Pac-12 Football 2011: 10 Can't-Miss Pac-12 Matchups
College football is back, people!
Pac-12 football is looking promising this year with national championship hopefuls and plenty of teams who could go bowling this postseason, like Stanford and Oregon looking strong while Arizona State, USC and Arizona are trying to burst a contender's bubble.
There are plenty of key games to come and one that has already happened (Oregon vs. LSU).
Read on for the 10 must-watch matchups in the Pac-12.
Arizona Wildcats at No. 9 Oklahoma State Cowboys, Sept. 8
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This game is a rematch of last season's Valero Alamo Bowl in which the Oklahoma State Cowboys beat the Arizona Wildcats 36-10, and this matchup should be an offensive showcase.
Both teams had over 400 yards passing in their first game and will try more of the same in this matchup. The key to this game could be which defense can stop the other team's passing offense. The team to figure that out first will have the upper hand.
Look for Arizona to have a hot start, but Oklahoma State will come roaring back with a high-powered dual-threat offense. The Wildcats are going to have their hands full with the running and passing attacks of the Cowboys.
Arizona State Sun Devils vs. No. 21 Missouri Tigers, Sept. 9
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Arizona State has one of the best linebackers in the nation in Vontaze Burfict and a much-improved team from last season. The Sun Devils will play a Missouri Tigers team ranked No. 21 in the nation and looking to make some noise in the Big 12.
Arizona State pairs its balanced offense against the Tigers defense, which only allowed six points in its first game and looked balanced. Missouri's new quarterback, James Franklin, is inexperienced but follows a recent list of very successful quarterbacks and has the potential to follow in their footsteps.
Arizona State is very lucky this game is in Tempe and should have a good chance to upset the top 25-ranked Missouri team.
Oregon State Beavers at No. 11 Wisconsin Badgers, Sept. 10
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The Oregon State Beavers lost their two best players (Jacquizz Rodgers and Stephen Paea) after last season and are going to struggle mightily in the new-look Pac-12. The Beavers have a couple reliable offensive weapons in James Rodgers and Ryan Katz, but not much talent after that.
Regardless of injuries and rankings, the Beavers always seem to outperform their expectations and they could really use one of those games against the Badgers.
Wisconsin has legitimate national championship dreams, and this game is only a minor speed bump in its season. Expect Wisconsin to steamroll Oregon State at home and to not put much thought in to this game, since the much more important games are down the road for them.
UCLA Bruins vs. Texas Longhorns, Sept. 17
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The Bruins shocked the college football world when they beat the Longhorns in Austin, Texas, by 22 points and they sent the Longhorns en route to a disappointing season. The Longhorns looked completely lost against the Bruins and have to win this game to show last season was a fluke.
UCLA is not the team it was last season and will have a tough time against a Texas team looking to prove the nation wrong. Look for Texas to have a monster game at the Rose Bowl and for UCLA to realize it isn't going to be in contention for a spot in the Pac-12 title game.
Washington Huskies at No. 10 Nebraska Cornhuskers, Sept. 17
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This game will be the third time in the past two years that the Huskies and Cornhuskers have played each other, and is a revenge game for Nebraska. Nebraska destroyed the Huskies 56-21 at Washington during the regular season, but the Huskies got even with a 19-7 win in the Holiday Bowl.
Nebraska was 10-3 until the bowl game, and it's going to get a chance to pound the Huskies.
This time, the game is in Lincoln and Cornhusker fans will have the loss in the Holiday bowl fresh in their minds. Nebraska has some of the best fans in the nation and they will all go wild for this game.
Colorado Buffaloes at No. 18 Ohio State Buckeyes, Sept. 24
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The Colorado Buffaloes are newcomers in the Pac-12 and definitely one of the worst teams in the league. In recent years, the team hasn't been able to win against ranked teams and hasn't had a winning season since 2005.
That being said, they have a chance to play an Ohio State team in the middle of a huge controversy and facing a culture change.
The Buffaloes, most likely, don't have a chance in this game, but they could gain respect by at least putting up a good fight. Kind of showing the rest of the Pac-12 they are going to fight in every game, regardless of how good the team is.
No. 25 USC Trojans at No. 16 Notre Dame Fighting Irish, Oct. 22
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The Fighting Irish could easily be a 3-3 team coming into this game and things won't get easier against the Trojans. USC should have had only one or two tough matchups before this, and this game is a chance to pile on just another win for the season.
I wouldn't be surprised if the Trojans were 5-1 or 6-0 going in to this game.
The Irish and Trojans have one of the more classic rivalries in College Football and this year's game should continue to be competitive. Notre Dame is currently ranked higher than the Trojans but has a much tougher road before this game.
Look for the Trojans to come in confident and put an old-fashioned beatdown on the Irish.
No. 3 Oregon Ducks at No. 7 Stanford Cardinal, Nov. 12
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The Oregon Ducks and Stanford Cardinal are the two best teams in the Pac-12 and two of the best teams in the Western US. Both teams have legitimate national title aspirations but have a couple tough games on their schedules.
This game will end up deciding who will represent the North division in the Pac-12 championship game, and most likely who will win the game.
Both teams have good but very different offenses and solid defenses. Oregon strikes quickly and often but Stanford takes its time and lets Andrew Luck work his magic. However, the biggest key in this game will be defense.
Oregon's defense has big-play ability and Luck is going to have to be in top form in order for the Cardinal to win.
No. 25 USC Trojans at No. 3 Oregon Ducks, Nov. 19
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The Oregon vs. USC game is always entertaining and has some meaning behind it. With Oregon having lost its first game of the season, it has to win almost all its remaining games to continue to be in the hunt for the BCS National Championship game.
Even though USC can't go to a bowl game, the Trojans would feel great if they stopped the Ducks from going to the championship game.
The Trojans are going to need a perfect game in order to beat the Ducks, and honestly, I don't see them getting the job done. Oregon is just too talented for USC to beat them, and the team is bound to be motivated by the prospects of going to another title game.
No. 7 Stanford Cardinal at No. 16 Notre Dame Fighting Irish, Nov. 26
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The Cardinal and Fighting Irish are both ranked in the top 25 but by this time, only one team will be ranked. The Irish have a couple tough games this season and are bound to lose a couple here and there.
The Cardinal have a rather easy schedule and I can't see them having more than one loss heading in to this game.
That means Notre Dame could spoil their national title hopes, and while I don't think they will have a great record, the Irish always love to beat up on teams who are considered better than them. Look for the Irish to put up a great fight but to come up short against Andrew Luck, a.k.a. Peyton Manning 2.0.