- Kevin Gemmell, ESPN Staff Writer
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Gas up the family station wagon and hit the Holiday Road. The Ultimate Road Trip is back! Over the next couple of weeks we’re going to look at each week during the 2014 season and pick the can’t-miss game (and maybe for Thursday/Friday games, we’ll work in two).
Start planning accordingly. The Ultimate Pac-12 Road Trip continues.
Welcome to Week 2:
Thursday, Sept. 4
Arizona at UTSA
Friday, Sept. 5
Washington State at Nevada
Saurday, Sept. 6
Sacramento State at California
Fresno State at Utah
Eastern Washington at Washington
USC at Stanford
Michigan State at Oregon
Arizona State at New Mexico
Memphis at UCLA
Oregon State at Hawaii
Colorado at UMass (at Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Massachusetts)
My choice: Michigan State at Oregon
Why: After a rather uneventful Week 1, which saw the conference go 11-1 (with Cal taking Northwestern to nonuple overtime but coming up short) Week 2 ramps up with two of the best games in the country -- making it nearly impossible for the Pac-12 blog to make a compelling case for one over the other.
On one hand, you've got the Rose Bowl Champions, Michigan State, coming into Autzen for a clash of what should be top-10 teams (we’re giving Oregon and Michigan State the benefit of the doubt over South Dakota and Jacksonville State, respectively). On the other, the first Pac-12 game of the season that will feature two top-25 teams in Stanford and USC.
Literally, I flipped a coin.
Both games will likely have significant ramifications as we look ahead to the College Football Playoff. All four teams feel they have a good shot at one of those four spots. Yet two of those four will have some work to do by the end of Week 2.
The Stanford-USC games the past few years have been epic, from last-minute field goals and triple overtimes to shocking upsets. Last year was no exception as the Trojans snapped a four-game skid to the Cardinal on the strength of Andre Heidari's last-minute field goal. And while the Steve Sarkisian-David Shaw verbal jousting over faking injuries seems to be water under the bridge from last year’s Stanford-Washington game, it still adds a sprinkle of thermite to an already heated rivalry.
And yet, the Oregon-Michigan State matchup has huge national appeal because of its potential impact on the postseason. It's been deemed by many as the top nonconference game in college football in 2014. This is one of those games that can make or break a season in Week 2. The winning coach will say “it’s just another game.” But we know it’s not. The losing coach will say “it’s just another game.” But we know it’s not. Of course, the winner won’t get an automatic bid to the playoff with a win in Week 2. But it will surely strengthen their resume. Just as the losing team won’t completely be eliminated. But it will be a stain on theirs.
Couple all of that with the sheer difference in style and personality of the two teams, their approaches to the game and the Pac-12-Big Ten connection and you have a thrilling matchup that should play just as well in Week 2 as it would on New Year's Day.
But if you told me you were going to Palo Alto instead, I wouldn’t hold it against you.
You can catch the rest of the road trip here.
3dChantel Jennings and Ted Miller