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PAC-12 TV Schedule For Opening Weekend

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Its time for football!
Its time for football!
Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports

The opening weekend of the college football season is finally here, and will take 6 days to fully unfold, starting tonight, and extending all the way through Labor Day. The Pac-12 will fit their dozen games into 3 days though, beginning Thursday evening, and wrapping up on Saturday night.

7 of the 12 teams have home openers, another is the home team in a neutral site game, and another is playing at a home away from home, with only 3 conference members venturing into true enemy territory to start the season. 5 are facing FCS foes, 4 from the nearby Big Sky.

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Idaho St. (3-9, 1-7 in the Big Sky last season) at Utah (5-7, 2-7) Thursday at 5:30 PM MDT (4:30 PM PDT)
gets the season started on the Pac-12 Channel.

The Bengals are coming off their best season since a 3-8 season in 2007, and had won only 6 games since then prior to last year. And they have lost their last 44 road games.

Some FCS teams should be considered legitimate upset threats when playing up. Idaho St. is not one of them.

And Utah is 6-0 all time against Idaho St., and 36-0 against current members of the Big Sky.

The Utes have 10 straight games against teams who went to bowl games last season, all of whom are expected to go bowling again this year, after this tune-up. If Coach Kyle Whittingham expects to join them, and possibly remain employed, he has to not only win this one, it needs to be in dominant fashion because the Utes are close to firing on all cylinders.

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Rutgers (6-7, 3-5 in the American Athletic Conference) vs. Washington St. (6-7, 4-5) at 7 PM PDT at Century Link Field in Seattle
is next up, and on Fox Sports 1. It's the west-side game that Washington St. has played in recent years, though that's being put on hold for a while after this.

Also on hold is carriage by the DISH network for Fox Sports 1, so those of you who jumped from Directv to DISH to get the Pac-12 channel, you have lost for now, and possibly the season, access to one of the conferences' major carriage partners.

The Scarlet Knights move to the Big 10 that now numbers 14 teams this year. Now playing in the tough Big 10 East, this is one of Rutgers' most important games of the year if they hope to make it back to a bowl game. It would also be a program boost on several levels to knock off a Pac-12 team on the road.

The Cougars also need the win on a lot of levels, and this game could wind up deciding bowl eligibility or not for Washington St.

A win for Washington St. would level their record at Century Link field, where they are only 5-6 in their home games away from home.

With Connor Halliday and a host of receivers back, hopes as well as expectations are higher than borderline bowl qualification, but they also are much more difficult to achieve if this one gets away from the Cougs. And the last thing they want to do is leave their west-side alums with a bad taste in their mouth after a game that's going to linger in memory one way or another.

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Thursday night wraps up with Weber St. (2-10, 1-7 in the Big Sky) at #19 Arizona St. (10-4, 8-1) at 7:30 PM AST (7:30 PM PDT), and the Pac-12 Channel will probably join the game in progress, after the Idaho St.-Utah game ends.

The Wildcats have not been one of the mid-pack Big Sky squads recently, never mind an upper tier one that would legitimately have a shot at upsetting a Pac-12 team.

The Sun Devils are the defending Pac-12 South Champions, and are looking to return to the form that they displayed most of last season, before burning out in back to back late season lopsided losses, first 38-14 to Stanford in their own stadium in the Conference Championship game, and then 37-23 to Texas Tech in the Holiday Bowl.

They will have to do it with a completely rebuilt defense, after graduating 10 seniors, but with quarterback Taylor Kelly, wide-out Jaelen Strong, and running back D.J. Foster, coach Todd Graham has the arsenal to win the shoot-outs that are likely to ensue with some regularity this season. Watch this game closer than you might normally to see how well the offense is clicking, and how well the new defense is coming together.

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There are a pair of Friday games, starting with the annual neutral site Rocky Mountain Rumble between Colorado St. (8-6, 5-3 in the Mt. West) and Colorado (4-8, 1-8) at Invesco Field in Denver, CO, with kickoff at 7 PM MDT (6 PM PDT). Fox Sports 1 has the coverage.

The Rams pulled off the miraculous comeback win against Washington St. in the New Mexico Bowl, aided by turnovers and massive clock management miscues, but what's more telling is they won 4 of their last 5, and 6 of their last 8, as coach Jim McElwain is getting Colorado St. back into a more consistently competitive form.

The Buffs are improved, mostly by being more experienced, and though a bowl game might be a reach, because of the toughness of the Pac-12, beating their rivals is probably essential if they are to do so.

And they did just that last year, picking up a 41-27 win that jump-started some early season energy in Boulder.

