June 7, 2007

Pac-10 will hit the road looking for respect

More: ACC | Big Ten | Big 12 | Big East | SEC | Non-BCS I | Non-BCS II | Ultimate Road Trip

At a Glance
A quick look at how David Fox ranks the schedules in the Pac-10 starting with the most difficult:
1. Washington 6. Oregon
2. USC 7. UCLA
3. Stanford 8. Oregon State
4. Washington State 9. Cal
5. Arizona 10. Arizona State

Pac-10 teams last year were hoping some key nonconference wins, particularly on the road, would earn the league a little respect.

It worked for USC.

The Pac-10's road woes were well documented in 2006. Cal lost at Tennessee to open the season. Washington State, Oregon State and Arizona followed suit by losing convincingly to tough teams Auburn, Boise State and LSU, respectively.

Even Oregon's home win over Oklahoma was tainted by questionable officiating.

USC, though, was immune. The Trojans beat Nebraska and Notre Dame at home, and demolished SEC Western Division champ Arkansas on the road.

The Pac-10, the only conference to play nine league games, will try again this season. USC will lead the way with road games at Nebraska and Notre Dame. Washington State opens at Wisconsin. Oregon goes to Michigan in week two, and Tennessee returns the favor and heads to Cal to open the season.

Even with all of those nonconference tests, Washington takes the toughest schedule award by playing Boise State and Ohio State in the first three weeks of the season. Then the Huskies cap the season at Hawaii.

