- David Lombardi, ESPN Staff Writer
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The season is upon us. Here's a look at the upcoming weekend's action. Happy football:
1. Texas A&M vs. Arizona State: Is it too much to ask for a Pac-12 vs. SEC match-up that involves two teams from the upper echelons of each conference? Usually, yes. But this year, the schedule has blessed us at least once. We don't know what the postseason has in store, but this opener at Houston's Reliant Stadium carries big conference perception implications with it. It'll undoubtedly be used as ammo in nasty online debates over the course of the year, so this is important even outside the realms of the Aggies and Sun Devils.
2. Michigan at Utah: Great, unpredictable fun awaits on Thursday night. We don't how long it'll take Jim Harbaugh to instill his vision at Michigan, but we do know that Utah does -- in many ways -- resemble the rugged squads he built at Stanford. The Utes' backbone is a nasty defensive front seven and a bruising run game, so we can't wait to see the collision between Harbaugh's new team and Devontae Booker in a raucous environment.
3. Washington at Boise State: This is the first of two intriguing reunions. Seeing Chris Petersen on the blue turf's visiting sideline may take some getting used to. The mystery surrounding Washington's quarterback situation -- the Huskies won't announce their starter ahead of time -- adds to the anticipation here.
4. Eastern Washington at Oregon: A year ago, after Vernon Adams tossed seven touchdowns against Washington on the road, there was certainly someone in Eastern Washington's program who daydreamed of the damage Adams could do against Oregon a year later. But did that person anticipate that Adams would actually be playing for the other team? We think not. This'll be one awkward and fascinating reunion. Oregon has a massive talent advantage, but the Eagles will want a piece of Adams.
5. Stanford at Northwestern: The Nerd Bowl? Whether or not that nickname catches on, expect plenty of references to the academic prowess of these two teams. Stanford is a solid favorite to win, but this game is dangerous for them: It's early (9 a.m. PT), it'll be humid on the road and the Cardinal are breaking in a ton of new defensive talent.
6. Virginia at UCLA: The last thing Jim Mora wanted in the lead-up to true freshman Josh Rosen's first career action was a game-week distraction, but he got just that on Monday. The Bruins struggled with the Cavaliers to open the season on the road last year, but this one is at home.
7. UTSA at Arizona: The Wildcats sweated out their 26-23 road win over the Roadrunners last season, but conventional wisdom says this go-round will be prettier for Anu Solomon's crew since it's at home. That being said, Arizona is breaking in fresh talent at key positions -- namely the secondary -- so acclimatization is key.
8. Colorado at Hawai'i: Thursday evening will mark the end of the offseason football drought, so it'll be fun. Just how fun depends on one's bedtime: The Buffs kick off on the islands at 10 p.m. PT in their first chance to show improvement on the field. This game will mark the end of an opening tripleheader also featuring Utah-Michigan and UTSA-Arizona.
9. Arkansas State at USC: There wasn't much intrigue here to begin with, but there'll be some now following the recent off-field drama that's surrounded Steve Sarkisian. It doesn't ramp up for the Trojans until Stanford visits on September 19.
11. Portland State at Washington State: Yes, the Cougars will actually line up with their quarterback under center multiple times (something they only did once all of last season). It'll be a foreign sight, but don't try to fix your television during this game -- Washington State will simply be debuting some offensive tweaks.
12. Grambling State at California: Not much to see here. The Bears should roll behind a ton of points. This is a tune-up for nonconference tests against San Diego State and Texas in the following weeks.
1dKevin Gemmell and Erik McKinney