The new Pac 12 TV deal is done and now it is time to focus on football. The seasons inches closer every day and anticipation is building for the inaugural Pac 12 football season.
Every team will be full of hype until that first moment of reality strikes. The first loss of the season is always the toughest to recover from.
This list will predict when that game comes. The time we will find out what each team is really made off.
These are the games in which the Pac 12 teams will get their first loss of the season.
Sept. 10 at Oklahoma State
This is a no-brainer. The last game these two teams played was at the Alamo Bowl against each other, and it was not pretty.
Oklahoma State embarrassed the Wildcats 36-10 and this 2011 bout will probably have a similar result.
Arizona returns quarterback Nick Foles, but loses numerous other key players. Their entire offensive line from a season ago has graduated and their two best defensive players, ends Ricky Elmore and Brooks Reed, are gone as well.
Oklahoma State on the other hand is returning nearly their entire offense that lit up the Arizona defense a season ago.
This one will be tough to watch.
Oct. 15 at Oregon
When I was choosing a game for the Sun Devils, I tried to be as least biased as possible. However, I have come to the conclusion that I truly do not believe Arizona State will lose a game until their trip to Eugene.
An argument can be made about them losing at home against Missouri or USC, or possibly even at Illinois or Utah. But, this Oregon game is the first one I see very little chance of the Devils winning in.
Both of these teams are returning plenty of talent. The most notable from each team is linebacker Vontaze Burfict of ASU and running back LaMichael James of Oregon.
Last season, ASU played the Ducks tough at home, but ultimately lost the game in large part to seven turnovers. On the road, I doubt Oregon allows the Devils to stick around most of the game like they did last season.
Oregon is a tough to play at and the Ducks return too many key starters. I cant see Arizona State pulling this upset off.
Sept. 24 at Washington
Last season, this was a game dominated by defense. It ended up being a 16-13 that spoiled the Golden Bears hopes of a bowl game and kept the Huskies alive.
It ended on a one-yard touchdown run by Washington running back Chris Polk with time expiring. I do not feel this game will be as close as it was last season.
These two programs are going in opposite directions. Washington is learning how to win, while Cal is quickly fading into the distance.
The main reason I like Washington in this game is due to Cal’s quarterback situation. They have no hope at this position.
Expect Chris Polk to have a big game on the ground against a Golden Bears defense that lost a lot of defensive talent a season ago.
Sept. 24 at Ohio State
Even though I believe that Ohio State has a huge advantage when it comes to talent in this game, I do not feel this game will be a blowout.
The Buckeyes will be without key players like quarterback Terrelle Pryor and running back Dan Herron due to the infamous “TattooGate.” Head coach Jim Tressell will also not be there for the Buckeyes.
Colorado is a very experienced team that should not be taken lightly in 2011. They return a total of 17 starters from a season ago, none of them more crucial than running back Rodney Stewart.
Colorado should keep this game close, but the Buckeyes should get it done at home despite the absence of key players.
I do not see a loss on Oregon’s schedule as of right now. A loss in the Pac 12 championship game, possible. A loss in the BCS title game, more likely.
Last season, Oregon was a step above all of the other teams in the Pac 12 and they should be again this year.
Teams like Arizona State, Arizona, Stanford and USC could have a chance to knock off the Ducks, but I wouldn’t bet on it. They have proven their dominance.
Returning players like Darron Thomas, running back LaMichael James and safety John Boyett makes it difficult not to be confident in this team.
Expect them to run the table during the regular season again in 2011.
Sept. 10 at Wisconsin
Wisconsin simply refuses to lose at Camp Randall Stadium. It is very unlikely that the Beavers will escape this road trip without a loss.
Running back Jacquizz Rodgers has taken his talents to the next level, leaving the Oregon State offensive searching for answers. I expect them to rely heavily on quarterback Ryan Katz, who showed promise last season.
Wisconsin is also losing some key players from their 2011 Big Ten Championship team, like defensine linemen J.J. Watt and the Outland Trophy winning offensive tackle Gabe Carimi.
The Badgers should be able to take advantage of a depleted Oregon State defensive front seven with running backs like Montee Ball and James White.
