It’s been a tough few years for the Pac 12. However, there is a quick and easy way for the conference of champions to regain their respect and take their place among the nation’s elite once again: beat non conference opponents. Obviously, this is easier said than done, but in 2019, several Pac 12 football teams have huge non conference games. If the Pac 12 wants to be taken seriously again, they need to win some of these battles. Here are picks for the Pac 12’s Biggest Non-Conference Games in 2019.
Pac 12’s Biggest Non-Conference Games
California at Ole Miss, Sep 21;
Any match-up against the SEC is huge, no matter how far down the totem pole the teams fall. When the Golden Bears make their September 21 trip to Mississippi, they will have a great opportunity for a quality road win in the Southeast. The Rebels will be looking ahead to a road trip to Alabama on the 28th, so this would be a great chance for Cal to go on the road and snag a big win against a potentially distracted Ole Miss.
Stanford vs Notre Dame, Nov 30;
Stanford really has their work cut out for them this season. To start the season out, Stanford will play host to Northwestern, a dangerous Big 10 opponent. Then, on the 14th, they go on the road to face UCF, whose only loss last season came against LSU in the Fiesta Bowl, so yeah, that’s going to be a big game. However, their climactic clash with Notre Dame is going to be their most significant outing.
Notre Dame suffered their only loss of the season last year in the playoffs to the eventual national champion, Clemson, so a win here for Stanford would likely have national implications. Anytime you play Notre Dame, you have a big audience. No matter what happens to Stanford this season, a win on national TV against Notre Dame could really decide how the 2019 season is remembered for the Cardinal.
Oregon vs Auburn, August 31;
This is probably one of the most important games of the 2019 Pac 12 football season. The sky’s the limit for the Ducks this year. However, an early loss to Auburn could severely damage, if not kill, their CFP bid later in the season. This is a great opportunity for Oregon to show what they are capable of. Herbert and the Ducks are the conference favorites. It would be devastating for them to go down early to a middle of the pack SEC opponent.
Oregon State at Oklahoma State, August 30;
Aside from being a clash of orange and black uniforms, the Beavers first outing of 2019 will also be a match-up against a Big 12 opponent. The Cowboys finished last season well, with a win against #22 Missouri in the Autozone Liberty Bowl. This will be a tough task for Oregon State early in the season, but would be a huge boost in momentum if they pull it off.
Washington vs Eastern Washington, August 31;
Washington’s non-conference schedule this year is very manageable. But, Eastern Washington can run up the scoreboard. They finished with 11 wins last season, so there is certainly some danger here. However, Eastern Washington was easily handled by Washington State last season, and the Huskies should be able to out muscle the Eagles.
Washington State vs Houston, Sep 13;
Houston is dangerous. Just ask Arizona. While not technically on Houston’s home turf, the game is in Houston. While Washington State is still the strong favorite in this match-up, a slip up in NRG Stadium early in the season could really hurt their momentum and the conference’s image. This is a must win for Washington State.
Arizona vs Texas Tech, Sep 21;
The Wildcats are coming off a hugely disappointing 2018 campaign. It all started with a disastrous opener against BYU and the blowout loss at Houston. However, there is reason for optimism in Tucson. Last year, four of the Cats’ seven losses came by a combined 11 points. Star quarterback Khalil Tate was banged up and injured for the majority of the season. The fact that Tate was learning a new offense and the whole team was adjusting to a new coaching staff didn’t help either. Texas Tech has a first year coach and a weak defense, so this is a great chance for the Wildcats to add to the win column before a difficult conference schedule kicks in.
Arizona State at Michigan State, Sep 14;
The Sun Devils pulled it off last year against Michigan State in Tempe. Can they do it again on the road? ASU will be starting a freshman quarterback and you better believe the Spartans will be looking for revenge. However, ASU will be coming off back to back games against pancake opponents. This should give them a great opportunity to get the young Jayden Daniels in rhythm. A 3-0 start and a big road win against a good Michigan State team would not only look good for the Pac 12, but would also set the Sun Devils up well for a promising season.
Colorado vs Nebraska, Sep 7;
Yet another Big 10 opponent for the Pac 12 in 2019. Colorado got what seemed like a big win on the road at Nebraska last year, but Nebraska ended up having a pretty lackluster season, and Colorado went totally off the rails. This match-up against the Cornhuskers is a chance for the Buffaloes to set the tone for their season. Defending their own turf from a Big 10 opponent would do a lot to build confidence moving into conference play.
Utah at BYU, Aug 29;
The Utes are the favorites in the South division this year. In a season absolutely loaded with potential for this Utah squad, a loss in the season opener against their rivals from down the road in Provo would be awful. Utah needs to win this one.
UCLA vs Oklahoma, Sep 14;
Another big Pac 12 vs Big 12 match-up, this would be a huge win for the Bruins. What to expect in Chip Kelly’s sophomore campaign in LA is anybody’s guess, but a win against the Sooners would be a huge statement win for this program.
USC at Notre Dame, Oct 12;
This game could really be a deal breaker for coach Clay Helton. USC’s schedule through this point is brutal, with matchups against, Stanford, Utah and Washington preceding this road game against Notre Dame. A trip to South Bend is always dangerous, but with such a rough build up, a blow out loss in this one could mark the end of Helton’s time at USC. However, a big upset against their rival could go along way towards salvaging this season. It could prove a turning point for Pac 12 and USC football.