Neuheisel: What I'll be watching for

Cal star Keenan Allen (Michael Pimentel/GoldenBearSports.com)


Rick Neuheisel

By Rick Neuheisel, Pac-12 Networks analyst

Excitement is in the air as the impending football season rounds the corner. Our August 15 debut as the Pac-12 Networks is even closer.

Our early-season football broadcast schedule has been announced and there definitely is some must-see TV on our network right from the outset.

Week 1

Opening weekend always is big regardless of the opponent. Nevada at Cal [Saturday 9/1, noon PT] looms especially large as Cal coach Jeff Tedford wants nothing more than to open renovated Memorial Stadium with a bang, and to avenge an early-season loss in Reno two seasons ago. The Wolfpack and their vaunted pistol attack have been extremely tough over the last five years and have a dozen or so starters returning. Cal will answer with Zach Maynard at quarterback throwing to all-Pac-12 receiver Keenan Allen. The two ought to be on the same page as they happen to be half-brothers.

Other games of note are much-improved San Jose State taking on the Cardinal of Stanford [Friday 8/31, 7 p.m. PT], who will take the field without Andrew Luck for the first time in three years. Luck led Stanford to a school-record 23 wins over the last two seasons.

Steve Sarkisian and his Washington Huskies host San Diego State [Saturday 9/1, 7:30 p.m. PT], who attended back-to-back bowl games for the first time in school history. It will be interesting to see what kind of start quarterback Keith Price gets off to in CenturyLink Field in downtown Seattle; Husky Stadium is undergoing a facelift.

Other games to get us started include Northern Colorado at Utah [Thursday 8/30, 4:15 p.m. PT], Northern Arizona at ASU in the first game of the Todd Graham era [Thursday 8/30, 7:30 p.m. PT] and Nicholls State at Oregon State [Saturday 9/1, noon PT]. Mike Riley and his Beavers want to make sure they don't take their opponent lightly, as was the case in last year's season opener, an overtime loss to Sacramento State.

Week 2

The second week of football delivers a monster game: Oklahoma State (the No. 3 team in the country a year ago) versus Rich Rod's Arizona Wildcats [Saturday 9/8, 7:30 p.m. PT]. How fast Coach Rodriguez can get Arizona up to speed will be the key as the Pokes plan to win with defense early (they're replacing first-rounders Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon on offense). Arizona QB Matt Scott has all the physical attributes to be prolific in the spread offense and an early win of this magnitude would have Wildcat fans buzzing.

Duke at Stanford will be a shootout [Saturday 9/8, 7:30 p.m. PT]. Duke head coach David Cutcliffe coached Peyton Manning at Tennessee and recruited Eli Manning to Mississippi, and is certainly creative: Some of his spring football formations included three quarterbacks on the field at the same time. With David Shaw's Stanford offense on the other side, look for an aerial circus on The Farm.

Fresno State and new head coach Tim DeRuyter assume the Bulldogs' mantra of playing "anybody, anytime, anywhere" and take their act to Autzen Stadium to face Chip Kelly's defending Conference champion Oregon Ducks [Saturday 9/8, 3:30 p.m. PT]. This will be an excellent opportunity to watch two of the most exciting players in college football in Oregon running backs Kenjon Barner and De'Anthony Thomas.

Duck fans will also be curious to find out who replaces quarterback Darron Thomas. Bryan Bennett and Marcus Mariota are the leading candidates. By week two I'd expect this question to settle down.

Last year, Eastern Washington almost crashed the big-boy party, losing in the final seconds to Washington in Husky Stadium. This year the Eagles get another chance when they visit Martin Stadium and take on the Washington State Cougars [Saturday 9/8, noon PT]. What football fan isn't interested to see what Mike Leach does in his first year on The Palouse?

Other games include Sacramento State at Colorado [Saturday 9/8, noon PT] and Southern Utah vs. Cal [Saturday 9/8, noon PT]. Both Pac-12 teams will be on upset alert coming off emotional games in week one.

Week 3

Our third week of televised football features another huge game and another new coach. Jim Mora leads his Bruins out of the tunnel at the Rose Bowl to play the rubber game versus the University of Houston [Saturday 9/15, 7:30 p.m. PT]. The two teams have split the last two games, so this is for bragging rights. The Cougs are coming off a 12-win season and will throw the ball with reckless abandon. UCLA, under new coordinator Noel Mazzone, will also have the ball in the air often. Look for this one to go down to the wire.

Oregon's got Tennessee Tech [Saturday 9/15, noon PT] and Arizona faces South Carolina State, too [Saturday 9/15, 7:30 p.m. PT]. That's 15 games in three weeks - all on our own network.

I can't wait to watch.

Rick Neuheisel is a football analyst for the Pac-12 Networks launching August 15. Fans can learn more about the Pac-12 Networks by watching this video, and see if you will get Pac-12 Networks from your TV provider by visiting the Pac-12 Networks Channel Finder. Questions that aren't answered in our FAQ can be sent to support@pac12.zendesk.com.

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