September Pac-10 CFB: What to watch

It's easy to measure the importance of a televised game by the broadcast team calling the action. Likewise, I measure the Pac-10's clout by the cable television sportscasters at the microphone.

Remember former SF Giants' TV man Phil Stone teamed with the late Don Heinrich on the old Prime Network? Soon, it was a mild upgrade to Steve Physioc and Tom Ramsey, once the FOX network took over ownership in the mid-'90s. Barry Tompkins and Petros Papadakis have held court for a while now. Marquee value has always seemed to be missing.

Gus Johnson is here to fill that void. Erstwhile of CBS Sports, the energetic Johnson, long known for his high-octane broadcasts of the NFL and NCAA basketball, will begin calling Pac-12 games for Fx this year. He'll move over to the Pac-12 Network next season. [Ed: Thank you internet for the Gus Johnson soundboard.]

So with college football's opening weekend approaching, it's important to note this month's key nonconference games, besides Stanford's action against San Jose State and Duke.

SEPT. 3

Oregon vs. LSU (at Dallas Cowboys Stadium)
When:
5 p.m.
TV: ABC
Why to watch: It's the Bad Boys Bowl! From one to 10, this game is an 11 on the compelling scale. LaMichael James comes home to Texas. Jarrett Lee comes off the bench. Two teams with national title hopes square off. So what if Oregon's Cliff Harris and LSU's Jordan Jefferson are suspended? There's no truth to the rumor that FOX tried buying the game's TV rights, in an attempt to fill the old timeslot for "America's Most Wanted".

Fresno State vs. California (at Candlestick Park)
When:
4 p.m.
TV: Comcast Sports Net California
Why to watch: The "Red Wave" typically travels well, and the Bears hope the opposing crowd doesn't turn into a big red menace for new quarterback Zach Maynard. The Bulldogs have their own novice QB to break in. Derek Carr, David's brother, takes the controls. A reunion is in order for Jeff Tedford, who led Fresno State to a conference title and California Bowl crown back in 1982.

SEPT. 8
Arizona at Oklahoma State
When:
5 p.m.
TV: ESPN
Why to watch: It's a battle of high-performance wide receivers, with Arizona's Juron Criner going against Justin Blackmon and Cowboys. The Wildcats were decidedly mild in last December's 36-10 Alamo loss to Oklahoma State. In their way stands Blackmon, last year's Biletnikoff Award winner. His 2010 numbers of 102 catches, 1,665 yards and 18 touchdowns have him receiving Heisman candidate hype. This Thursday night affair begins a brutal stretch for the Stoops troops, who then host Stanford and Oregon before visiting USC.

SEPT. 9
Missouri at Arizona State
When:
7:30 p.m.
TV: ESPN
Why to watch: The Sun Devils have faltered of late when facing out-of-area foes: Georgia, LSU and even UNLV have all won at Sun Devil Stadium in recent years. Here lies a great chance for ASU to make amends. A solid Big 12 program, with a preseason No. 21 ranking, visits a team many predict to win the Pac-12 South. You can also get a firsthand look at the Solar Satans' new uniform. The new logo looks like something from the Led Zeppelin IV (a.k.a. "The Four Symbols") album cover.

SEPT. 10
Oregon State at Wisconsin
When:
9 a.m.
TV: ESPN
Why to watch: Two years ago it was Stanford failing to adjust its body clocks on Tobacco Road. Here's hoping the Beavers look more fine-tuned. Wisconsin is most definitely not Wake Forest. The Badgers, defending Big 10 champions, start the season No. 11 in the AP and almost never lose to visiting nonconference foes.

SEPT 17
Syracuse at USC
When:
5 p.m.
TV: Fx
Why to watch: Because you want to see Gus Johnson calling the action. The 'Cuse (8-5 in 2010 with their first bowl victory in nine years) makes a rare trip to California. Maybe the Orange rooting section will include its alums that've made it big in the entertainment industry, including Vanessa Williams and Taye Diggs.

Texas at UCLA
When:
12:30 p.m.
TV: ABC
Why to watch: It's a big early-season test for Rick Neuheisel. After tilts with Houston and San Jose State, the Bruins just may be aiming for a 3-0 record. UCLA stung the Longhorns in Austin last year. Texas enters the season unranked, but will no doubt enter this game seeking revenge.

Washington at Nebraska
When:
12:30 p.m.
TV: ESPN
Why to watch: Years ago, UCLA faced Michigan three times in just over a year, twice in bowls sandwiched around a regular season meeting. Now, the Huskers and Huskies meet for a rare rubber match.


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