1. Washington Huskies
Washington Schedule
Date Opponent
Aug. 31 at Syracuse
Sept. 8 Boise State
Sept. 15 Ohio State
Sept. 22 at UCLA
Sept. 29 Southern Cal
Oct. 13 at Arizona State
Oct. 20 Oregon
Oct. 27 Arizona
Nov. 3 at Stanford
Nov. 10 at Oregon State
Nov. 17 California
Nov. 24 Washington State
Dec. 1 at Hawaii
Why: Ohio State, Boise State and Hawaii. Those nonconference opponents went 36-4 last year, and the Buckeyes and Broncos played in BCS bowl games. Odds are that at least one of those teams won't reach the same heights as last season, but this is no way to build confidence in a Huskies team that hasn't played in a bowl game since 2002. For good measure, Washington opens the season across the country at Syracuse. The Huskies get their toughest Pac-10 games - USC, Cal and Oregon - at home. However, it will still be tough for Washington to end its bowl drought.
Toughest game: By the time Washington plays host to USC on Sept. 29, the Huskies will already have played Syracuse, UCLA, Boise State and Ohio State. After going through that stretch of the schedule, the Huskies will have to dig pretty deep to stand a chance against the Pac-10 favorite Trojans.
Cakewalk: A road trip to Stanford (1-11 in 2006) is about as easy as it gets for the Huskies this season.
Trap game: Facing six bowl teams in the first seven games is a trap enough.
Changes from last season: Washington went 5-7 last season playing Oklahoma, San Jose State and Fresno State out of conference. How about adding the team that beat Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl, Hawaii and Ohio State in place of those three? That's a lot to ask.
2. USC Trojans
USC Schedule
Date Opponent
Sept. 1 Idaho
Sept. 15 at Nebraska
Sept. 22 Washington State
Sept. 29 at Washington
Oct. 6 Stanford
Oct. 13 Arizona
Oct. 20 at Notre Dame
Oct. 27 at Oregon
Nov. 3 Oregon State
Nov. 10 at Cal
Nov. 22 at Arizona State
Dec. 1 UCLA
Why: In its first six games, USC plays only one team that went to a bowl last year. That one game could be a rough one a road trip to Nebraska on Sept. 15. The Trojans finish the season with six games (four on the road) against teams that played in last year's postseason. After losing on the road to Oregon State and UCLA last year, USC gets both at the Coliseum in 2007. The Trojans hit the road to play Oregon, Cal, Arizona State and Notre Dame.
Toughest game: It's tempting to say the game against Nebraska in Lincoln, but the trip to Berkeley is later in the season and is a conference game. The Trojans also face the Bears' high-powered offense during that tough stretch at the end of the season.
Cakewalk: Stanford or Idaho? Idaho or Stanford? Tough call.
Trap game: We're going to take a road game, of which USC lost two in 2006. The Nov. 22 game against Dennis Erickson-led Arizona State is as good a pick as any. That contest is sandwiched between the Cal and UCLA games.
Changes from last season: USC drops its non-conference road trip to Arkansas, which it won with ease 50-14, for a home game with Idaho. The downside is those home wins against Notre Dame and Nebraska turn into tough road trips.
3. Stanford Cardinal
Stanford Schedule
Date Opponent
Sept. 1 UCLA
Sept. 15 San Jose State
Sept. 22 Oregon
Sept. 29 Arizona State
Oct. 6 at USC
Oct. 13 TCU
Oct. 20 at Arizona
Oct. 27 at Oregon State
Nov. 3 Washington
Nov. 10 at Washington State
Nov. 24 Notre Dame
Dec. 1 California
Why: The way the Cardinal's schedule is set up, new coach Jim Harbaugh won't have any time to get comfortable. Stanford plays six bowl teams in its first six games. Only one (USC) is on the road, but this is not how a struggling program under a new coach wants to start the season. Two of its out-of-conference opponents, TCU and Notre Dame, won 10 or more games last season. The other, San Jose State, won nine - including a bowl game. With eight games at home, Stanford's schedule will be good for the wallet but might bad for the standings. The Cardinal plays only one team, Washington (5-7), that had a losing record last year.
Toughest game: Stanford revisits last year's 42-0 loss to USC with a game at the Coliseum on Oct. 6.
Cakewalk: There really are no easy games for The Cardinal.
Trap game: The home game against Washington on Nov. 3 might be the most winnable game on the slate, but Stanford could still be an underdog.
Changes from last season: Stanford lost its non-conference games last year to San Jose State, Notre Dame and Navy. It could repeat that feat against the Spartans, Irish and TCU.
4. Washington State Cougars
Washington State Schedule
Date Opponent
Sept. 1 at Wisconsin
Sept. 8 San Diego State
Sept. 15 Idaho
Sept. 22 at USC
Sept. 29 at Arizona
Oct. 6 Arizona State
Oct. 13 at Oregon
Oct. 27 UCLA
Nov. 3 at Cal
Nov. 10 Stanford
Nov. 17 Oregon State
Nov. 24 at Washington
Why: While most teams like to schedule a sure win for their openers, Washington State isn't afraid to jump right into the fire. A year after opening their season at Auburn, the Cougars open this season at Wisconsin (12-1). The rest of the nonconference schedule isn't nearly as challenging, with home games against San Diego State and Idaho. In conference, the Cougars have to play last year's co-champions USC and Cal on the road while also going to Autzen Stadium to face Oregon. The Cougars face former defensive coordinator Robb Akey - the new coach at Idaho - on Sept. 15.
