Oregon Ducks: Washington State Cougars

No. 2 Oregon begins its conference schedule Saturday in Pullman, Washington, as it takes on Mike Leach and the Air Raid offense. Here are five things to watch as the Ducks and Cougars take the field at 7:30 p.m. PT:

1. The unbalance in the trenches as Byron Marshall, Thomas Tyner and Royce Freeman do what they’ve done. This season (and past seasons), Washington State has struggled to stop the run. The Cougars have allowed 174 rushing yards per game (4.0 yards per rush), but that’s against teams like Rutgers and Nevada, who aren’t even in the top 45 in the country in rushing yards per game, and an FCS team. Oregon, on the other hand, is averaging 6.3 yards per rush this season, and the Ducks’ 12 rushing touchdowns is tied for third-most in the nation. The Cougars' defensive line was supposed to be greatly improved this season with players such as Toni Pole and Xavier Cooper, but they’ll certainly have their hands full with the Ducks’ three-headed running back monster.

2. Oregon needs to watch the big plays from Washington State quarterback Connor Halliday. On average, the Ducks have allowed only 22 completions per game, however, 58 percent of those completions have been passing plays of 10 or more yards. Now, consider the fact that Halliday is averaging nearly 40 completions a game (on 58 attempts). So, it’s definitely something the Ducks' secondary needs to key in on. However, with all those pass attempts also come quite a few interceptions. Halliday has already thrown five picks through three games, so there will also be a chance for the Ducks' DBs to make big plays of their own while also limiting the Cougars’.

3. How will the Ducks use Marshall against the Cougars? We’ve seen him primarily as a pass-catching guy out of the backfield and as a more traditional back, so will conference play show us a new balance between these two facets of his game? Or will it keep going on a game-by-game basis? Passing coordinator and wide receiver coach Matt Lubick told ESPN.com this week that Marshall’s skill sets make life hard for defensive coordinators because he's so versatile. I have a feeling that every game is going to show us another wrinkle in what Marshall can do for the Ducks.

4. Can the Ducks avoid a trip-up game? Pullman isn’t always an easy place to play, and while this young Oregon team has shown that it has the guts to win an intense game at home, it remains to be seen whether or not they can do it on the road. Oregon's two losses last season came away from Autzen, after all. Statistically and when looking at the rosters, Washington State looks outmatched. But how much of a factor will the 12th man of Martin Stadium play in the final decision?

5. Marcus Mariota has been almost flawless this season. He has completed 70 percent of his passes and thrown for eight touchdowns and zero interceptions while tallying up another three scores with his feet. He has picked apart every defense he has played against this year. And Washington State? Well, the Cougars are fielding A LOT of young defensive players. The starters in their secondary feature two freshmen, one sophomore and one junior. Mariota could have a field day with his group of receivers. Washington State has only given up three passing touchdowns this season, but most of that is due to the fact that the majority of the teams it has played haven’t had too much trouble running against the Cougars. With Jameis Winston’s issues at Florida State this week, it’s just another Saturday for Mariota to step on the field and show that there are no distractions for him and his team on the way to the College Football Playoff and the Heisman.
Last week at Pac-12 media days, the media poll was announced and the resounding response was that the media believes the Ducks will win this year’s Pac-12 championship game.

When it came to the breakdown of where teams would finish, again it was a pretty clear agreement: most media had Oregon and Stanford as No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, in the North Division and UCLA and USC as their counterparts in the South Division.

SportsNation

Which will be the matchup in the 2014 Pac-12 Championship game?

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    40%
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    23%
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    10%
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    6%
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    21%

Discuss (Total votes: 10,609)

We didn’t need a media poll to start thinking about the Pac-12 championship game, but this just gave us even more reason to explore it. Yes, these four teams seem to be a step ahead in personnel and game plan for the season, and have some favorable matchups here and there. But, it’s college football and craziness happens, so there is certainly a chance that a team not in this group jumps into the lead in the North or South and ends up playing in Levi’s Stadium at the end of the season.

So, we wanted to ask you: which matchup do you think you will be watching when it all comes down to it on Dec. 5?

