CHRISTIAN CAPLE

Caple: The toughest game for each Pac-12 team as they enter new leagues

Jun 1, 2024, 8:57 PM | Updated: Jun 2, 2024, 8:47 pm

Pac-12 UW Huskies Oregon...

Alphonzo Tuputala of the UW Huskies pushes Oregon's Casey Kelly in the 2023 Pac-12 Championship. (Ian Maule/Getty Images)

(Ian Maule/Getty Images)

The 2024 college football season will find 10 of the former Pac-12 members playing in three different conferences, with Washington State and Oregon State playing a schedule largely composed of Mountain West opponents.

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What will be each program’s toughest matchup in its new league? Let’s go team by team, in alphabetical order.

Arizona

at Utah, Sept. 28

The Wildcats visit Kansas State the week prior, but that’s actually a nonconference game this season because it was on the books pre-realignment. So the way I see it, Arizona and Utah play their toughest Big 12 game against each other. The Utes are among the early favorites to win the league in their inaugural season. Arizona probably should be, too.

Arizona State

Utah, Oct. 11 (Friday)

This is a particularly challenging game, with Utah coming off a bye and the Sun Devils playing six days prior. Utah beat ASU, 55-3, in Salt Lake City last season. That’s a lot of ground for coach Kenny Dillingham’s squad to make up.

California

at Florida State, Sept. 21

Nothing says “welcome to the ACC” like a cross-country road trip to begin conference play. Florida State is reloading after going unbeaten in the regular season last year (but missing the College Football Playoff), but this should still be a tricky matchup for Cal, which hosts Miami two weeks later.

Colorado

at Kansas, Nov. 23

The Buffaloes also host pseudo-rival Utah in their initial Big 12 season, but this trip to face the preseason top-25 Jayhawks should be pretty tough, too. Kansas returns a lot of talent, including quarterback Jalon Daniels, after winning nine games last season.

Oregon

Ohio State, Oct. 12

In what could go down as one of the biggest games ever played at Autzen Stadium, the Ducks host the Buckeyes to (probably) determine who will have the inside track to the Big Ten title game. Though Michigan won the national championship last year, Ohio State and Oregon are considered the conference frontrunners in 2024.

Oregon State

at Boise State, Nov. 30

Both the Cougars and Beavers make the trip to Boise this season, and excluding their game against each other — and nonconference rivalry games against Washington for WSU and Oregon for OSU — I see it as the toughest test for both.

Stanford

at Clemson, Sept. 28

If there’s any good news for the Cardinal here, it’s that they get an extra day to prepare for Dabo Swinney’s team after visiting Syracuse on a Friday night. But that’s still back-to-back road games to begin ACC play.

UCLA

Oregon, Sept. 28

The Bruins don’t have to look outside of their old conference for their toughest conference game in 2024, as the Ducks visit Pasadena. Trips to Penn State and Washington could be daunting, too. UCLA also hosts USC.

USC

at Michigan, Sept. 21

The Trojans play two difficult nonconference games against LSU and Notre Dame, but their date against the defending national champions rates as their toughest conference game. Granted, a trip to Ann Arbor in 2024 shouldn’t be quite as daunting as it would have been last season, but this is still a marquee matchup.

Utah

Arizona, Sept. 28

It should say something about the strength of the Pac-12 that Utah’s most difficult conference game in the Big 12 comes against a fellow Pac-12 defector. Arizona won 10 games last season and though it lost coach Jedd Fisch to Washington, the Wildcats still return a talented core and should be a fringe top-10 team in the preseason.

UW Huskies

at Oregon, Nov. 30

Although the Huskies are joining the Big Ten and play a difficult schedule this season, it’s their old Pac-12 foe that I expect to pose the biggest challenge. Trips to Penn State and Iowa will be tough, as will home games against Michigan and USC, but the Ducks appear primed to make a run at the conference title in their Big Ten debut.

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WSU Cougars

at Boise State, Sept. 28

WSU is technically still in the Pac-12, but we’ll pick among its eight games against Mountain West opponents this season (to be clear, neither WSU or Oregon State are actually in the MWC, or eligible to win the MWC championship). The Broncos are coming off a conference title and return a decent amount of production.

This column from UW Huskies football insider Christian Caple is exclusive to Seattle Sports. Subscribe to OnMontlake.com for full access to Caple’s in-depth Husky coverage.

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