Toughest game: Washington State's season opener in Madison is tough enough, but its conference opener is even more challenging. The Cougars play USC in Los Angeles on Sept. 22.
Cakewalk: Take your pick between home games against San Diego State and Stanford. The two combined for four wins last year.
Trap game: Washington State's best chance for a road win before the season finale in the Apple Cup will be a game against Arizona on Sept. 29. However, that contest comes after the USC game and before a stretch that includes four bowl teams from last season. The Cougars might not win a game on the road all year.
Changes from last season: The Cougars may come to regret scheduling Wisconsin and Auburn for season openers. The Tigers beat Washington State 40-14 in week one, likely keeping Wazzu from a bowl game last season. The same could happen this year with the Badgers.
5. Arizona Wildcats
Arizona Schedule
Date Opponent
Sept. 1 at BYU
Sept. 8 Northern Arizona
Sept. 15 New Mexico
Sept. 22 at Cal
Sept. 29 Washington State
Oct. 6 at Oregon State
Oct. 13 at USC
Oct. 20 Stanford
Oct. 27 at Washington
Nov. 3 UCLA
Nov. 15 Oregon
Dec. 1 at Arizona State
Why: At first glance, Arizona's schedule looks like it should crack the top three in the conference. The Wildcats hit the road to play four teams that won 10 or more games last year (USC, Cal, Oregon State and BYU). But Oregon State and BYU are bound to slip a bit because they are breaking in new quarterbacks. It's still a challenging Pac-10 schedule with USC, Cal and rival Arizona State on the road. The Wildcats could navigate through their nonconference schedule with BYU (in the season opener), Northern Arizona and New Mexico with three wins.
Toughest game: Arizona goes to USC on Oct. 13 a week after facing Oregon State in Corvallis.
Cakewalk: Directional schools facing BCS programs can often be a mismatch. That should be the case with Northern Arizona on Sept. 8.
Trap game: Arizona is hoping to make its first bowl game since 1998. The Wildcats can't afford to stumble and expect to make the postseason. A visit to Washington on Oct. 27 could be the difference between making a bowl and staying home again.
Changes from last season: Arizona's nonconference schedule got easier by trading a game with LSU in Baton Rouge for a home game against New Mexico. In conference, Arizona was able to score a big homecoming win over Cal. The Wildcats have to go to Berkeley this season, and the Bears will be looking for revenge.
6. Oregon Ducks
Oregon Schedule
Date Opponent
Sept. 1 Houston
Sept. 8 at Michigan
Sept. 15 Fresno State
Sept. 22 at Stanford
Sept. 29 Cal
Oct. 13 Washington State
Oct. 20 at Washington
Oct. 27 USC
Nov. 3 Arizona State
Nov. 15 at Arizona
Nov. 24 at UCLA
Dec. 1 Oregon State
Why: Like USC and Washington State, Oregon scheduled a challenging non-conference road game. After opening at Autzen Stadium against defending Conference USA champ Houston (10-4), the Ducks visit Ann Arbor to face Big Ten favorite Michigan (11-2). The Ducks will also face a Fresno State (4-8) team that looks to improve after last year. In conference, Oregon benefits from playing in the toughest venue in the Pac-10. The Ducks will play USC, Cal and rival Oregon State in Eugene.
Toughest game: Michigan expects to be in the thick of the national title race this year, and the Wolverines hope to boost their credentials with an out-of-conference win over Oregon on Sept. 8.
Cakewalk: The Stanford game is an easy pick for every Pac-10 team, but the opener against Houston - playing its first game without four-year starting quarterback Kevin Kolb - should by easy pickings for the Ducks.
Trap game: Oregon stumbled badly last year on the road against Washington State, USC and Oregon State. The Ducks could lose look-ahead games at Washington (before USC) or at Arizona (before UCLA).
Changes from last season: Oregon got some help from officials in their big win against Oklahoma last season. Michigan might not make it that close. After the Ducks' struggles on the road last year, they will be glad to face USC, Cal and Oregon State in Eugene in 2007.
7. UCLA Bruins
UCLA Schedule
Date Opponent
Sept. 1 at Stanford
Sept. 8 Brigham Young
Sept. 15 at Utah
Sept. 22 Washington
Sept. 29 at Oregon State
Oct. 6 Notre Dame
Oct. 20 Cal
Oct. 27 at Washington State
Nov. 3 at Arizona
Nov. 10 Arizona State
Nov. 24 Oregon
Dec. 1 at USC
Why: UCLA has a winnable road schedule until the finale against USC on Dec. 1. The Bruins open at Stanford and also travel to Utah, Oregon State, Washington State and Arizona. Three of those teams didn't play in a bowl last year. Home games against BYU and Notre Dame round out UCLA's nonconference schedule, but both teams could step back from last year's win totals.
Toughest game: USC has revenge on its mind on Dec. 1 when the Bruins come to town. UCLA knocked the Trojans out of the national championship picture last year with a 13-9 win in the regular-season finale.
Cakewalk: Opening the season with a conference road game can be a rough way to start the season, but not when that opener is at Stanford.
Trap game: UCLA goes to Oregon State on Sept. 29 before a homestand against Notre Dame and Cal. Given UCLA's road woes last year, this one could be trouble.