Oct. 22 vs. Washington
As the season grows closer, I have become progressively less confident in Stanford and more confident in Washington.
I do not see Stanford as the same Orange Bowl winning team from a season ago. Sure Andrew Luck is coming back, but they are also losing their head coach, the majority of their offensive line and some of their best defensive players.
Washington on the other hand is losing their Jake Locker, their star quarterback. However they are also returning 16 total starters from a season ago including running back Chris Polk.
The Husky defense showed improvement last season and should be respectable in 2011.
I believe Washington will take advantage of Stanford’s inexperienced defensive front seven. Meanwhile their experienced cornerbacks, Quinton Richardson and Desmond Trufant, will be able to shut down a weak Stanford receiving corps.
Sept. 24 vs. Texas
UCLA did manage to beat Texas last year, but do not expect this two seasons in a row.
The Bruins might be the worst team in the Pac 12 and Texas should be much improved after their disappointing 5-7 season last year.
Texas head coach Mack Brown has gone out and totally revamped his assistant coaching staff in order to make a statement. Garrett Gilbert will be much better at the quarterback position and true freshman running back Malcolm Brown could be an instant superstar.
The only reasons to be excited about UCLA’s football program is running back Jonathon Franklin and the possibility that this could be the last season that Rick Neuheisel is the head coach.
Texas will get their revenge this game in a blowout.
Sept. 24 at Arizona State
This game was a true heartbreaker for Sun Devil fans last season. USC blocked an extra point that would have tied the game for the Sun Devils, but instead turned into an extra two points for the Trojans. Then Arizona State missed a field goal late that would have tied the game.
I expect the Sun Devils to finish off the Trojans this time around in another close game. These are probably the two best teams in the Pac 12 South.
The Trojans had a disappointing 8-5 record last season and look to bounce back in a big way in 2011. Quarterback Matt Barkley is becoming one of the best in the country and the Trojans are loaded as talent as usual.
The Sun Devils are returning a staggering 18 starters from a season ago and shock teams with their overwhelming speed.
Arizona State has not beaten the Trojans in their last 12 chances, but that streak will end in 2011.
Sept. 10 at USC
From a USC loss, to a USC victory. This will be the inaugural game of the Pac 12 season, everyone will be watching.
Utah is coming into it’s first season thinking Pac 12 South title, but I think this game will be a reality check for the Utes. Though a very good team, I can not see the Utes beating the elite conference teams in their first season.
Utah has numerous holes and even has doubt at the quarterback position. Jordan Wynn is the projected starter but he has not been able to practice since he underwent shoulder surgery last December.
This is especially bad new because Utah has a new offensive coordinator: Norm Chow. They would have liked to have their quarterback be able to practice in their new offensive system this spring, but now they will be forced to wish for the best come fall.
USC is always a tough team to play at home. The Trojans will win this one to defend their home honor and to make a statement that they can still run this conference.
Sept. 17 at Nebraska
Even though the Huskies defeated Nebraska last season in the Holiday Bowl, I am not confident they can do it again this season.
Nebraska returns arguably the best defensive in the country, featuring eventual first round picks like Alfonzo Dennard, Jared Crick and Lavonte Neal. If quarterback Taylor Martinez can find his groove again, then the Huskers will be a tough team.
Whenever a quarterback has to play in an environment like the “Red Sea” it is difficult. This will be especially difficult for Washington’s Keith Price in his first career road game as a starter.
This meeting will be more similar to the first meeting these two teams had in 2010, which ended in a 56-21 Nebraska win. The score might not be quite that high, but I expect a Husker win for sure.
Oct. 1 at Colorado
I do not believe that Washington State will finish in last place of the conference again, but they are still not a very good team.
Colorado is a lot better than people are giving them credit for. An experienced squad like them, tends to play fairly well at home and that’s exactly what I expect them to do here.
This should be a close game, but I give the advantage to the Buffaloes because they run the ball well and because they are playing at home.
Washington State has won just a single road conference game since 2007. If history has taught us anything, it is that a Cougar win here is very unlikely.