Will it be:

Oregon-UCLA: This would be a rematch of an Oct. 11 game that would match up (what could be) an explosive and dynamic Oregon run game against some of the best linebackers in the country -- Myles Jack, Eric Kendrick, we’re looking at you, can you handle Marcus Mariota, Byron Marshall and Thomas Tyner? It would be great to be able to see Mariota and Brett Hundley on the same field twice this season as they battle it out for NFL draft status, top quarterback in the Pac-12/nation, etc. etc.

Oregon-USC: These teams don’t play during the regular season, and if you can say that you don’t want to see USC defensive end Leonard Williams get after Mariota and the Oregon offensive line, then you are probably the kind of person who doesn’t like puppies, apple pie or happiness. This could be one of the best battles-within-a-battle to watch all season, regardless of conference. No doubt football fans all over the country would tune in to see what could be the best defensive lineman and the best quarterback battle for 60 minutes.

Stanford-UCLA: Could we see two teams play in back-to-back weekends? If Stanford wins the North and UCLA wins the South, that would be the case. They would close out the regular season on Friday, Nov. 28 in Los Angeles and then meet again a bit further north at Levi’s Stadium the following weekend. If you are not completely trusting of Oregon and its ability to close out a season, maybe this is the pick to make. Stanford has been the underdog before and has done pretty well.

Stanford-USC: This would be a great rematch. These teams play in Week 2, but can you imagine how different they would be by the championship game? The growth that happens between Sept. 6 and Dec. 5 would just be ridiculous, and it would be fun to compare these two games side-by-side and say, “Yes, this is where this team has grown the most over a season.” A Steve Sarkisian-David Shaw dual-duel is completely conceivable and would be fun to watch.

Other: Those are the front-runners in the conference, but could we see some surprises? Trap games exist for all four of those teams, and with coachs like Chris Petersen or Todd Graham, you can't completely count out their teams. Could Washington sneak into a matchup with UCLA or USC or someone else? Could Arizona State appear in the championship game for the second season in a row? It’s all possible. But is it probable? You decide.

Pac-12 lunch links

July, 1, 2014
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So hold on to the ones who really care. In the end they'll be the only ones there. When you get old and start losing hair, can you tell me who will still care? Can you tell me who will still care? Mmmmmmmmm bop.
Happy Friday. Welcome to the mailbag.

But first, you now have a full bag of Twitter handles that are required reading.

You have mine here. You have Kevin Gemmell's brand spanking new 140-character depot.

And you have our veteran Tweeters and new Pac-12 blog insiders, Chantel Jennings -- here -- and Kyle Bonagura -- here.

That is 560 characters that nine out of 10 doctors recommend -- and this is the 10th doctor.

To the notes!


Nick from Sacramento writes: If Sonny Dykes wins 5 games this season, with a new AD, think he sees season 3?

Ted Miller: Short answer: Yes.

I also think that if he wins four or even three games and the Bears are far more competitive on both sides of the ball than they were in 2013, he deserves a third season, unless things go haywire off the field. While Dykes didn't inherit an entirely empty cupboard from Jeff Tedford, there were certainly issues, and then the Bears' injury woes last season were among the worst I've witnessed -- UCLA fans, you could equate it to your 1999 season, when Bob Toledo was practically walking around campus asking guys to suit up.

Dykes hasn't been perfect. Most notably his hiring of Andy Buh as defensive coordinator didn't work out. But he also deserves credit for making a handful of changes on his staff this offseason, including the hiring of Art Kaufman to run his defense.

Of course, when a football coach of a struggling team sees the athletic director who hired him depart, he knows he is losing an important administrative relationship. ADs and the coaches they hire in revenue sports are tied at the hip. When one suffers, so does the other. In this case, with Sandy Barbour leaving, Dykes is now less secure than he was last week. And it's notable that we rated him as the least secure Pac-12 coach even before this news.

The question now turns to the sort of AD Cal has in mind to replace Barbour. There are plenty of athletic director types out there. Some move deliberately. Some are more impulsive. I've been told by more than a few savvy ADs that it's important to hire your own football coach because you would rather be judged by what you have done than what your predecessor did.

Yet, as with most things in college football, there is an easy solution: Winning.

