en route to a 52-31 victory at home. However, this season's game will be played in Palo Alto and Stanford looks to have a much better showing than last time.

    Expect this to be an offensive shootout that is decided late.

1. Pac-12 Championship Game

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    December 3

    Pac-12 fans, circle this day on your calendar, set your DVRs and get ready for a new conference championship game, for the first time ever.

    The unique thing about the Pac-12 Conference championship game is that the home team will actually host the game at their home field. This puts a strong emphasis on the regular season.

    No matter which teams earn a spot in this game, it is sure to be a thriller.

    Who do you think will make the inaugural Pac-12 Conference championship game?

    Answer in the comment box below.