A statement game is when a team shows the nation what they are all about.
Sometimes it comes by way of upset, and other times it is just a win that helps to separate a team from the rest of the pack.
So get ready college football fans, these will be some of the biggest games in the Pac 12 season. They will help decide how the teams finish in the inaugural season.
These are the statement games on each Pac 12 team’s schedule.
Sept. 24 vs. Oregon
The Wildcats have plenty of holes they need to patch up for the 2011 season.
They are returning quarterback Nick Foles and wide receiver Juron Criner, but they have numerous key losses. The most severe of which is the entire offensive line from a season ago.
If the Wildcats expect any success they will need to find offensive linemen, not to mention defensive ends.
Standouts at the position from 2010, Ricky Elmore and Brooks Reed, have both moves on the to NFL.
The Oregon Ducks have historically had a tough time against in Tucson.
The Wildcats will most likely be coming off consecutive losses against Oklahoma State and Stanford. A here win against the Ducks could save their season.
I would not count on it though.
Sept. 10 vs. Missouri
The Sun Devils have been the team “almost there” over the past two seasons. Now with 18 returning starters from a season ago and new attitude surrounding the team, Arizona State is looking to finally live up to their potential.
They will be forced to prove they are ready in their Week 2 matchup against Missouri.
The Sun Devils will take the field on a Friday night in their new all black uniforms on national television. It is a golden opportunity to showcase their talent.
With a speedy offense led by running back Cameron Marshall and a menacing defense led by Vontaze Burfict, the Sun Devils have the potential to be something special.
This is arguably one of the biggest games in program history. Arizona State must use the opportunity to save their reputation and build a new winning tradition.
Sept. 24 at Washington
At home last season, the Golden Bears had a solid squad. The same cannot be said about Cal’s football program on the road.
Coming into the 2011 season, there is not too much confidence surrounding the team.
After atrocious quarterback play last season, the Golden Bears hope they have found their remedy in transfer Zach Maynard. However, Maynard was mediocre when he started at Buffalo in 2009.
California appears to be a program that is falling apart, while Washington is most definitely on the rise. In the new Pac 12 North , Cal will want to prove to Washington that they will not be passed up in the standings.
The winner of this game will remain an upper echelon team in the Pac 12 North, while the loser will sit next to Washington State in the cellar of the division.
Nov. 19 vs. UCLA
Most people would agree that Colorado and UCLA are in worse shape than any other program in the Pac 12 South.
I believe this will be the game that Colorado officially places UCLA in their place as the worst team in the South Division. Colorado is a much better team then they are given credit for.
They return a total of 16 starters, including offensive lineman Ryan Miller and running back Rodney Stewart.
This game could mean bowl eligibility for either team. There will be a lot riding on this late season matchup.
Sept. 3 vs. LSU (at Arlington, Texas)
There is not much the Oregon Ducks have left to prove to the Pac 12. Most people would acknowledge that they are the top team in the conference and that it is theirs to lose.
The Ducks now must prove that they are ready to dominate on a national level. They will get that chance in college football’s opening day against LSU.
LSU is one of the most consistent and dominant SEC powers, this game definitely has National Championship implications.
The Ducks are returning most of the key players from their 2010 run. Quarterback Darron Thomas is back to orchestrate their potent offense and LaMichael James has returned to make a run at the Heisman trophy.
The Bayou Bengals of LSU historically have a dominant defense and 2011 should be not different.
This will be an exciting matchup. The whole nation will be watching when these two take the field.
Oct. 1 at Arizona State
After losing running back Jacquizz Rodgers and plenty of defensive talent, it is hard to say how the 2011 Beavers will do.
They lead the season off with a tune up game against Sacramento State, but then travel to Madison where they will likely lose to Wisconsin. After that, they come home and will likely defeat the lowly UCLA Bruins.
Then finally, they travel to Arizona State in what I believe is the first swing game on their schedule.
