The debate about the best conferences in college football never ends. While it is pretty impossible to truly quantify which conference is the best, I think the Pac-12 has made a major statement about its power the past few seasons and is right up there with the Big 10, Big 12 and SEC right now.
A good way for me to see how the Pac-12 stacks up against other conferences in recent history is to go back and look at the conference's records against the other conferences the past 10 seasons. Here is how the conference has fared and a quick overview of the Pac-12 match-ups against other conferences this year.
*Note: I put these records together based on what conference opponents play in now to reflect current conference strength. For example, a win over Nebraska even if it was when they played in the Big 12 now counts in the Big Ten.
The Pac-12 has utterly dominated the ACC as of late. This is a really impressive record to have over another Power Five conference. In my opinion, the ACC is kind of just a couple of really strong programs, a handful of average programs and a few of the Big Five's worst programs and this domination is a reflection of that.
Virginia at UCLA - September 5 - UCLA's season started with a thud last year when they struggled at Virginia and as long as their new QB is solid in his opener, I don't expect that to happen again. Prediction: UCLA
Predicted 2015 record 1-0.
The Pac-12 does fairly well against that conference you always forget exists, but maybe not quite as well as you would imagine.
UCF at Stanford - September 12 Perennial AAC power UCF might be able to stick with the Cardinal, but I think the Cardinal win. Prediction: Stanford
Predicted 2015 record 1-0.
Big Ten 37-21
The Pac-12 owns its biggest Power Five rival. The Pac-12 has mopped the floor with the Big Ten in the Rose Bowl and in just plain non-conference games. This will be a rivalry to watch though as the Big Ten starts to rebuild with elite coaching at Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State.
Michigan at Utah - September 3 - Jim Harbaugh returns to the Pac-12 on opening night in a huge non-conference home game for Utah. The Wolverines will get better under Harbaugh, but this is a very tough opener against a strong Utah defense. Prediction: Utah.
Stanford at Northwestern - September 5 - Another battle of elite academic schools with similar schemes. I think Stanford outmuscles in this one. Prediction: Stanford.
Washington State at Rutgers - September 12 - Rutgers stole one late against the Cougars last year in Seattle and now the Cougars have to travel across the country. I think this will be a close one, but Rutgers gets the home edge. Prediction: Rutgers
Oregon at Michigan State - September 12 - The best Pac-12 non-conference game again and maybe the best in the nation - two Top 10 teams with opposite schemes face off with major Playoff implications. I hate picking against the Ducks, but it is going to be a huge task for them to take a new QB in his second game to East Lansing and beat a tough team that is probably still pissed about losing to the Ducks in 2014. Prediction: Michigan State
Oregon State at Michigan - September 12 - A second-straight Pac-12 match-up for Harbaugh, but this one is in Ann Arbor against maybe the Pac-12's worst team. I think Harbaugh gets his first win here. Prediction: Michigan.
Predicted 2015 record: 2-3
Big 12 12-22
I don't know exactly why, but the Big 12 has dominated the Pac-12 in head-to-head match-ups. Maybe it is because weaker Pac-12 programs have mostly played the Big 12, but it also goes back to the Holiday Bowl and now Alamo Bowl frequently seeming to produce bad match-ups for the Pac-12.
Cal at Texas - September 19 - Texas is rebuilding but is still much stronger than Cal, especially at home. Prediction: Texas.
Predicted 2015 record: 0-1
Conference USA 7-0
Conference USA has changed a ton in realignment and the remaining teams haven't beaten the Pac-12 in the past decade.
UTSA at Arizona - September 3 - The Wildcats were challenged by UTSA in San Antonio last year, but I doubt they give them a tough time in Tucson. Prediction: Arizona
Predicted 2015 record 1-0
USC dominates Notre Dame, but how well they do against the rest of conference gives the independents here. Outside of that, BYU is about 50/50 against the Pac-12.
BYU at UCLA - September 19 - BYU might surprise in this one, but I think UCLA's overall roster has too much talent to lose. Prediction: UCLA
USC at Notre Dame - October 17 - This is a great match-up this year and while it being in South Bend makes me want to pick Notre Dame, USC just always seems to beat the Irish now as long as the are alright on their end, which they are. Prediction: USC
Notre Dame at Stanford - November 28 - This should be another great, very even match-up between teams with similar styles. I will give Stanford the edge since they are playing at home. Prediction: Stanford
Predicted 2015 record: 3-0
Has the Pac-12 ever lost to the MAC in the modern era?
UMass at Colorado - September 12 - Colorado is still maybe the worst team in the Pac-12, but UMass should not be able to head to Boulder and challenge them. Prediction: Colorado.
Mountain West 64-27
The Pac-12 plays their Western little brother a lot more than every other conference and does well, as they should.
Colorado at Hawaii - September 3 - Hawaii seems like a dying program and an improving Colorado team should be able to come over and beat them. Prediction: Colorado
Washington at Boise State - September 4 - An awkward reunion for Chris Petersen should get even more awkward when his ultra-young and questionable team struggles in a road opener. Prediction: Boise State
Utah State at Utah - September 11 - An underrated rivalry lives on and should be a solid game with Utah State looking fairly strong. Still, Utah's defense should be more than enough to get them a win in this one. Prediction: Utah
UCLA at UNLV - September 12 - UNLV is still a mess, the Bruins should roll and enjoy The Strip. Prediction: UCLA
San Diego State at Cal - September 12 - San Diego State is always a nice lower challenge and a great chance here to see exactly how good Cal will be in 2015. I think they beat the Aztecs comfortably and confirm they will be a better team this season. Prediction: Cal
Arizona at Nevada - September 12 - Nevada can sneak up on you in Reno (ask Washington State in 2014), but the Wildcats are good enough in 2015 that they should take care of business and shouldn't overlook it as it is their toughest non-conference game. Prediction: Arizona
New Mexico at Arizona State - September 18 - New Mexico used to sneak up on Arizona schools. That is no longer the case. Prediction: Arizona State
Colorado State vs. Colorado (In Denver) - September 19 - This is one of the most unpredictable rivalries in college football and an even match, but I think Colorado gets the win they need to show true improvement. Prediction: Colorado
Utah at Fresno State - September 19 - This could be a trap game, but I just don't think Fresno State is good enough to pull off an upset even if Utah is sluggish. Prediction: Utah
Utah State at Washington - September 19 - Watch out for this one as a potential upset with Utah State looking strong and Washington looking like a question mark. Still I am betting on the Huskies. Prediction: Washington
Wyoming at Washington State - September 19 - The Cougars really need to win this one against a lower-Mountain West team and I think they will. Prediction: Washington State
San Jose State at Oregon State - September 19 - Remember when San Jose State was a decent program for a while? Not anymore. Prediction: Oregon State
Predicted 2015 record: 11-1
Sun Belt 15-0
Most of these wins are over Idaho.
Arkansas State at USC - September 5 - Prediction: USC rolls
Idaho at USC - September 12 - Prediction: USC rolls
Georgia State at Oregon - September 19 - Prediction: Oregon mega rolls
Predicted 2015 record 3-0
How have these conferences only played 22 times in 10 years (and even that number is inflated by games against Missouri when they were actually in the Big 12)? That needs to stop.
Arizona State vs. Texas A&M (In Houston) - September 5 - This is a fun opening match-up that seems like a toss-up to me, but I will go with Texas A&M since it is being played in Texas. Prediction: Texas A&M
Predicted 2015 record 0-1