If Dykes goes 4-8 this season and gets back to the postseason in 2015 with quarterback Jared Goff as a third-year starter -- and his team is academically and behaviorally sound -- I suspect we'll see him around for a while.


Tom from Seattle writes: Saw your QB blog about the PAC-12 and the comments on Utah's QB Travis Wilson -- "When healthy, Wilson has been a solid performer with good upside. "Are we talking about the same Travis Wilson that is the 11th ranked PAC-12 QB in conference play two years running and leads the world in INT's? Still love your blogs, though!

Ted Miller: Yes.

First, Wilson, despite playing with an injury for three games, ended up grading out fairly well, ranking 47th in the nation in ESPN.com's Total QBR. Sure, that is only ninth in the Pac-12, but in the conference of quarterbacks, it's important to keep a national perspective when we are evaluating what might constitute a "solid performer."

Second, see if you notice anything in these numbers. Can you guess when Wilson got hurt? What you see is a pretty good quarterback through six games and the bottom falling out during the next three conference games. Again, "when healthy Wilson has been a solid performer..." When he was bad last season, he wasn't healthy (other than the UCLA disaster).

What about that "good upside" part? Well, let's not forget that Wilson was a true sophomore last season. He was thrust into service prematurely in 2012 and played fairly well considering the circumstances. When the Utes were 4-2 after beating Stanford, he looked like a guy who could lead the Utes into the South Division race.

For comparison's sake, consider that Oregon State's Sean Mannion had a 127.1 rating with 18 interceptions as a redshirt freshman starter. Wilson finished with a 129.7 rating last season.

But thanks for loving the blogs. Most awesome people do.


Paul from Albany, Ore., writes: Losing Brandin Cooks is going to be very difficult on the Oregon State offense and this fact has been pointed out numerous times. What has not been pointed out is that this same dialogue was stated the prior year when Markus Wheaton was lost to the NFL. Yes Cooks had a better year last than Wheaton did one earlier. But why has so little been written about the common denominator in both seasons -- Sean Mannion?? He is returning and yet all you folks write about is the losses he has sustained. How about digging into the idea that maybe he is a key factor in helping these receivers achieve their lofty status?

Ted Miller: Well, after passing for 10,436 yards and 68 touchdowns in three seasons, Mannion certainly merits a tip of the cap. And he has improved each year, which is a good thing.

I'd also contend he gets plenty of credit. For one, we ranked him fourth among Pac-12 quarterbacks, which is saying something when all four qualify as All-American candidates. And NFL draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. knows who he is, ranking him the nation's No. 2 senior quarterback Insider.

But this will be a revealing year for Mannion. For one, he's a senior. This is his last chance to make a statement as a college quarterback and as an NFL prospect. Second, for the first time, he doesn't have a proven, NFL prospect at receiver.

NFL scouts are presently wondering if Wheaton and Cooks made Mannion look good. If Mannion is a more efficient player this season with a less stellar supporting cast in the passing game and, yes, wins a couple of big games, his stock will rise both when it comes to college kudos and NFL love.


Wayne from Mesa, Ariz., writes: A few weeks ago, the PAC-12 announced a new start time window for football: 11:00am. A few stories circulated the announcement, but I have not seen anything since. Has there been much feedback regarding this start time? From my standpoint, while it provides needed content for that time slot on the PAC-12 Network, it's way too early for the fans, especially in a region where we are used to late afternoon and night games.

Ted Miller: We did a poll and 58 percent of 5,391 respondents were positive about the 11 a.m. window.

I generally agree with that result. While 11 a.m. isn't ideal, it's better than having four games kickoff at 7:30 p.m. PT. A lot of Pac-12 fans have been complaining about a surfeit of late kickoffs. This is a response to that complaint. My guess is those who will now complain about the early kickoff will be fewer in numbers.

It's important to note a few things about the 11 a.m. window.

Wayne, I notice you are from Arizona. If you are a fan of Arizona or Arizona State, you won't have to worry about an 11 a.m. kickoff, at least not until late October. The Pac-12 has no interest in fans melting into puddles in their seats.

It's also unlikely the 11 a.m. kick will be the day's marquee game. That still will almost always fall into primetime windows, be that on ET or PT.

