4. USC Trojans. The Notre Dame will always lift them up there, but switching to Oregon really makes their schedule quite a bit tougher. USC will start 2-0 against Arkansas State and Idaho, then immediately has to go to the grindhouse with Stanford and has to figure out a way to handle Arizona State in Tempe. After a home date to Washington, they will have to play four road games in six weeks against Notre Dame, Cal, Colorado and Oregon, but the home games might be even more formidable with Utah and Arizona. And we haven't even gotten to the Oregon-UCLA back-to-back. If USC wants to win the Pac-12, they have their work cut out for them.
3. Utah Utes. They avoid Stanford, but that's about the only favor the Utes are given. Utah must start with a hyped home date with Michigan, go round for round with Utah State, and head on a road trip to Fresno State. Then they must go to Autzen and deal with the Ducks. They have Arizona State and USC right in the middle of October, then have to go to Washington, Arizona and play UCLA at home. This is just a tough, tough route for Utah to get the Pac-12 title.
2. California Golden Bears. Cal should start the season 2-0 with Grambling State and San Diego State and have winnable home games with Washington State and Oregon State. But they have to go to Austin to try and upset the Texas Longhorns, which is never an easy thing, then must turn around and try and beat the Washington Huskies in Seattle.
Cal simply has one of the toughest road slates in the country, where they'll have to beat Oregon, UCLA, Stanford, Utah, Texas and Washington. Presuming Cal doesn't get six home wins (which would be tough, because Arizona State and USC are coming in November), the Bears will have to score at least two upsets to ensure bowl eligibility. Cal has a leap to make but they're not getting help from the schedule.
1. Washington Huskies. For a team losing almost all of its defensive playmakers, you're putting the thousand mile stare at this schedule. Chris Petersen has his work cut out for him if he wants to get this team even back to the .500 level. Let's take a look.
Washington has to start the season with the Petersen reunion in Boise. Yikes. Then comes the cupcake in Sacramento State, but after that comes always feisty Utah State and their physical defense. Not an easy game. After their most winnable contest at Cal at home.
And here comes the fire: At USC, home to Oregon, at Stanford, home to Arizona and Utah, at Arizona State. Unless Washington finds some really amazing playmakers, this could easily be an 0-6 stretch. Oregon State and Washington State wrap things up, but the Huskies season will come down to how well they play in that flourish.