- Auburn vs. Oregon - August 31 - This should be deja vu for Pac-12 fans as the conference’s preseason favorite opens the season against Auburn at a neutral site a long ways away from Pac-12 country (see Washington/Auburn last year). The difference this time is Auburn isn’t going to be nearly as highly-ranked as they were last year (neither should the Pac-12 team) and the Ducks will be led by a preseason Heisman candidate at QB who can make a major statement with a win here.
2. Notre Dame at Stanford - November 30 - The Irish should be ranked somewhere around number 10 in preseason polls. Will they still be there in late-November? Who knows, but this should be a big game on paper between two teams I would put in the preseason Top 25.
3. Stanford at UCF - September 14 - The Cardinal go all the way across the country to take on the nation’s most disrespected new power. UCF could be a Top 10 team at this point and Stanford will have already played Northwestern and at USC at this point and might already be out of gas.
4. Northwestern at Stanford - August 31 - I love the matchup of these two similar programs. Expect a lot of defense, smart play and good coaching between two teams that I think should be ranked somewhere between 15 and 25 to open the season.
5. USC at Notre Dame - October 12 - This might be a bloodbath for the Trojans, but the Irish could easily be super overrated and USC maybe a bit underrated. Either way, it’s a nice non-conference showdown in the middle of the season.
6. Utah at BYU - August 29 - The Holy War continues on the opening night of college football as the Utes try to kick off their big season with a nice road win against a team who gave them fits in the final game of the regular season in Salt Lake City.
7. Arizona State at Michigan State - September 14 - The Sun Devils showed that they were going to be for real under Herm Edwards by beating Michigan State in Tempe early last season. Now they have to head to East Lansing to take on a tough Spartan team looking for revenge.
8. Oklahoma at UCLA - September 14 - The Bruins showed some signs of life in Chip Kelly’s first season when they weren’t horrible in Norman against the Sooners. The Sooners will still be a scary foe in Pasadena this year, but I wouldn’t be surprised if a still-improving UCLA team can give them trouble in the Rose Bowl.
9. Nebraska at Colorado - September 7 - The Buffs scored one of their biggest recent non-conference wins last year with a win in Lincoln, but the Huskers should be improved and are hoping to get an early-season momentum here against Colorado and a new coaching staff.
10. Cal at Mississippi - September 21 - The Bears should have a monster defense again under Justin Wilcox and it will be tested when they travel down to Oxford. The Bears have the potential to be a Top 25 team in my opinion and this is a game they’ll probably have to win to become that.
11. Texas Tech at Arizona - September 14 - Texas Tech is the perfect kind of lower-mid-level Big 12 team for Arizona to take on in Tucson. This should be a very close game between major conference teams looking to get back to bowl games in 2019.
12. Washington State at Houston - September 13 - Mike Leach and the Cougars take the national stage down in Texas against a big time AAC opponent. Expect to see a lot of passing and scoring in this one on a Friday night.