I suspect the 11 a.m. kickoff will mean more TV eyeballs for what might seem like middling games. While some folks are worried about competing with SEC or Big Ten games at 2 p.m., I don't see that as an issue. Some viewers will tune in because they care more about the Pac-12. Some will tune in because they like to watch more than one game at once. Those who don't care about the Pac-12 wouldn't watch with any kickoff time.

Some don't like the 11 a.m. kickoff because it means waking up early to drive to the stadium, and it cuts into tailgating time. But I'm not sure if these party-hardy folks are looking at the big picture.

First, there will be some encouragement for fans to arrive Friday evening. That only means more fun. Then, on Saturday, you get the 8 a.m. bloody mary at the stadium with eggs and bacon and country ham from this guy. Yummy. Then you have a postgame tailgate and time for a dinner and -- potentially -- a nice evening to tool around the old college digs.

The socially creative among you will be emailing me at season's end telling me the 11 a.m. kickoff rocked.


Emily from Los Angeles writes: You want a heartbreaking loss? What about the 3OT game between USC and Stanford?

Ted Miller: You mean a game that featured big names, ranked teams, controversy, late heroics and three overtimes could be heartbreaking?

I was there. Really entertaining, strange game. Hated how it ended, though. Not in terms of who won, but that it was about a sloppy and unfortunate turnover rather than a dramatic play.


Trevor from Portland writes: We got an article about Pac-12 heartbreakers, and it left out the biggest heartbreaker of the decade. Cam Newton fumbled, he wasn't down by forward progress. Cliff Harris was in. Michael Dyer was down. I'm still not over it.

Ted Miller: I was there for that one, too.

The Ducks were so close to a national title. It was the only time I can recall that Chip Kelly expressed regret about his game plan and some in-game decisions, as that sort of navel gazing wasn't his thing.

That is the thing about close games. They are a thrill to win and excruciating to lose. They also are why we love sports. While we love the winning, there is also a masochistic side to us that enjoys the social aspects of wallowing in misery among friends.

(Thousands of fans from various, struggling Pac-12 outposts immediately go, "Who... us?")

Pac-12 lunch links

June, 19, 2014
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Ain't no party like an S Club party.

Pac-12 lunch links

June, 17, 2014
Jun 17
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Way back on the radio dial a fire got lit inside a bright eyed child. Every note just wrapped around his soul, steel guitars to Memphis all the way to rock 'n roll.

Pac-12 lunch links

June, 13, 2014
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Happy Friday the 13th!

Pac-12 lunch links

June, 11, 2014
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Mars ain't the kind of place to raise your kids.

Is the Pac-12 inexperienced?

June, 11, 2014
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As previously noted, there is no simple measure that consistently predicts college football success. We lean on returning starters most often -- it matters, of course, just who those returning players are -- because we typically value experience.

There's good reason for that. Experience matters. While it's not more important than talent, it often overcomes talent.

Another way to measure a team's experience is to look at returning "lettermen," who are loosely defined as players who contributed during the past season.

This is what Phil Steele does here. Of course, he also notes that each program defines lettermen differently, so he defines his measure in a percentage of lettermen returning.

And, by this measure, the Pac-12 isn't terribly experienced heading into 2014.

Last year -- one of the deepest in terms of quality in conference history -- 11 pac-12 teams ranked among the nation's top-65 (top half, really) in terms of experience. This year, just five teams do, and six rank between 85th and 124th.


Does this mean the Pac-12 should expect a downturn in 2014? Not necessarily.

For one, 10 Pac-12 teams welcome back experienced QBs, and half of those are all-star prospects as well as NFL prospects. That's almost always a benefit. No other conference even approaches the quality the Pac-12 will have behind center this fall. Further, as we've show the past two days -- here and here -- there's a strong collection of offensive line talent coming back. Finally, one of preseason themes is the depth across the conference at receiver.

What I think we'll see this year in the Pac-12 is a step back on defense and -- not unconnected -- a big step forward on offense, particularly the passing game.

Whether that translates to nonconference and bowl wins and, perhaps, success in the inaugural College Football Playoff remains to be seen.

Pac-12 lunch links

June, 9, 2014
Jun 9
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Every stop is neatly planned for a poet and a one-man band.