The more important development for coach Mike MacIntyre though was when he decided to switch to freshman quarterback Sefo Liufau in the second half of the Arizona St. game, getting an early start on the transition to what Colorado fans hope to be a climb back to relevance.

And because Oregon St. has a trip to Boulder coming up, and Liufau did not play against the Beavers, this is an important scouting opportunity.

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The evening finishes up with UNLV (7-6, 5-3 in the Mt. West) visiting Arizona (8-5, 4-5) at 7:30 PM AST (7:30 PM PDT). ESPN has the coverage from Tucson.

The Rebels are being cast as one of several cupcakes on Arizona's schedule, and their 58-13 loss early last season in Tucson did nothing to dispell that perception. But UNLV was a winning team before their bowl game, and could create some problems for an Arizona team that is still struggling to find a quarterback, an issue no other Pac-12 team is bothered with.

The 'Cats have one of the most experienced offensive lines in the country, and one of the deepest receiving corps in the conference. Ordinarily, that would make them a contender for the Pac-12 South, if not the conference championship.

But quarterback uncertainty and the need to replace Ka'Deem Carey, who led the country in rushing, could quickly negate all that.

Coach Rich Rodriguez earlier this week announced that redshirt freshman Anu Solomon will get the start, choosing him over 3 transfers from other FBS Big 5 schools.

Seeing how that plays out makes this worth-while watching, even given that Oregon St. will not encounter Arizona this year.

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A loaded Saturday of 7 games that runs all day and evening starts off early, with #7 UCLA (10-3, 6-3) visiting Virginia (2-10, 0-8 in the ACC). Kickoff in Charlottesville is at Noon EDT (9 AM PDT), and ESPN has the coverage.

The Bruins are on more than a few people's short list to make the National Championship playoffs, and if that's to happen, this early in the body clock road test has to be dispatched.

Which will probably happen, and quickly. And the game could be an early showcase for the Brett Hundley Heisman campaign, one of the very few times any Pac-12 team plays in view of the east. Which is another reason a dominating performance is important, not just for UCLA, but the entire conference.

The Cavaliers were a poor team in an overall weak ACC last year, and that's likely to be the case again this year. But Virginia's only win over a BCS opponent last year was an opening weekend 19-16 upset of a much better BYU team.

Of course their next game, which was a visit from another Pac-12 notable, resulted in a 59-10 Oregon win. The outcome the Bruins would much rather apporximate.

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California (1-11, 0-9) visits Northwestern (5-7, 1-7 in the Big 10) at 2:30 PM CDT (12:30 PM PDT)
to start the afternoon (on the west coast) off, and ABC has the coverage.

The Golden Bears have no FCS opponents on the schedule this season, and getting any wins are going to be a challenge in year 2 of the Sonny Dykes era. But California was competitive for a while in last year's 44-30 loss to Northwestern in Berkeley in last year's season opener (the game was tied in the 4th quarter before a pair of pick-6s provided the difference in the game), and the Wildcats lost 7 in a row before ending the season with a narrow 3 point win over a struggling Illinois team.

A win here may not be out of the question for the Bears, though they are the only Pac-12 team that is an underdog on opening weekend, and could even spark a better season than anyone is anticipating. A loss, especially a lop-sided one, could start a downward spiral. Either way, its worth finding out.

The Wildcats made more news by having their players win the right in court to unionize than they made on the field at any time last year, but Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald runs an overall solid program, which had gone to 5 straight bowl games before falling only 1 win short last season. A rebound is more likely than a further downturn.

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Beaver Nation gets their season going when Portland St. (6-6, 3-5 in the Big Sky) visits Oregon St. (7-6, 4-5) at 1 PM PDT. It's a split telecast on the Pac-12 channels, with the game only the Pac-12 Oregon and Pac-12 Washington channels.

The Vikings were the only team to lose to California last year, but Portland St. almost added to the Big Sky's list of upsets, coming up only a touchdown short.

An upset of their in-state neighbors would go a long ways toward earning an at-large FCS playoff berth, and would be a huge program boost regardless. Expect Portland St. head coach and former Beaver assistant coach Nigel Burton to pull out some surprises.

The Beavers have lost their last 2 games against Big Sky opposition, both in season opening games, and their last win against the Big Sky was against the Vikings, a 34-7 victory in the 2009 season opener. Another such setback against an FCS neighbor would not only dampen hopes for a run at a 3rd consecutive bowl game, it could be the one thing that's worse for coach Mike Riley's employment future than blowout losses to Washington and endless losses in the Civil War.

On the flip side, a win could help springboard another fast start to the season, with Hawaii on the horizon.

