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The Countdown

A bottom-to-top assessment of the F.B.S. landscape heading into the 2012 season.

Need to Know

Oregon-U.S.C. at the Coliseum and More

It’s completely apropos of the Pac-12 to lead its release of the 2012 conference schedule with a picture of fireworks exploding high above Autzen Stadium: Oregon is explosive, for starters, but the Ducks also factor into next season’s most highly-anticipated regular season game west of the SEC. In other words, get your popcorn — and blasting caps — ready. It’ll be Ducks and Trojans at the Coliseum on Nov. 3, the same day as Alabama’s trip to L.S.U., which makes for an interesting Saturday. And it’s only 303 days away!

Good thing I have all my other interesting, time-consuming and meaningful hobbies to keep me busy, right? And one can’t be blamed for keeping an eye on the clock: after this year’s win, after the way U.S.C. closed the season, after the way Oregon beat Wisconsin — well, the Ducks’ trip to Los Angeles looms as the defining game of the year outside of the SEC.

I hate using that disclaimer. But save for a select few, the third meeting between L.S.U. and Alabama in roughly a year will stand up as the most highly-anticipated game of the 2012 season. And that becomes doubly true should the Tide knock off the Tigers on Monday, making this coming November’s version a de facto rubber match between the two national powers.

Back to the Pac-12: the battle of Ducks and Trojans may be circled in red ink, highlighted and surrounded with curlicues and little hearts, but it’s not the only game that stands out. You can check out the entire schedule over at the Pac-12’s Web site, but here’s a quick primer:

Thurs., Aug. 30: Northern Colorado at Utah It won’t be televised — it shouldn’t be, at least — but the Utes do us all a favor and get things kicked off as early as possible.

Sat., Sept. 1: Washington State at B.Y.U. Hello, Mike Leach. For his debut with the Cougars, Leach gets a crack at his alma mater. Those Cougars — the Provo-based Cougars — don’t run the LaVell Edwards-era offense, but a return to his college roots is a nice way for Leach to step into his tenure in Pullman.

Sat., Sept. 8: Nebraska at U.C.L.A. Jim Mora cracks into his own stay with the Bruins with a road date at Rice; I sincerely hope that he gets off on the right foot. Mora’s first real test comes a week later, when U.C.L.A. hosts a Nebraska team that pushes around nobodies but is overwhelmingly mediocre against B.C.S. conference competition.

Sat., Sept. 8: Washington at L.S.U. Fresh off his seven-touchdown performance against Baylor in the Alamo Bowl, Washington quarterback Keith Price will look to capitalize on his burgeoning Heisman candidacy by putting up a few crooked numbers on another gifted L.S.U. defense. Good luck.

Sat., Sept. 15: U.S.C. at Stanford Barkley, but no Luck. No Kalil, but no Martin or DeCastro either. The Trojans should be favored, but a loss to a still dangerous Stanford team would derail the team’s national title hopes.

Sat., Sept. 15: B.Y.U. at Utah So it’s official, I guess: the Holy War has become a September affair. Which is unfortunate, seeing that the Pac-12 — if the conference made the final decision — has historically allowed other historic non-conference rivalries to be played in November or early December.

Thurs. Oct. 4: U.S.C. at Utah The Utes are going to be tremendously improved in 2012: not just better, but also more cognizant of what it takes to compete on the B.C.S. conference level. From where I’m sitting — a few thousand miles and nine months away — this looks like a trap game for the Trojans.

Sat., Oct. 13: Stanford at Notre Dame As befitting the history of the series, the meeting in South Bend will be played in mid-October. When in Palo Alto, the two meet to end the regular season.

Sat., Oct. 20: Stanford at California Yeah, the Big Game is going to be played in October. Last time this rivalry was played in any month other than November or December? Oh, back in ’92 — 1892. History paved over in the pursuit of progress.

Sat., Nov. 3: U.S.C. at Oregon The Ducks’ stiffest test to this point seems like a home date with Washington on Oct. 6, which speaks to the team’s relatively easy road to this point. The Trojans have it tougher; here’s hoping they don’t get caught looking ahead.

Sat., Nov. 17: U.S.C. at U.C.L.A. Mora has the advantage in terms of years spent on Earth, but he’ll be a neophyte to Lane Kiffin’s veteran when it comes to this intercity rivalry. Barring a deft touch, Mora’s Bruins might have to wait a year before challenging Kiffin’s Trojans.

Sat., Nov. 24: Notre Dame at U.S.C. The Trojans could cruise through the year’s first 11 games and then slip up against the Irish, which would be devastating. Or the Trojans could be one of several one-loss teams in the country, which would then make this a game for beauty points in the B.C.S. standings.

Sat., Nov. 24: Oregon at Oregon State At least the Pac-12 maintained this rivalry’s spot on the final Saturday of the regular season. I can picture the riots in Oregon had the league offices opted to move this game to, say, Oct. 20…

Fri., Nov. 30: North winner vs. South winner It could be North at South or South at North; again, the title game will be played at the home field of the team with the best overall conference record. Through one year, the Pac-12 has gone along historical lines: the North beat the South — Oregon, the North representative, beat U.C.L.A., the South’s whipping-boy.

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Comments

  1. Scudderfan says:

    Pretty sure the Utah v NoCo game will be televised (but I agree it shouldn’t be). The PAC 12 press release mentions that all games will be available ‘on a national clearance’ – I presume that means tv availability.

    The fine folks in Greeley won’t have to leave the comfort of their own [slightly bovine-smelling] backyards to see the game; it may even be on espn/fox channels.

    http://www.pac-12.org/Football/Tabid/1452/Article/139827/Pac-12-Releases-2012-Football-Schedule.aspx

  2. AMF says:

    Don’t forget that the Pac-12 championship game could feature a re-match of USC-Oregon (or USC-Stanford, for that matter).

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