Pac-12's lunch links

June, 5, 2014
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And the piano sounds like a carnival. And the microphone smells like a beer.

Pac-12 lunch links

June, 2, 2014
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I'd rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints.

Pac-12 lunch links

May, 30, 2014
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Happy Friday!
Dates, times and early TV schedules have been released for the early portion of the 2014 season. Here’s a comprehensive list, team-by-team of what has been scheduled.

ARIZONA:
  • Friday, Aug. 29 vs. UNLV, 7:30 p.m. PT/10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
  • Thursday, Sept. 4 at UTSA, 5 p.m. PT/8 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1
  • Saturday, Sept. 13 vs. Nevada, 8 p.m. PT/11 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Networks
  • Thursday, Oct. 2 at Oregon, 7:30 p.m. PT/10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
  • Friday, Nov. 28 vs. Arizona State, 12:30 p.m. PT/3:30 p.m. ET, FOX Sports
ARIZONA STATE:
  • Thursday, Aug. 28 vs. Weber State, 7:30 p.m. PT/10:30 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Networks
  • Saturday, Sept. 6 at New Mexico, 4 p.m. PT/7 p.m. ET, CBSSN
  • Saturday, Sept. 13 at Colorado, 7 p.m. PT/10 p.m. ET, ESPNU
  • Thursday, Sept. 25 vs. UCLA, 7 p.m. PT/10 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1
  • Friday, Nov. 28 at Arizona, 12:30 p.m. PT/3:30 p.m. ET, FOX Sports
CALIFORNIA:
  • Saturday, Sept. 6 vs. Sacramento State, 12 noon PT/3 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Networks
  • Friday, Oct. 24 vs. Oregon, 7 p.m. PT/10 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1
  • Thursday, Nov. 13 at USC, 6 p.m. PT/9 p.m. ET, ESPN
COLORADO:
  • Friday, Aug. 29 at Colorado State, 6 p.m. PT/9 p.m. ET/FOX Sports 1
  • Saturday, Sept. 13 vs. ASU, 7 p.m. PT/10 p.m. ET, ESPNU
OREGON:
  • Saturday, Aug. 30 vs. South Dakota, 7:30 p.m. PT/10:30 ET, Pac-12 Networks
  • Saturday, Sept. 6 vs. Michigan State, 3:30 p.m. PT/6:30 p.m. ET, FOX/FOX Deportes
  • Saturday, Sept. 13 vs. Wyoming, 11 a.m. PT/2 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Networks
  • Thursday, Oct. 2 vs. Arizona, 7:30 p.m. PT/10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
  • Friday, Oct. 24 at Cal, 7 p.m. PT/10 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1
OREGON STATE:
  • Saturday, Aug. 30 vs. Portland State, 1 p.m. PT/4 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Networks
  • Saturday, Sept. 6 at Hawai’i, 7:30 p.m. PT/10:30 p.m. ET, CBSSN
  • Thursday, Oct. 16 vs. Utah, 7 p.m. PT/10 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1
STANFORD:
  • Saturday, Aug. 30 vs. UC-Davis, 1 p.m. PT/4 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Networks
  • Saturday, Sept. 6 vs. USC, 12:30 p.m. PT/3:30 p.m. ET, ABC
  • Saturday, Sept. 13 vs. Army, 2 p.m. PT/5 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Networks
  • Saturday, Oct. 4 at Notre Dame, 12:30 p.m. PT/3:30 p.m. ET, NBC
  • Friday, Oct. 10 vs. Washington State, 6 p.m. PT/9 p.m. ET, ESPN
  • Friday, Nov. 28 at UCLA, 12:30 p.m. PT/3:30 p.m. ET, ABC
UCLA:
  • Saturday, Aug. 30 at Virginia, 9 a.m. PT/2 noon ET, ESPN
  • Saturday, Sept. 6 vs. Memphis, 7 p.m. PT/10 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Networks
  • Saturday, Sept. 13 vs. Texas, 5 p.m. PT, 8 p.m. ET, FOX/FOX Deportes
  • Thursday, Sept. 25 at ASU, 7 p.m. PT/10 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1
  • Friday, Nov. 28 vs. Stanford, 12:30 p.m. PT/3:30 p.m. ET, ABC
USC:
  • Saturday, Aug. 30 vs. Fresno State, 4:30 p.m. PT/7:30 p.m. ET, FOX/FOX Deportes
  • Saturday, Sept. 6 at Stanford, 12:30 p.m. PT/3:30 p.m. ET, ABC
  • Saturday, Sept. 13 at Boston College, 5 p.m. PT/8 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN/ESPN2
  • Thursday, Nov. 13 vs. Cal, 6 p.m. PT/9 p.m. ET, ESPN
UTAH:
  • Thursday, Aug. 28 vs. Idaho State, 4:30 p.m. PT/7:30 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Networks
  • Saturday, Sept. 6 vs. Fresno State, 12 noon PT/3 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Networks
  • Thursday, Oct. 16 at Oregon State, 7 p.m. PT/10 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1