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The reason for the Pac-12 channel split is the Bay Area matchup, where UC-Davis (5-7, 5-3 in the Big Sky) visits #11 Stanford (11-3, 7-2), also at 1 PM PDT. The National Pac-12 channel and where they are offered, the Pac-12 regional channels other than the 2 northwest ones have the game.

The Aggies rebounded from an 0-4 start to salvage a respectable season last year, and because Stanford doesn't tend to blow out opponents, even when they are dominating them, its possible the Cardinal's neighbors could hang in this one for a while.

The Cardinal are replacing most of their offensive line (remember, Stanford had the top recruiting class of o-linemen 2 years in a row a couple of year ago, though), most of the leaders of their defense that has been so solid in recent seasons, and also need to find a new running back, and reestablish their tight end game.

Yet the overall quality of the program still has them though to be on the out-skirts of the top 10. Seeing how the Cardinal are doing with their rebuild makes this a worthwhile scouting exercise, worth catching a recording of.

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The late afternoon game at 4:30 PM PDT is the feature game on FOX, when Fresno St. (11-2, 7-1 in the Mt. West) visits the LA Coliseum for a rematch of last year's Las Vegas Bowl, taking on #15 USC (10-4, 6-3).

The Bulldogs graduated both ends of one of the country's best passing combinations in quarterback Derek Carr and WR Davante Adams, but Fresno St. is still expected to defend their Mt. West West Division title. Fresno St. has a realistic shot at making this more competitive than they were in Vegas.

The Trojans took a resounding 45-20 win in the bowl meeting, but everything has changed at USC. Sort of.

New coach Steve Sarkisian has returned home, and the Trojans have finally reached the end of NCAA mandated scholarship limitations (though it will take a couple of years to rebuild a roster that's about 20 scholarship players behind everyone else as the season starts). But QB Cody Kessler, RBs Tre Madden and Buck Allen, WR Nelson Agholor, and defensive lineman Leonard Williams, possibly the best d-lineman in the country, are all back.

With a trip to the LA Coliseum coming up at the end of September to open the Pac-12 season, Oregon St. fans get a great scouting opportunity in setting their recorder for this game.

The weekend winds up with a pair of evening games.

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#25 Washington (9-4, 5-4) visits Hawaii (1-11, 0-8 in the Mt. West) at 5:30 PM
in Honolulu (7:30 PM PDT) and the CBS Sports Channel has the coverage.

The Huskies are the only other team to not have an experienced returning quarterback besides Arizona, and Cyler Miles is suspended for this game, after his involvement in a post-Super Bowl incident, so Jeff Lindquist will see his first collegiate action as Washington's starting quarterback.

The Huskies also have to replace Bishop Sankey, who is only the most productive running back in Washington history, as well as the first running back taken in this spring's NFL draft.

And they begin the Chris Peterson era while facing these challenges.

Fortunately, Washington has one of the most experienced offensive lines, and arguably the best overall starting wide receiver groups in the Pac-12 to work through their QB and RB issues with. And a very easy non-conference schedule, beginning with a Hawaii program that's one of the country's weakest.

The Warriors are a far cry under current head coach Norm Chow from the team that former coach June Jones took to a BCS bowl.

Hawaii is Oregon St.'s opponent in a week, and Washington is their last road opponent, come late November. That makes this a double dip scouting must record for Beaver Nation.

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South Dakota (4-8, 3-5 in the Missouri Valley Conference) visits #3 Oregon (11-2, 7-2), also at 7:30 PM PDT
, and the Pac-12 Channel has the coverage.

The Coyotes would seem to have no business in this game, and its worth noting that South Dakota is picking up the slack for another cancellation by an opponent who decided they didn't want the same experience the 'Yotes are likely to experience.

The Ducks are generally regarded a a contender for the National Championship playoffs, and Marcus Mariotta one of the front-runners for the Heisman, even after Oregon lost OT Tyler Johnstone for the season.

But with a visit from #8 Michigan St. a week away, its important for the Ducks to get fully tuned up, and avoid getting anyone else hurt in the process.

Expect Oregon to approach this with more urgency than they otherwise might for that reason alone.

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Andy_Wooldridge@yahoo.com

(For those of you looking for games beyond the Pac-12, here's the complete, national listing, adjusted for East Coast Bias Times)

Thursday, August 28th, 2014
6:00 p.m.

#21 Texas A&M
at
#9 South Carolina
7:00 p.m.

Wake Forest
at
Louisiana-Monroe
7:00 p.m.

Eastern Illinois
at
Minnesota
7:00 p.m.

Chattanooga
at
Central Michigan
7:00 p.m.

Howard
at
Akron
7:30 p.m.

Idaho State
at
Utah
8:00 p.m.

