It's back! Time for the Pac-12 Ultimate Road Trip. And with gas prices super cheap and air travel as luxurious and customer-service friendly as ever, there's no reason not to travel across the Western half of the United States (or beyond?) and take in a Pac-12 game in a new city or state every week.
Per usual, we're picking the game that you don't want to miss that week (and maybe for Thursday/Friday games we'll work in two). So start planning accordingly. The Ultimate Road Trip begins.
Welcome to Week 1.
Thursday, Aug. 29
Utah State at Utah
USC at Hawaii
Friday, Aug. 30,
Northern Arizona at Arizona
Saturday Aug. 31
Nicholls State University at Oregon
Eastern Washington at Oregon State
Nevada at UCLA
Boise State at Washington
Northwestern at California
Washington State at Auburn
Sunday, Sept. 1
Colorado State vs. Colorado
My choice: Boise State at Washington
Why: This first one is a no-brainer. While Northwestern at Cal is certainly interesting -- as is WSU at Auburn (we love those Pac-12/SEC matchups, even if both teams combined for all of six wins last season) -- a rematch of last year's MAACO Bowl Las Vegas is just too delicious to pass up.
If anyone needs a refresher, it went something like this. Washington, bad start. Bishop Sankey, awesome. Washington, rally. Seriously? No measurement? Boise State field goal. Broncos win 28-26.
As discussed in the Most Important Game series, this is one of those games that could really set the tone for the season. Despite a show of confidence from both halves of the Pac-12 blog, it's likely that Washington isn't going to start the year ranked in the top 25. Boise State probably will (I can tell you that both Ted and I have Washington in our preseason top 25s, but don't have Boise State ranked). Perception is everything in the ranking game. Beat a ranked team in Week 1, and chances are you will be ranked. So this is a great opportunity for the Huskies to get themselves into the top 25 early in the year. Then if they beat a down Illinois team on the road and -- we're going out on a limb -- beat Idaho State -- they are 3-0 and ranked (probably in the top 20 since they'll move up by virtue of other teams losing) heading into conference play. It's a quick grab at national legitimacy.
Lose this game, however, and they are playing catch-up in the rankings and probably will go unranked most of the year -- barring upsets at Stanford and/or home to Oregon in consecutive weeks. Plus, needless to say, it would be a pretty big downer for a team that has fairly high expectations -- given the amount of talent they return on both sides of the ball.
This first game is all about momentum. Throw in the emotional uplift of a newly- remodeled stadium (which can be helpful or hurtful, just ask Cal) and you have all the ingredients for an outstanding Week 1 showdown. The Huskies opened last season by beating a Mountain West Conference team, San Diego State (which actually went on to beat Boise State on the road and grab a share of the league title), and doing it again would put the Huskies on the national radar and set them up nicely for the first month of the season.
And it's worth the trip just to see one of the most picturesque settings in all of college football.
If you're feeling adventurous, take in the Utah game on Thursday and then road trip to Seattle. Highway 84 takes you from Utah straight through Boise (where you can stop and drop a little P12 smack) and then pick up the 82 to the 90 and 12 hours and 46 minutes later you're ready to go.