While the SEC and ACC are already in action, the Big 10 and Pac-12 are still waiting to get their seasons started. The good news is we’re getting closer to their return to action. The Pac-12 will begin on November 7, and the schedule was just released recently. The oddsmakers at Bovada show that USD is favored to win the conference but nonetheless, let’s look at the bigger games from what will be a seven-game schedule.
November 7: Arizona State at USC
The first game of the Pac-12 season will be a morning game played in Los Angeles – this is not a joke or a mistake: Arizona State will play Southern California in Los Angeles at 9 a.m. local time, a product of the fact that there will be few to no fans in the Los Angeles Coliseum for the game. Without a need to sell tickets, the Pac-12 wanted this game in a morning time slot for television purposes. The game should be really fun. It might have the two best quarterbacks in the conference, Jayden Daniels of ASU and Kedon Slovis of USC. Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert is now in the NFL. Utah lost senior quarterback Tyler Huntley. Washington lost quarterback Jacob Eason to the pros. This really could be the best quarterback battle you will see all year in the conference. The winner gets the inside track to the Pac-12 South Division title, especially since the six-game pre-set schedule involves five division games and only one non-division game. This new schedule is almost entirely an in-division schedule, so winning the biggest divisional game on the board should carry a lot of weight.
November 7: Washington at California
The California Golden Bears have stymied the Washington Huskies each of the past two seasons, limiting Washington to just one touchdown in each of the past two meetings, both won by California. What is different about this matchup is that Washington has a different head coach. Jimmy Lake replaces Chris Petersen, who stunned everyone in the Pac-12 with his abrupt retirement a year ago. Lake is a young and talented defensive coordinator who was promoted to head coach, but no one knows how good he will be at managing a full team, specifically an offense. The Washington offense has to produce against California. If it doesn’t, the Golden Bears will make it three in a row against the Huskies and will take an important step toward contending for the Pac-12 North title. Oregon is expected to win the North, but Washington and California are the two main contenders. This is a huge opener, right out of the box.
November 14: California at Arizona State
There is one crossover game between the two divisions for each team. This is the crossover game for California and Arizona State. It is the toughest of the crossover games in the conference, the one in which the teams from both divisions, not just one, are expected to be good. This could be the difference between ASU or Cal being a division contender, or falling off the pace in a shortened schedule. If Arizona State and California win their tough openers on Nov. 7, this game will generate some national interest, even though the Pac-12 is playing a smaller schedule this year.
November 14: Oregon at Washington State
The Ducks are expected by many to win the Pac-12 North, but two years ago, they lost at Washington State, which hurt their division title chances and helped Washington to go to the Rose Bowl instead of Oregon. If Oregon wins this road game, it should feel confident about its ability to once again win the North. If it loses, fresh doubt will creep into the picture for the Ducks. Washington State has a first-year head coach, Nick Rolovich, who replaces Mike Leach. If Rolovich can pull off the upset here, he will build a foundation for what he wants to achieve at Washington State. There is a lot on the line in this one.
November 21: USC at Utah
If USC beats Arizona State in Week 1, this becomes the probable Pac-12 South Division championship game. Utah won the Pac-12 South last year in spite of losing to USC, but the Utes beat USC in 2018 en route to a division title. USC, Arizona State, and Utah are all expected to contend, so this is one of the three defining games in the South Division. Utah will have a new quarterback, replacing dual-threat talent Tyler Huntley. If the Utes not only win this game, but win with a dazzling offensive performance, they will soar with confidence and likely score a three-peat as Pac-12 South champions.
November 27: Washington at Washington State
The Huskies have beaten the Cougars seven straight times and 10 of the last 11 times. In recent years, Washington’s wins over Washington State (2016, 2018) decided the Pac-12 North champion. Washington State might not contend for the North, but if the Cougars are still in the hunt by late November, this is a game which could catapult the Cougars to the top of the standings and give them an unexpected chance to win their first division title and make a first appearance in the Pac-12 Championship Game.
November 28: Utah at Arizona State
This is the third and final big game in the Pac-12 South. Unless USC wins both of its games against Utah and Arizona State, this game should have a significant impact on who wins the division or – at the very least – who has inside position heading down the stretch.
December 5: Oregon at California
The Ducks beat the Golden Bears last year, but California contained the Ducks’ high-octane offense. If California is able to beat Washington in Week 1, this game could very easily be for the Pac-12 North championship. California has significantly improved over the past three years under coach Justin Wilcox, who – dating back to his days at Boise State under Washington’s former coach, Chris Petersen – has had success in dealing with the Oregon offense.
December 5: Stanford at Washington
The Stanford Cardinal and Washington Huskies have traded wins at home the past few years. Washington gets Stanford at home this season, so it doesn’t have to travel to Palo Alto, where it has consistently stumbled in recent years. Washington has fared a lot better against Stanford in Seattle, so if the Huskies are still in the running for the Pac-12 North title, this becomes a must-win for them.
December 12: Washington at Oregon
The Huskies and Ducks have combined to win four of the last six Pac-12 North titles, and three of the last four. California and maybe Washington State might have an outside chance in the North, but these are the most likely division contenders. They could easily play to decide the division, one week before the national title game.