The Sun Devils start the season off with a Thursday game against a D-IAA team. Not exactly the crown jewel in the season ticket plan, but a very smart way to start off the season. After a rocky off season, the Devils get a game against a lesser opponent and can build some confidence and put the controversies behind them. For NAU it is a chance to collect a big payday thanks to the Board of Regents. Maybe the game will end early enough for the upper classmen to hit Mill Ave.
What To Watch: ASU should win. There really is no reason for them not to. That does not mean there aren't a number of subplots to watch. How is the team chemistry? Is this a team torn over the QB controversy or have they rallied behind Rudy Carpenter? How is the defense?
Oregon State vs. Eastern Washington
Like the ASU game, this is a game that should be a slam dunk for OSU. Unlike the Devils, who should be in the top-half of the league, Oregon State is a much tougher team to judge. They could honestly finish anywhere from fourth to tenth. We won't learn much about them against the Eagles.
What To Watch: Can Matt Moore take care of the ball? He threw a lot of bad picks a year ago. How much do they win by? A blowout would make me feel a lot better about the Beavers than a grind it out win.
UCLA vs. Utah
The Bruins get a nice test in week one. Utah is not the team they were two years ago, but they are still a solid, bowl caliber team. UCLA has to replace a lot of players, especially on offense. This is not a slam dunk win for the Bruins and will be a great judge to see where this team is.
What To Watch: The Ben Olson era begins, can he live up to the hype? How will the offense respond to losing a number of key players? How good is Utah? Could they pull off the upset in Pasadena? If the Bruins stumble does the Karl Dorrell watch begin?
Cal at Tennessee
Cal will learn in one week whether they are a legitimate national championship contender or whether they are battling for a return to the Holiday Bowl. A win would launch the Bears into the big time and put Phil Fullmer even more on the hot seat.
What To Watch: How good is Cal? Have they solved their QB problems? Can they go to one of the best home venues in college football and steal a road win?
USC at Arkansas
Last year the Trojans dropped 70 on the Hawgs in an ugly win that showed just how good USC could be. This year they go to Fayetteville and get a team that has been waiting for this game for almost a year. Arkansas is better and USC seems to be coming back down to earth, but does that spell revenge for the Razorbacks, or just a closer game?
What To Watch: Life after Leinart, Josh David Booty makes his debut. Can he live up to the hype? How is his back? Are the Trojans mortal or did they just reload with more blue chippers? Can Arkansas get some manner of revenge?
Washington vs. San Jose State
Dick Tomey invades Seattle, a place he was 2-4 while at Arizona. The Huskies are still rebuilding, but so are the Spartans. If Washington does not win, it could be a long year in Seattle. A big margin of victory would make things sunnier in Seattle.
What To Watch: How do the Huskies look? If they are improved, then the Spartans won't be much of a problem. Can Tomey pull off some of his old magic. Tomey knew how to get his guys to play their best against bigger teams. This one could be a tougher than many expect.
Stanford vs. Oregon
One team will already be in the hole in the Pac-10 race. The schedule maker did no favors for the Cardinal, who have to go to the Pac-10's toughest home venue.
What To Watch: We'll know a lot about both teams pretty quick. The Ducks should be pretty good, but Stanford was a surprise team a year ago. Can Walt Harris keep up the improvements or will they come back down to earth in year two?
Washington State at Auburn
The Cougars get a tough road game to start off. Many feel the Tigers are a national championship contender and even if WSU is pretty good, getting a win on the road, in the SEC could be very tough.
What To Watch: The Cougars don't need to win to feel good about themselves. A well played game could be enough to build their confidence. A bad loss, could have the opposite effect. An Auburn blowout and we could start hearing the first rumblings about Bill Doba's job.