We're taking a look at the best week-by-week trips to make in the Pac-12. My editors call it the Ultimate Road Trip. I call it dangling meat for you guys until we can start writing about actual games. Chow down, gang.
Welcome to Week 3.
Friday, Sept. 16
Arizona State at UTSA
Saturday, Sept. 17
Idaho at Washington State
Oregon at Nebraska
Colorado at Michigan
Idaho State at Oregon State
USC at Stanford
Portland State at Washington
Texas at California
Utah at San Jose State
Hawaii at Arizona
UCLA at BYU
My choice: Oregon at Nebraska
Why: Going down the entire schedule, this is as tough of a slate as we get for trying to pick the game of the week. There’s the first conference game of the season, and it’s a rematch of the 2015 Pac-12 championship game, with the Trojans going to Palo Alto. Two teams are in Big Ten country and a Big 12 team comes to Berkeley.
The gut instinct here was to pick the Stanford-USC game. But then I looked down the schedule, and there’s a good chance we’ll be picking a couple of Stanford games in the coming weeks (Week 4 at UCLA and Week 5 at Washington). In fact, the following three weeks are going to be pretty crazy with some of the conference matchups.
But in the interest of variety, we’re going to go on the road with the Ducks to see what they are really made of. Week 1 against UC Davis won’t tell us much and the Week 2 visit from a Virginia team that won four games last season probably won’t tell us much more.
And while Nebraska is still struggling to find itself in the Mike Riley era, the Cornhuskers are still a brand name in college football. And a road victory against another Power 5 program always bodes well for the conference.
Question is, will Oregon get that road victory? Granted, this doesn’t have the same sizzle as the Ducks' recent Michigan State matchups, which were steeped in playoff implications. But this should provide a nice measuring stick for Oregon’s new quarterback (who we are all probably assuming is Dakota Prukop). And it’s also a nice gauge for how far the re-worked defense has come. Head coach Mark Helfrich was singing the praises of new coordinator Brady Hoke at Pac-12 media days a couple of weeks ago. Helfrich talked about how everyone has bought in and how the staff chemistry is as good as it has been since he’s been there. Of course, what else is he going to say at the podium?
Stanford will get its due in this ultimate road trip series. And it’s worth noting that the five-game stretch Stanford embarks upon beginning with Week 3 is brutal (after visits to UCLA and Washington, it’s versus Washington State and at Notre Dame). The Cardinal’s playoff chances won’t be won during this stretch. But they could be lost.
Plus, it’s going to be fun reminiscing about the wackiness that ensued at the end of the Cal-Texas game last season, and the Buffs get a little taste of Harbaugh-mania in Ann Arbor. If you want to venture out on your own this week and not follow the URT, we’ll understand. This is one of those can't-really-go-wrong weeks.