Pac-12 Opening Week: Michigan, Boise State among must-see games

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The sound of university bands, the smell of tailgate barbeques and the roar of 40,000 to 90,000 fans at the Rose Bowl or Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum is now eight weeks away as college football season is approaching.

There’s some banner games involving PAC-12 teams that will help get a college football fan glued to their television set or get them to take the walk to his/her home stadium during the first week of September.

Here’s some intriguing contests during opening week involving PAC-12 teams:

Sept. 3: Michigan at Utah

It’s the Wolverines head coaching debut for Jim Harbaugh, who’s already made headlines at Michigan for his satellite camps and by going shirtless during a 7-on-7 drill this past June.

As for the Utes, they were last season’s surprise in the PAC-12 by going 9-4 and knocking off nationally ranked UCLA and USC. This year’s team brings back potential Heisman Trophy finalist Devontae Booker. The former Grant High School (Sacramento) star and Washington State commit accelerated past defenses for 1,512 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2014-15.

Sept. 4: Washington at Boise State

The first annual “Chris Petersen Bowl” takes place, as the revered former Broncos coach makes his return to the Blue Turf.

Prior to taking the Huskies’ job in Dec. 2013, Petersen turned Boise State into a mid-major monster: winning two Fiesta Bowls and averaging 11.5 victories during his eight-year run.

How the Bronco fans will treat him once he steps out of the turf without any blue on is the question.

Sept. 5: Arizona State against Texas A&M (at Houston)

The Sun Devils were looking like a serious threat to win the PAC-12 South Division last season, with two exhilarating upsets against USC and Utah plus an 8-1 start. However, ASU stumbled with a stunning road loss to 5-7 Oregon State and then, two weeks later, lost to in-state rival Arizona.

This year’s Sun Devils will welcome back 12 starters from their 10-3 team, including two potential cornerstones of the future: Tashon Smallwood (nose tackle) and D.J. Calhoun (inside linebacker). Both were impact true freshmen last year.

Texas A&M has pride itself on high-scoring offense in the Kevin Sumlin era. Last year’s Aggie offense averaged 35.2 points per game.

Sept. 5: Arkansas State at USC

If there’s any hope for an Arkansas State upset, it’ll have to come from the bevy of experience coming back to the Red Wolves’ offense.

Nine starters are back from a unit that averaged 36.7 points per game and will take on a Trojan defense that was one of the worst in defending the pass last season. USC’s pass defense surrendered 274.5 yards through the air, placing the Trojans at 115th in the nation.

However, USC loaded up on experience and possible impact freshmen in the secondary during the offseason. Rising star Adoree Jackson is back at one cornerback slot. Incoming freshmen Iman Marshall and Isaiah Langley are two aggressive ball hawks.

Also returning to the defense is possible All-American candidate Su’a Cravens at outside linebacker.

Sept. 5: Virginia at UCLA

The Cavaliers nearly pulled off the biggest upset of the 2014 opening weekend, as they had the nationally-ranked Bruins against the ropes before UCLA sneaked out with a 28-20 victory at Charlottesville.

The season opener at the distinguished Rose Bowl will mark the debut of quarterback Josh Rosen. Even though Bruins head coach Jim Mora has told the Los Angeles Times that he hasn’t named a starting quarterback yet, all signs at Westwood point toward Rosen taking the starting duties and replacing school record breaker Brett Hundley.

Rosen had a decorated prep career at nearby St. John Bosco High in Bellflower, with 8,743 passing yards and 90 touchdowns on his high school resume. He enrolled at UCLA during the last spring semester to compete for the open starting quarterback spot. He’ll link up with eight returning offensive players and, quite possibly, star linebacker Myles Jack taking some carries at running back.

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Lorenzo Reyna

Lorenzo Reyna hails from the California's Central Coast, but has a bevy of experience with covering some fast-rising athletes from all over the Golden State. He's a former sports editor for The Reedley Exponent newspaper. His other credits include scout.com and nflevolution.com.


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