Boise State
vs
(Atlanta)

#18 Ole Miss
8:00 p.m.

Tulane
at
Tulsa
8:00 p.m.

Cal Poly
at
New Mexico State
9:15 p.m.

Temple
at
Vanderbilt
10:00 p.m.

Rutgers
at
Washington State
10:00 p.m.

North Dakota
at
San Jose State
10:30 p.m.

Weber State
at
#19 Arizona State
Friday, August 29th, 2014
7:00 p.m.

BYU
at
UConn
7:30 p.m.

Bowling Green
at
Western Kentucky
7:30 p.m.

Jacksonville State
at
#8 Michigan State
7:30 p.m.

Villanova
at
Syracuse
9:00 p.m.

Colorado
vs
(Denver)

Colorado State
9:00 p.m.

UTSA
at
Houston
10:30 p.m.

UNLV
at
Arizona
Saturday, August 30th, 2014
8:30 a.m.

Penn State
at
UCF
12:00 p.m.

Appalachian State
at
Michigan
12:00 p.m.

Indiana State
at
Indiana
12:00 p.m.

North Dakota State
at
Iowa State
12:00 p.m.

#5 Ohio State
vs
(Baltimore)

Navy
12:00 p.m.

Troy
at
UAB
12:00 p.m.

#7 UCLA
at
Virginia
12:00 p.m.

UT Martin
at
Kentucky
12:00 p.m.

Western Michigan
at
Purdue
12:00 p.m.

Youngstown State
at
Illinois
12:00 p.m.

Delaware
at
Pittsburgh
12:30 p.m.

Georgia Southern
at
NC State
12:30 p.m.

Wofford
at
Georgia Tech
2 p.m.

Nicholls State
at
Air Force
2 p.m.

Colgate
at
Ball State
3 p.m.

Boston College
at
UMass
3 p.m.

Southern Utah
at
Nevada
3:30 p.m.

#2 Alabama
vs
(Atlanta)

West Virginia
3:30 p.m.

California
at
Northwestern
3:30 p.m.

Florida Atlantic
at
#22 Nebraska
3:30 p.m.

James Madison
at
Maryland
3:30 p.m.

Rice
at
#17 Notre Dame
3:30 p.m.

South Dakota State
at
#24 Missouri
3:30 p.m.

Duquesne
at
Buffalo
3:30 p.m.

Marshall
at
Miami (OH)
3:30 p.m.
ASN

Hampton
at
Old Dominion
4 p.m.

Arkansas
at
#6 Auburn
4 p.m.

Montana
at
Wyoming
4 p.m.

Portland State
at
Oregon State
4 p.m.

UC Davis
at
#11 Stanford
4 p.m.

Williams & Mary
at
Virginia Tech
5:30 p.m.

#16 Clemson
at
#12 Georgia
6 p.m.

Liberty
at
#23 North Carolina
6 p.m.

Elon
at
Duke
6 p.m.

Ohio
at
Kent State
6 p.m.

Morgan State
at
Eastern Michigan
7 p.m.

Central Arkansas
at
Texas Tech
7 p.m.

Idaho
at
Florida
7 p.m.

Louisiana Tech
at
#4 Oklahoma
7 p.m.

Northern Arizona
at
San Diego State
7 p.m.

Samford
at
TCU
7 p.m.
ULIVE

Stephen F. Austin
at
#20 Kansas State
7 p.m.

Western Carolina
at
South Florida
7 p.m.

Arkansas Pine Bluff
at
Texas State
7 p.m.

Austin Peay
at
Memphis
7 p.m.

Bethune Cookman
at
Florida International
7 p.m.

Montana State
at
Arkansas State
7 p.m.

Southern
at
Louisiana Lafayette
7 p.m.
SIDEARM VIDEO

Savannah State
at
Middle Tennessee
7 p.m.

New Hampshire
at
Toledo
7:30 p.m.

Fresno State
at
#15 USC
7:30 p.m.

Southern Miss
at
Mississippi State
8 p.m.

#1 Florida State
vs
(Arlington)

Oklahoma State
8 p.m.

NC Central
at
East Carolina
8 p.m.

North Texas
at
Texas
8 p.m.

UTEP
at
New Mexico
9 p.m.

#13 LSU
vs
(Houston)

#14 Wisconsin
10:30 p.m.

South Dakota
at
#3 Oregon
10:30 p.m.

#25 Washington
at
Hawaii
Sunday, August 31st, 2014
7:00 p.m.

Utah State
at
Tennessee
7:30 p.m.

SMU
at
#10 Baylor
Monday, September 1st, 2014
8:00 p.m.

Miami (FL)
at
Louisville