Last season, the Beavers defeated the Sun Devils 31-28 at home in a very tough battle. It will still be early in the Pac 12 season, so both teams will still have plenty to prove in this game.
Most people are selling on the Beavers, so this game will give them a chance to gain a little more respect. They need to win this game if they want to prove that they are still contenders in the North.
Oct. 29 at USC
I might be one of the few people that thinks that Stanford has no chance to overtake Oregon’s conference crown. The Cardinal are still a second tier team in the conference.
The statement they need to make during the 2011 season is that they will continue to dominate their rivals, USC, even after former head coach Jim Harbaugh’s departure.
Stanford has never lost to USC with Andrew Luck at quarterback. He is looking to make his perfect 2-0 record against USC a perfect career against the Trojans, as this is most likely his last season.
Luck and the Cardinal are a step above all of the teams in the North not named the Ducks, and so I do not expect them to have any difficulty handling those squads.
Sept. 17 vs. Texas
The one high point in UCLA’s otherwise poor 4-8 season in 2010 was their 34-12 upset over Texas.
The two teams meet once against, but this time UCLA will get a chance to shock the Longhorns in Pasadena.
Last year’s game was considered a fluke by most people, and UCLA is out to prove that it was for real. They need to win this game, or else their season could once again fall apart.
This game is just before the start of the Bruins Pac 12 season. They need a win to build some momentum before conference play begins.
With no talent at the quarterback position and a defense that has lost most of their star players, there is not a lot for UCLA to be confident about.
Sept. 24 at Arizona State
The Pac 12 South can breathe a sigh of relief because the USC Trojans are once again not eligible for any postseason play. This opens the door for teams like Arizona State and Utah to get a shot at the Pac 12 championship game.
With no bowl game to play for, USC’s entire schedule could be considered statement games. Their 2011 mission should be to prove to the new South Division that once they are off probation, they intend to dominate the conference like in past years.
Arizona State feels they have as good of chance as anyone to capitalize on USC’s violations.
However, the Sun Devils have not defeated the Trojans in 12 years. USC would love to keep that streak going.
This game will most likely receive plenty of national hype and Sun Devil fans view it as a great opportunity to make a statement against the traditional power.
This is a must win for USC. There is so much for them to lose and too much for the Sun Devils to gain in this game.
Sept. 10 at USC
Utah enters their first season in a BCS conference with plenty of confidence. The Utes will get a chance to showcase their stuff in the inaugural game of the newly formed Pac 12.
This Sept. 10 battle is going to be one of the most anticipated games of the college football season.
How will the small school do once they finally gets a chance to run with the big boys?
The Utes are in the middle of a transitional period. They have a new offensive coordinator, Norm Chow, and lost many key players from them 2010 unit.
However, one thing remains the same. Head coach Kyle Whittingham always seems to find a way to win.
This game will tell us a lot we need to know about Utah.
Oct. 22 at Stanford
Washington is being thrown under the bus by a lot of people this offseason. Since Jake Locker is no longer there, many people are writing off the Huskies.
This might be premature. The thing most fans don’t realize about Washington is that Jake Locker was not the motor behind their offense last season, running back Chris Polk was.
Polk is one of the best running backs in the country and his Huskies are vastly underrated.
That is why this mid-season bout against Stanford has holds plenty of significance. If the Huskies can will their way to a victory, they could easily prove to be the second best team in the North Division.
Returning 16 starters from a season ago, Washington is an experience unit that showed improvement last season.
Oct. 1 at Colorado
Most preseason polls have Washington State and Colorado finishing at the bottom of their divisions. If that does indeed happen, this game will ultimately decide who the worst team in the conference truly is.
Washington State should continue to improve in 2011, but a bowl game could still be one season away. They need to show their improvement by handling this seemingly weak opponent.
With fresh new jerseys, there is a lot more confidence in Cougar countries than there has been in years.
A win in their opening conference game against Colorado could help this team gain confidence.