Utah and Oregon's SEC matchups headline first week of Pac-12 football season
The wait is over.
Pac-12 football season returns this weekend when all 12 Pac-12 teams are in action, including several marquee matchups.
The full schedule can be found here, and below are some storylines to keep an eye on in Week 1.
Pac-12 titans head to SEC territory
The Pac-12's top two teams from a season ago have an immediate chance to assert themselves on the national stage.
Coming off their first Rose Bowl appearance, the reigning Pac-12 champion and No. 7-ranked Utah Utes will be thrust into one of the most hostile environments in the college football when they face the Florida Gators in Gainesville.
Pac-12 Networks' Yogi Roth predicts Utah quarterback Cameron Rising will be a Heisman finalist by the end of the season, and a prolific performance in the Swamp would put him on that path.
Meanwhile, No. 11 Oregon heads to Atlanta to face the reigning national champion Georgia Bulldogs at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Not only is it a matchup of two of the nation's premier programs, but it also pits new Ducks head coach Dan Lanning against his former team. Lanning was Georgia's defensive coordinator for the past three seasons, the maestro of a historically dominant unit.
There will be plenty of talk about the past, but Saturday's game could have significant implications on the Ducks' future if they can defeat the defending champs.
— Pac-12 Network (@Pac12Network) August 19, 2022
Don't overlook these games, though
While those SEC tilts are the headliners this week, there are a few other games that will help gauge the depth of the Pac-12.
Oregon State opens at a sold-out Reser Stadium against Boise State, which has posted 23 straight winning seasons. The Broncos should be a formidable foe for a Beavers team that is on the upswing under head coach Jonathan Smith.
Colorado hosts TCU, a battle between two traditionally solid programs that are hoping to bounce back from losing seasons. The Buffaloes have no cupcakes on their schedule — their other non-conference games are at Air Force and Minnesota — so winning Friday would be massive for their quest to improve on their 4-8 record.
Down at the new Snapdragon Stadium in San Diego, Arizona seeks revenge against a San Diego State squad that won 12 games and beat them in Tucson last season.
The Wildcats went 1-11 last year but added a top-25 recruiting class and a bevy of transfers, including 2021 Pac-12 Offensive Freshman of the Year Jayden de Laura at quarterback, setting them up to be one of the most improved teams in the country.
Saturday will be the first chance to see how much better they actually are.
— Pac-12 Network (@Pac12Network) August 13, 2022
It's a (new) quarterback conference
The Pac-12 is loaded with talented quarterbacks, and this weekend many of them will be making their first starts at their respective schools.
Caleb Williams' arrival at USC has generated the most buzz, but there's also de Laura at Arizona, Florida transfer Emory Jones at Arizona State, Incarnate Word transfer Cameron Ward at Washington State, Indiana transfer Michael Penix Jr. at Washington and possibly Purdue transfer Jack Plummer at Cal and Auburn transfer Bo Nix at Oregon.
Yes, there's a strong stable of returning QBs too, like Rising, Stanford's Tanner McKee, Oregon State's Chance Nolan, and UCLA's Dorian Thompson-Robinson, the Pac-12's first-ever five-year starting quarterback.
If you like a dynamic passing game, Pac-12 football is for you.
— Pac-12 Network (@Pac12Network) August 27, 2022
A new era
Lincoln Riley (USC) and Kalen DeBoer (Washington) will also be making their Pac-12 head coaching debuts this weekend, though certainly not against the same level as competition as Lanning. (USC hosts Rice while Washington welcomes Kent State.)
Still, both programs are hoping Saturday marks the start of something special.
Riley's hiring was a monumental move that instantly put USC back in the national spotlight. And the Trojans haven't shied away from it, with Riley saying the Trojans have championship expectations. Not in five years but from day one. USC received first-place votes in the Pac-12 preseason media poll, so they're not the only ones who think that.
It was only a few years ago that Washington was in the Rose Bowl and the Huskies hope DeBoer, who coached Fresno State to a 9-3 record last season, is the right man to bring them back.
Washington State's Jake Dickert is also in this camp, entering his first full season as head coach after becoming the interim midway through the 2021 season.