Pac-12 TV guide: 10 non-conference games most worth watching
Jun 1, 2023, 9:54 AM
(AP Phot/Andy Nelson)
Pac-12 football teams typically don’t find out what time they’re playing until 12 days before each game, but the nonconference schedule is different: each spring, the conference and its television partners at least announce kickoff times for the season’s first three weeks and “special dates” (i.e. weeknight games) throughout the season.
So it was on Wednesday morning, when the UW Huskies found out they will begin the season with the following TV assignments:
Week 1, vs. Boise State: 12:30 p.m., ABC
Week 2, vs. Tulsa: 2 p.m., Pac-12 Networks
Week 3, at Michigan State: 2 p.m., Peacock (streaming only)
The Michigan State game represents a first: never before has a Pac-12 team appeared in a game aired exclusively on that particular streaming service.
Please, don’t hurt yourself celebrating.
With opponents, dates and now kickoff times all on the books, let’s take a look at the 10 most interesting nonconference games featuring Pac-12 teams, listed in chronological order. All times are PT, because we can.
• Thursday, Aug. 31
Florida at Utah (5 p.m., ESPN)
It was the Utes’ season-opening loss in Gainesville last season that granted permission for the “The Pac-12 can’t have nice things!” crowd to sharpen their Twitter fingers. A loss in Salt Lake City would be even more frustrating for Utah, but maybe not as big of a blow for the conference, with USC, Washington and possibly Oregon more likely to garner the kind of preseason hype the Utes received in 2022. Still, this will be the league’s first chance in 2023 to make a statement, and that statement would be: “See? Our two-time defending champion actually can beat an SEC team that went 6-7 last season!”
• Saturday, Sept. 2
Colorado at TCU (9 a.m., FOX)
A team that lost its last game by 58 points faces a team that did not lose any game by that margin in 2022, though it did feel like it. Alternatively: the defending national runner-up hosts a languishing program that captured overnight interest by hiring Deion Sanders. FOX may use either of those sentences in its marketing materials, for a fee.
• Saturday, Sept. 9
Nebraska at Colorado (9 a.m., FOX)
Another week, another Big 9 A.M. Kickoff selection for the Fightin’ Primes (10 a.m. Mountain, but still). Someone get Ralphie an espresso shot. No matter how different Colorado’s program and roster might look today compared to, say, last November, I can’t imagine Nebraska fans would be too pleased with new coach Matt Rhule losing to an old rival in Week 2. Imagine if the Buffaloes pull off the upset at TCU in Week 1 and come home gunning for a 2-0 start? The ratings should be solid, regardless.
Utah at Baylor (9 a.m., ESPN)
Depending on how the Utes fare in Week 1, they could either be searching for a second consecutive victory over a nonconference Power 5 opponent, or trying to avoid an 0-2 start on the road in a Body Clock game. Baylor took a step back last year and finished on a four-game losing streak, but this still is one of the Pac-12’s most challenging nonconference games this season. It also offers the early risers an alternative if they’re feeling Colorado fatigue.
Oregon at Texas Tech (4 p.m., FOX)
As non-home nonconference games go, this one rates somewhere below playing defending national champion Georgia in Atlanta. But it’s still a nice test for Dan Lanning in his second season. The Red Raiders finished coach Joey McGuire’s first season on a four-game winning streak to secure an 8-5 record, and they return several veteran starters, including quarterback (and former Duck) Tyler Shough. Intrigue! But keep the remote nearby, because …
Wisconsin at Washington State (4:30 p.m., ABC)
Presuming Washington handles Tulsa in the 2 p.m. time slot, you should be free to monitor the Ducks and Cougars simultaneously. And if you listen closely, you can almost hear the late Keith Jackson introducing his alma mater at the top of the prime-time broadcast. This is a huge opportunity for the Cougars, who don’t often host Power 5 nonconference opponents — in fact, this will be the first such game at Martin Stadium since Illinois visited for the 1998 opener. Jake Dickert claimed a huge victory in his home state last season, leading WSU to a win over the team he grew up rooting for. He has a chance to make it 2-for-2 against the Badgers under new coach Luke Fickell.
Auburn at California (7:30 p.m., ESPN)
I have no idea what to make of this game, with the Tigers breaking in new coach Hugh Freeze and California breaking in a bunch of new transfers, including (presumably) Sam Jackson V at quarterback. Auburn has a transfer quarterback competing to start, too: Payton Thorne, formerly the starter at Michigan State. Bryan Harsin was fired last year amid a 5-7 season and 2-6 record in SEC play. Cal always either wins some nonconference game it shouldn’t, or is at least surprisingly competitive. A 7:30 p.m. kickoff in Berkeley with an SEC team in town? You didn’t wake up early for that CU-Nebraska game just to crash before stuff gets weird in Strawberry Canyon.
• Saturday, Sept. 16
San Diego State at Oregon State (12:30 p.m., FS1)
The Beavers were able to win 10 games last season in part because they took care of business against two Mountain West teams — Boise State and eventual conference champion Fresno State — and they have a similar task before them in 2023. OSU opens at San Jose State, then hosts UC Davis before the Aztecs visit Corvallis. It might not sound like much, but take a look at that Week 3 schedule — this is at least the second-most intriguing game of the weekend. Plus, any Pac-12 game involving San Diego State is intriguing right now, with the Aztecs a potential expansion option. They also host UCLA in Week 2.
Washington at Michigan State (2 p.m., Peacock)
Peacock! That’s right, Washington’s marquee nonconference matchup is streaming only, and streaming on the very worst of the mainstream services. The good news for UW: the two other Pac-12 games airing at that time are unattractive to casual viewers — UNC Central at UCLA, and Northern Colorado at Washington State — and both air on the Pac-12 Networks. There also isn’t much else on the national schedule to compete against. So the Huskies should have the full attention of every fan who A) cares enough to watch a college football game not involving their favorite team and B) is already paying a monthly fee to watch Yellowstone, Poker Face and reruns of The Office. The bad news: as of June 26, Peacock will no longer be included free for Comcast customers. Maybe Larry Scott can host a viewing party.
• Saturday, Oct. 14
USC at Notre Dame (4:30 p.m., NBC/Peacock)
Not every crucial nonconference game takes place in the first three weeks. This could be a pivotal Saturday: the Trojans play their annual game against the Fighting Irish the same weekend Washington hosts Oregon. We won’t know a kickoff time for the latter any sooner than Monday, Oct. 2, but USC-Notre Dame will be appointment viewing, regardless. USC also will be the first Pac-12 team to take the field in 2023, hosting San Jose State in Week Zero (Aug. 26).
Three more to watch:
- Arizona at Mississippi State, 4:30 p.m., Sept. 9, SEC Network
- Oklahoma State at Arizona State, 7:30 p.m., Sept. 9, FS1
- Boise State at Washington, 12:30 p.m., Sept. 2, ABC
This article was originally published at OnMontlake.com, the new home for Christian Caple’s full coverage of UW Huskies football (and sometimes other UW sports). Subscribe to On Montlake for full access to in-depth UW coverage.