WASHINGTON:
  • Saturday, Aug. 30 at Hawai’i, 5 p.m. PT/8 p.m. ET, CBSSN
  • Saturday, Sept. 6 vs. Eastern Washington, 12 noon PT/3 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Networks
  • Saturday, Sept. 13 vs. Illinois, 1 p.m. PT/4 p.m. ET, FOX Sports
WASHINGTON STATE:
  • Thursday, Aug. 28 vs. Rutgers, 7 p.m. PT/10 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1
  • Friday, Sept. 5 at Nevada, 7:30 p.m. PT/10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
  • Saturday, Sept. 13 vs. Portland State, 5 p.m. PT/8 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Networks
College football is not only about being good. It's about scheduling.

Who you don't play is often as important as who you do. Just look at the SEC, where retaining an eight-game conference schedule in a 14-team league is Machiavellian genius. It's cowardly and fraudulent, of course, but it might help the conference get more teams in the College Football Playoff.

Anyway... back to the Pac-12, a 12-team league that plays a nine-game conference schedule.

So let's look at how the Pac-12 schedules stack up, starting with the North Division (*-denotes FCS team; toughest nonconference game bolded):

CALIFORNIA

Nonconference slate: Aug. 30, at Northwestern (5-7); Sept. 16, Sacramento State (5-7)*; Nov. 29, BYU (8-5)

Pac-12 misses: Arizona State, Utah

Road games (5): at Northwestern, at Arizona, at Washington State, at Oregon State, at USC

Bye weeks: Sept. 13 (before Pac-12 schedule begins), Nov. 8 (before Thursday game at USC)

Skinny: Last year, California had the third-toughest schedule in the country with Ohio State and Northwestern on the slate. This year, things are more manageable, though the Bears will almost always be hurt by playing UCLA and USC every year, per agreement with the Pac-12 office. This schedule is far from easy, as a trip to Chicago is no cakewalk, and BYU is pretty much the equivalent of a B-list Big Five foe. The home conference schedule is much tougher than the road trips, but that can operate against a team struggling to climb from the bottom of the standings. The byes are reasonably spread throughout the year -- recall the useless "bye" last year the final weekend of the season -- though USC is also off before the Thursday game. The Bears also get a couple of extra days to prepare for the Big Game against Stanford due to the Thursday kickoff.

OREGON

Nonconference slate: Aug. 30, South Dakota (4-8)*; Sept. 6, Michigan State (13-1); Sept. 13, Wyoming (5-7)

Pac-12 misses: Arizona State, USC

Road games (5): at Washington State, at UCLA, at California, at Utah, at Oregon State

Bye weeks: Sept. 27 (before Thursday game with Arizona); Nov. 15 (before Colorado)

Skinny: This schedule sets up for a national championship run, including the Pac-12's nonconference game of the year against Michigan State, a likely top-5 team. The Ducks miss two South teams that are almost certain to be ranked in the preseason, so those are good misses. They don't play consecutive road games all season. By playing at Cal on a Friday, they get an extra day to prepare for Stanford at home. The Oct. 11 trip to UCLA could loom large in the national title race, and we might get a rematch in the Pac-12 championship game. So, because the Ducks play Arizona on a Thursday night, it's notable they will get a couple of extra days to prepare for the Bruins.