Changes from last season: The Bruins started the season 0-4 on the road last year, including a loss to Washington. An improved UCLA team should manage a better start with Stanford and Utah leading the road schedule this year.
8. Oregon State Beavers
Oregon State Schedule
Date Opponent
Aug. 30 Utah
Sept. 6 at Cincinnati
Sept. 15 Idaho State
Sept. 22 at Arizona State
Sept. 29 UCLA
Oct. 6 Arizona
Oct. 13 at Cal
Oct. 27 Stanford
Nov. 3 at USC
Nov. 10 Washington
Nov. 17 at Washington State
Dec. 1 at Oregon
Why: The Beavers' nonconference schedule doesn't stack up to the others in the conference. However, at least Oregon State's first two opponents, Utah and Cincinnati, won bowl games last year. With a new quarterback replacing Matt Moore, Oregon State will be challenged early. Home field advantage helped Oregon State beat USC last year, but not so in 2007. The Beavers must face USC, Cal and rival Oregon on the road.
Toughest game: Throw in the revenge factor, and Oregon State's Nov. 3 road game against USC might get ugly.
Cakewalk: Oregon State should pile the points on Division I-AA Idaho State (2-9) on Sept. 15.
Trap game: Boise State and Cal, which defeated Oregon State by a combined score of 83-27, can tell you Oregon State wasn't sharp early last season. Cincinnati could find out for itself when the Beavers head east on Sept. 6.
Changes from last season: Oregon State paid dearly for its road trip to Boise State last year with a 42-14 loss, but got a boost to a 10-win season by beating Hawaii in its 13th regular season game. The Beavers are back to a 12-game season this without the trip to Hawaii.
9. Cal Bears
Cal Schedule
Date Opponent
Sept. 1 Tennessee
Sept. 8 at Colorado State
Sept. 15 La. Tech
Sept. 22 Arizona
Sept. 29 at Oregon
Oct. 13 Oregon State
Oct. 20 at UCLA
Oct. 27 at Arizona State
Nov. 3 Washington State
Nov. 10 USC
Nov. 17 at Washington
Dec. 1 at Stanford
Why: Cal got its tough nonconference road game out of the way last year and paid dearly for it. Tennessee demolished the Bears 35-18 at Neyland Stadium last year. The Volunteers return the favor this year by coming to Berkeley. Along with Tennessee, Cal benefits from having its biggest conference game in Berkeley against USC. The Bears have to make the tough road trip to Autzen Stadium to face Oregon and another to in-state rival UCLA. Cal is tied with Arizona State with only six teams on the schedule that went to a bowl game last year, fewest among Pac-10 teams.
Toughest game: The USC game at the end of the season could have Pac-10 championship ramifications, but we're going to pick the opener against Tennessee. The Vols embarrassed Cal in Knoxville last year in a game the Bears didn't appear to be prepared to play. The pressure is on to avenge last year's game and save some face on Sept. 1.
Cakewalk: After a road trip to Colorado State on Sept. 8, the Bears end their nonconference schedule with a home game against Louisiana Tech (3-10) on Sept. 15.
Trap game: In the last two seasons, Cal has been caught looking ahead to USC by losing at Arizona and at Oregon. That could happen again this year at home against Washington State on Nov. 3 or on the road against Arizona State on Oct. 27.
Changes from last season: Cal is glad to face Tennessee at home this year after last year's rout. USC and Oregon State are in Berkeley this year, meaning the Bears get to play two teams with double-digit wins in 2006 at home this year.
10. Arizona State Sun Devils
Arizona State Schedule
Date Opponent
Sept. 1 San Jose State
Sept. 8 Colorado
Sept. 15 San Diego State
Sept. 22 Oregon State
Sept. 29 at Stanford
Oct. 6 at Washington State
Oct. 13 Washington
Oct. 27 Cal
Nov. 3 at Oregon
Nov. 10 at UCLA
Nov. 22 USC
Dec. 1 Arizona
Why: Arizona State is one of two Pac-10 teams (Cal is the other) to play just six schools that went to bowls last season. It plays only two of those teams in the first seven games. Dennis Erickson's tenure begins with four consecutive home games, including dates with Colorado (2-10) and San Diego State (3-9). Among eight home games, the Sun Devils also benefit from having most of the tough conference games at home. Cal, USC and rival Arizona must make the trip to Tempe.
Toughest game: Visiting Oregon embarrassed Arizona State 48-13 last year. Now the Sun Devils have to try to return the favor at Autzen Stadium.
Cakewalk: The game with San Diego State on Sept. 15 will be the last tuneup for Erickson and quarterback Rudy Carpenter before the conference season begins.
Trap game: Arizona State plays only four road games, so this is tough. Our pick is a home game against Washington on Oct. 13. The Sun Devils will be happy to be home after two weeks on the road at Stanford and Washington State. After facing the Huskies, ASU has an open date then the gauntlet of Cal, at Oregon, at UCLA and vs. USC. If they look ahead at all, the Sun Devils could be in trouble.
How it compares to last year: Arizona State's home-and-home with Colorado probably isn't what the school had in mind when they scheduled it. The Sun Devils handled Colorado 21-3 last year in Boulder. The Sun Devils will be glad to have eight home games this year after losses to Cal, Oregon State and USC on the road last year.

More: ACC | Big Ten | Big 12 | Big East | SEC | Non-BCS I | Non-BCS II | Ultimate Road Trip

David Fox is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at dfox@rivals.com.



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