The Pac-12 gets started with its first season on Thursday night, with a pair of games, both games against FCS teams. (Records are last season's.)
Too bad, because the Big Sky co-champion Bobcats and the Utes, who are moving up to the BCS Pac-12 from the Mt. West, both had good years and have reasonable plans for another one.
UC Davis (6-5) at Arizona St. (6-6) . Fox Sports Arizona has the game, at 6 PM MST (6 PM PDT).
The Aggies of the FCS Great West League steps up to take on the Sun Devils. Both teams are looking for a few more wins, and a post-season this season. ASU should win, and easily, but how each looks in this one will give a glimpse into just how attainable their goals are.
Also of great interest to Beaver fans is the UNLV (2-11) at #10 Wisconsin (11-2) game at 7 PM CDT (5 PM PDT) on ESPN. Wiscon opens as a 35 point favorite, so whether the Rebels will be able to test the Badgers will reveal a lot about Oregon St.'s week 2 opponent, especially transfer QB Russell Wilson.
Plus, the game will give OSU fans a glimpse at Camp Randall, one of the top home field advantage locals in all of college football.
The schedule resumes Saturday, with the other 10 teams in action, including 4 more games against FCS squads. In all, half the conference opens their season looking for nearly guaranteed wins against FCS squads.
The Gophers have a tall order taking on the Trojans in the Coliseum, though they played USC close last year. How much USC wins by could indicate how their year will go.
With the Utes visiting the Coliseum in a week, ratings will be good in Utah.
The Bruins try to repeat their surprising dominance of Texas football last year, and this time Case Keenam, the Cougars' record setting quarterback, hopes to stay healthy for the entire game.
Since the Bruins will be the Beavers' opponent on Sept. 20, its another good scouting opportunity. UCLA plans to go with the 2 QB system in Houston, using both Kevin Prince and Richard Brehaut.
Sacramento St. (6-5) at Oregon State (5-7) at 1 PM PDT. There is NO TV, with only a streaming feed available for a fee through Beaver Nation Online available.
The Hornets hope the combination of injuries and first time players the Beavers are depending on don't gel right away, opening the door for a major upset.
Oregon St. could make history with freshmen starters at WR and RB. Unfortunately, many won't see it. Embarrassingly, it will be only the second Beaver game not on tv in 44 games, since a visit from Stanford in 07, joining the '09 game in Pullman against WSU. (The UCLA game in '09 was delayed by about half a game, with the broadcast starting when it was already halftime.)
The Bay Area rivalry resumes after a temporary hiatus. The "opposite ends of the spectrum bowl" should get the David Shaw era off to a good start. The limited esposure won't help Andrew Luck's Heisman hopes though.
The most interesting thing about this game is whether Jon Wilner will actually stop here, or go on up the street to Candlestick for an actual game.
Idaho St. (1-10) at Washington State (2-10) at 2 PM PDT. Another Pac-12 game where there is NO TV, with only Gametracker available.
The Bengals and the Cougars slash at each other, but almost no one will see it. That's what a combined 20 losses last year will do to you.
Fresno St. (8-5) vs. California (5-7) at Candlestick Park, in a supposed "Neutral Site" game, at 4 PM PDT on Comcast Sports California. The Golden Bears are right across the bay, but it looks like more Bulldogs may show up.
This could be one of the most competitive games of opening weekend. While it's true most of the interest in this game will be within Comcast California's reach, this game is key to both team's season, and their future opponents would surely like a look at it.
The FCS Champion Eagles would LOVE to jolt the Huskies, and ROOT would love it too.
If there weren't those big games involving Oregon and Boise St., this might be worth checking out. With Chris Polk sitting it out, a slow start by Keith Price in only his second start for the Dawgs could cause some growling.
#3 Oregon (12-1) vs. #4 LSU (11-2) at Cowboys Stadium in Dallas, Texas, in another supposed "Neutral Site" game, at 7 PM CDT (5 PM PDT) on ABC Nationally.
ABC thought they might have a National Championship preview in this one before Tiger QB Jordan Jefferson and WR Russell Shepard both wound up suspended after completely unrelated transgressions. Makes the suspension of Oregon's Cliff Harris an afterthought.
The Ducks still have to face a nasty LSU defense, though.
The Lumberjacks are a must win victim for the Wildcats, who better get any kinks in an offensive line that has 1 career start to their credit worked out before they have to protect Nick Foles against Oklahoma St., Stanford, Oregon, USC, and Oregon St. over the next 5 weeks.
Especially with three who would have been starters on the 'Cats defense already out with torn ACL's.
The Buffs begin what will be at least a 13 week run (Colorado has no bye this season) with no break with what could be their "bowl game" of the year, a holiday weekend in the islands.
The Rainbows have no desire to become the first team to lose on their home field to Colorado since 2007. The Buffs have lost 17 straight on the road, an issue at the top of new coach Jon Embree's list of things to change.
#7 Boise St.(12-1) vs. #22 Georgia (6-7) in the Georgia Dome in Atlanta at 8 PM EDT (5 PM PDT) on ESPN could steal the thunder, and the viewership, from the Oregon - LSU game now that the Tigers are wounded, especially if the Ducks fly out to a big lead early.
If the Broncos win this one, they will be favored to run the table all the way to a BCS bowl bid.
Here's the national schedule, complete with eastern times so you can remember to subtract 3 hours.
The conference's tv presence on opening weekend is one of the weaker ones in modern times, both in terms of games not being televised, and some that are are widely unavailable. It really underscores the critical need for the Pac-12 Network, which is coming next year, but also the importance of the yet to be concluded rights negotiations with the satellite distributors and secondary cable carriers.
The schedule is admittedly weak, with half the FBS opponents being teams coming off sub .500 seasons, but all but one of the FCS opponents were winning teams. The conference's two really "good" games are nationally televised, and surprisingly, a game between two teams that not only had losing campaigns in 2010, but could again. Figure that FSN is banking on interest in Keenam's potential and Neuheisel's peril to attract some attention, at least in the footprint of the Pac-12 and C-USA.
The effects of the loss of the Pac-12 contract by FSN is really on display this weekend, where ROOT sports shunned both OSU & WSU, opting only to cover the EW-UW game. After all, what motivation do they have to carry games into the two smallest markets in the conference?
At least it's football season! The weather will be great on the Labor Day holiday weekend, and tickets will be available for all the games outside of Dallas.