Dawning upon us is spring training, a boatload of investigations, and all the other annual NCAA football preparations. In an attempt to shine some light on this, I bring you a before-hand, first look at the biggest games of the 2013-2014 Pac-12 football season. On a side note, not to be elaborated on, why doesn’t the first “A” in NCAA stand for annoyance? National Collegiate Annoyance Association sounds more accurate to me… But without further ado, here are the two biggest games to watch for next season:
Oregon v. Stanford – 11/7/13 - Stanford Stadium, Stanford, CA
Marcus Mariota (or more formally, Marcus Ardel Taulauniu Mariota) and the Ducks travel to Palo Alto looking for revenge on the Stanford Cardinal for their upset win in Eugene last season. On a controversial—yet decisive—game-winning pass from Stanford QB Kevin Hogan, the game was tied at 13 with just over a minute left in the fourth quarter. Zach Ertz, the recipient of the catch, may or may not have been out of bounds when hauling it in, but nonetheless, Stanford outplayed Oregon in that game and won on a field goal in overtime. The loss for Oregon meant missing a chance to play in the BCS National Championship Game. Instead, the Ducks ran over Kansas State in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl.
Will we see as exciting and nationally-relevant a game next season? I sure hope so, but let’s just wait and see.
UCLA v. USC – 11/30/13 – Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles, CA
Breaking down what could be one of the most exciting games for the Bruins next season is no easy task. However, I can guarantee that both UCLA and USC will play with grit and emotion, as they did last year. Not only is this the biggest rivalry on the West Coast, but it’s an opportunity for the Trojans to prove that they have not lost LA to the Bruins. USC will also seek out compensation for the season-ending injury that Matt Barkley suffered in last season’s 38-28 loss at the Rose Bowl. As for the Bruins, this game will be a chance to show their dominance and to really test their newly improved defensive backfield. Signs point to incoming recruit Priest Willis joining the team as a starter. Given the opportunity to play some coverage on high-flying wideout Marqise Lee, it could be a make-or-break game that tests his speed and versatility. Of course, the game against Oregon will test that as well, but nothing beats a rivalry matchup.