<
>

10 Pac-12 games we're most looking forward to in 2015

19h

The 2015 college football season kickoff is 100 days away, so it's time to turn our focus to specific dates on the schedule. Here are the 10 Pac-12 games we're most looking forward to seeing come fall:

1. UCLA at USC, Nov. 28

The Bruins have beaten the Trojans three straight times, winning each contest by double digits. But it would be a mistake to equate that success with ownership of Los Angeles. Jim Mora's program still has plenty of work to do in pursuit of that goal. Finding a way to win in the Coliseum again is one of the next challenges. USC's emerging explosiveness has renewed buzz around the team, but UCLA should counter with a formidable punch of its own: running back Paul Perkins, a veteran offensive line and a young quarterback (Josh Rosen?) who will have a season's worth of experience under his belt by the time this game rolls around.

2. Arizona at ASU, Nov. 21

Rivalry games are naturally the top candidates for this list, so the Territorial Cup, which acted as the de facto Pac-12 South title game in 2014, earns a high ranking. Both the Wildcats and Sun Devils return experienced stalwarts at key positions. Between Mike Bercovici, Anu Solomon, D.J. Foster, Nick Wilson and Scooby Wright, there's plenty of star power to get excited about on the field. The coaching battle here is also superb: Rich Rodriguez won last year, but Todd Graham, who seems to have generated excellent program momentum, is gunning hard to regain the upper hand.

3. USC at Oregon, Nov. 21

Conference expansion created a two-year gap in which the Trojans and Ducks did not play, so anticipation has been building ahead of USC's first trip to Autzen Stadium since Matt Barkley led the Trojans to that dizzying 38-35 win in 2011. We've seen our share of doozies since the conference expanded to a 12-team format, but that chilly November night in 2011 brought one of the most memorable ones. (It's tough to forget a game in which Marqise Lee averaged more than 23 yards per catch.) This one is dripping with potential, too: The Trojans and Ducks both feature electrifying, playmaking talent all over the field.

4. Oregon at Stanford, Nov. 14

Excluding their annual head-to-head clashes, the Ducks and Cardinal are a combined 39-1 against other Pac-12 North teams this decade. How's that for division dominance? The rest of the Pac-12 North simply has not been able to keep up with Oregon and Stanford, so until either of these programs is unseated, their annual November meeting is designated as the marquee battle of the North. David Shaw's team made the Ducks' last visit to the Bay Area a nightmare, while Oregon exacted revenge at Autzen Stadium last year. The series shifts back to California, where the Ducks will combat a fresh-faced Stanford defense.

5. ASU at UCLA, Oct. 3

The Bruins embarrassed the Sun Devils to the tune of a 62-27 final in September. ASU has certainly grown since that 2014 low point, and the Sun Devils return nine starters on the defensive side of the ball. Something tells us that they have this date circled on their calendars as an opportunity to showcase progress made over the past year. This game should present an early challenge for Rosen, assuming he's named UCLA's starting quarterback.

6. Arizona at USC, Nov. 7

The 2014 Pac-12 South race went down as one for the ages, fueled by five teams each harboring legitimate hopes of taking the crown (think Jael Mary -- we're also looking forward to the rematch of that one). Another one of the season's many memorable finishes came in the Trojans' 28-26 triumph at Arizona. That game ended on a missed Casey Skowron field goal, so Wildcats fans are certainly champing at the bit for another chance.

7. Washington State at Washington, Nov. 27

Unless the Cougars can make massive progress on the defensive side (defensive coordinator Alex Grinch is working hard in that regard) and the Huskies can overcome a numbing loss of star power, this game won't have title implications. It does, however, have the chance to be a major barometer for coaches Mike Leach and Chris Petersen. By this point in the season, both will be expected to have made significant progress at their respective programs, and Apple Cup success is an integral part of the job description for both.

8. Utah at USC, Oct. 24

Here's another treacherous spot in the Pac-12 South minefield. These two teams provided late-game drama during the Utes' 24-21 win last year. The Salt Lake City crowd went into a frenzy, but the Trojans have a chance to rebut in the Coliseum this time. How will Devontae Booker fare against a USC defense that has lost the likes of Leonard Williams?

9. UCLA at Utah, Nov. 21

You might notice that Nov. 21 appears on this list four times. Be sure to circle that date on your calendars and cancel any weddings or other outside social obligations that might interfere with this loaded day of football. Because this one isn't a traditional rivalry game, it could lack the luster of its three counterparts, but last year's photo finish at the Rose Bowl (Utah 30, UCLA 28) sets up a good rematch.

10. Cal at Stanford, Nov. 21

It's been a while since the Big Game has truly been competitive, but if there's ever a year for the Bears to make a move, this is it: Coach Sonny Dykes is in Year 3 at the helm, while quarterback Jared Goff is an upperclassman, and the Stanford defense is in the midst of a major retooling effort. Cal will either end a half-decade of frustration, or the Cardinal will keep the door slammed shut on their archrivals here.