Pac-12 TV viewing guide, September

At last, college football season is upon us. Here's a viewer's guide to the best Pac-12 games on TV this month.

AUG. 30
Washington State at BYU
When: 7:15 p.m. (all times PT)
TV: ESPN
Why to watch: Welcome back, Mike Leach. With Jeff Tuel and Riley Nelson under center and The Pirate himself back on the sidelines, we'll hopefully see a 1981 Holiday Bowl-type shootout.

AUG. 31
San Jose State at Stanford
When: 7 p.m.
TV: Pac-12 Network
Why to watch: For the first time, Friday night lights shine on The Farm.
Bonus trivia: Who was the last Cardinal quarterback to make his starting debut in a season-opening game at Stanford Stadium?

SEPT. 1
Nevada at Cal
When: Noon
TV: Pac-12 Network
Why to watch: Cal football officially enters the 21st century, with the grand re-opening of Memorial Stadium. Having been there in person a few weeks ago, I can grudgingly admit that the place looks impressive. Construction crews working around the clock have done a marvelous job, especially with the exteriors. The Wolf Pack, who beat Cal two years ago, welcome back the talented Cody Fajardo at quarterback.

Hawaii at USC
When: 4:30 p.m.
TV: FOX
Why to watch: A pair of notable debuts. Ramblin' Man Norm Chow faces the Trojans again, but this time as a head coach. The Warriors will be out to stop Silas Redd and the Trojans. Could the visitors, who trained at Pearl Harbor and Hickam Air Force Base this summer with actual drill sergeants, actually make Matt Barkley and company sweat?

SEPT. 8
Wisconsin at Oregon State
When: 1 p.m.
TV: FX
Why to watch: Here we have an attractive Pac-12/Big Ten duel. The Badgers come to the West Coast for the first time since facing Joey Harrington and Oregon back in 2001. Don't look now, but Mike Riley may be on the hot seat in Corvallis. The Beavers are looking to avoid a third straight losing season.

Washington at LSU
When: 4 p.m.
TV: ESPN
Why to watch: This is the third-ranked Bayou Bengals' only real non-conference test, as their schedule features North Texas, Idaho and Towson. Conversely, the Huskies face three of the AP preseason poll's top five teams, with this game followed by consecutive October meetings with No. 5 Oregon and No. 1 USC. And despite the SEC's supposed invincibility, they're a tepid 11-12 against Pac-12 opponents since the BCS era began 14 years ago.

Duke at Stanford
When: 7:30 p.m.
TV: Pac-12 Network
Why to watch: For starters, it will be Shane Skov's first game in nearly a year. And if you think Duke has no football tradition, you'd be wrong. The Blue Devils have played in the Rose, Cotton, Orange and Sugar Bowls.

Nebraska at UCLA
When: 4:30 p.m.
TV: FOX
Why to watch: The Huskers famously travel well, so hopefully the Bruins won't get out-cheered in their own stadium. It's always intriguing when a rookie quarterback faces a tried-and-true defense. That storyline plays out in Jim Mora's home debut, when Brett Hundley gets the first true test of his fledgling UCLA career.

SEPT. 15
Cal at Ohio State
When: 9 a.m.
TV: ABC
Why to watch: Rise and shine, Golden Bears. The Buckeyes are on TV more often than Seinfeld re-runs, but The Horseshoe always makes for good viewing. Coach Tedford's first landmark win with Cal occurred in Big 10 country (at Michigan State in 2002), so could we be in for a sequel?

USC at Stanford
When: 4:30 p.m.
TV: FOX
Why to watch: Provided you can't be there in person, do you really need a reason? It's Gus Johnson's inaugural visit to Stanford Stadium. Can't wait to see which catchphrase he pulls from his arsenal.

BYU at Utah
When: 7 p.m.
TV: ESPN2
Why to watch: I'm all in for any game dubbed "The Holy War." Unlike some rivalries (I'm looking at you, Texas and Texas A&M), this series remains thankfully intact despite changes in conference affiliation. The mutual hatred between the Utes and Cougars includes a bench-clearing brawl at a baseball game…in 1895!

Sept. 27
Stanford at Washington
When: 6 p.m.
TV: ESPN
Why to watch: Love it or hate it, Thursday night football for the Pac-12 is here to stay. The Cardinal's trip north promises to be a stiff test. While Husky Stadium undergoes renovations, U-Dub spends this season in the NFL's noisiest venue (CenturyLink Field, formerly Qwest Field, formerly Seahawks Stadium).

*Trivia answer: Hard to believe 16 years have passed since this scenario played out. Chad Hutchinson, debuted as a starting quarterback in just weeks after winning a duel that last into fall camp. Of course, the 17-10 loss to Utah was kind of a clunker.


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