OREGON STATE

Nonconference slate: Aug. 30, Portland State (6-6)*; Sept. 6, Hawaii (1-11); Sept. 20, San Diego State (8-5)

Pac-12 misses: Arizona, UCLA

Road games (5): at Hawaii, at USC, at Colorado, at Stanford, at Washington

Bye weeks: Sept. 13 (before San Diego State); Oct. 11 (before Thursday game with Utah)

Skinny: The Beavers have the weakest nonconference schedule in the conference. They also have a bye before playing host to San Diego State, which might be good coming after a long trip to Hawaii. The conference misses are good, as UCLA is a top-10 team and Arizona is at least solid. The road schedule is tough, though the Beavers have recently had some success versus USC, at least at home. The Thursday game with Utah provides extra time to prepare for the trip to Stanford. They play four of their first seven games on the road, but the upside is playing four of the final five at home. The trip to Washington looms large as a North Division separation game. And will the Beavers play spoilers for Oregon at home in the season finale?

STANFORD

Nonconference slate: Aug. 30, UC Davis (5-7)*; Sept. 13, Army (3-9); Oct. 4, at Notre Dame (9-4)

Pac-12 misses: Arizona, Colorado

Road games (6): at Washington, at Notre Dame, at Arizona State, at Oregon, at California, at UCLA

Bye weeks: Sept. 20 (before Washington); Nov. 8 (before Utah)

Skinny: A brutal schedule. Just like last year. The trip to Notre Dame is never easy. From a preseason perspective, the misses are the least advantageous in the Pac-12. There are six road games, five of which should be against teams ranked in the preseason top 25. The Cardinal plays Washington and Notre Dame on the road on back-to-back weekends, and three of their final four games are on the road. The bye before playing the Huskies is well-timed, and you might recall that Stanford lost to Utah last year, so that bye isn't bad either. Of course, if the Cardinal emerge from this schedule at 11-1 and then win the Pac-12 championship, they not only will make the College Football Playoff, they might be seeded No. 1.

WASHINGTON

Nonconference slate: Aug. 30, at Hawaii (1-11); Sept. 6, Eastern Washington (12-3)*; Sept. 13, Illinois (4-8); Sept. 20, Georgia State (0-12)

Pac-12 misses: Utah, USC

Road games (6): at Hawaii, at California, at Oregon, at Colorado, at Arizona, at Washington State

Bye week: Oct. 4 (before game at Cal)

Skinny: The Huskies play 13 games due to an NCAA rule that allows them to after taking a trip to Hawaii, and they have given themselves a pretty darn soft nonconference slate. Anything less than 4-0 would be a massive disappointment. The bad news about 13 regular season games is just one off weekend, and a break before visiting Cal doesn't seem ideal, though it does come after what should be a physically taxing matchup with Stanford. The misses are not unhelpful, particularly no game with USC. The final four games figure to define the season, with UCLA and Oregon State coming to Husky Stadium and trips to Arizona and Washington State. Hard to believe a 3-1 finish wouldn't make Chris Petersen's first season feel successful.

WASHINGTON STATE

Nonconference slate: Aug. 28 in Seattle, Rutgers (6-7); Sept. 6 at Nevada (4-8); Sept. 13 Portland State (6-6)*

Pac-12 misses: UCLA, Colorado

Road games (5, with the Rutgers game played in Seattle): at Nevada, at Utah, at Stanford, at Oregon State, at Arizona State

Bye week: Oct. 17 (before Arizona); Nov. 15 (before game at Arizona State)

Skinny: The nonconference slate is manageable, if not completely soft. Cougars fans have a right to believe 3-0 is the most likely scenario in Year 3 under Mike Leach. Playing Rutgers in Seattle rates as a 50-percent road game, as it breaks from routine, if not fan support. A road trip to Nevada could be tricky. Missing UCLA is good; missing Colorado probably isn't. Can the Cougs go 2-2 in conference play on the road? That might be the key to the season. That and beating the hated Huskies at home to conclude the campaign. It's not too much of a stretch to see eight wins on this schedule.

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PAC-12 SCOREBOARD

Saturday, 10/25
Friday, 10/24