The final major college football conference to begin its season gets going Saturday.
The Pac-12 kicks off at 9 a.m. PST with Arizona State at No. 20 Southern California. Instead of Pac-12 after dark, it’s Pac-12 for brunch.
The Trojans are the favorites in the South Division, with each conference team scheduled to play six games against division rivals, plus one crossover game.
The favorite in the North is No. 12 Oregon, which kicks off against Stanford in Eugene in prime time.
Of course, nothing is certain anywhere this season, and one of the biggest games on the docket won’t even be played after a California player tested positive for COVID-19. The Golden Bears’ home game Saturday against Washington was canceled and will be declared a no-contest.
California doesn’t have the minimum number of scholarship players available as a result of the positive test and the need for other players to isolate under contact tracing protocols, the Pac-12 said in a statement.
The rest of the nation’s schedule is highlighted by top-10 matchups, with No. 1 Clemson at No. 4 Notre Dame and No. 8 Florida vs. No. 5 Georgia.
There is a lot going on.
No. 5 Georgia vs. No. 8 Florida at Jacksonville: Hard to choose between this and the top-five matchup in the Atlantic Coast Conference (Reminder: Notre Dame is playing in the ACC this season), but Bulldogs-Gators gets the nod.
It will most definitely not be the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party this year, but it should decide the Southeastern Conference’s East Division in an interesting contrast in styles.
The Gators are sixth in the country in offense at 7.50 yards per play. The Bulldogs are 14th in yards per play allowed (4.53), but it should be noted that is skewed heavily by one game against Alabama, which averaged 7.42 yards per play in beating Georgia.
Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson
Lawrence has been ruled out for the top-ranked Tigers against Notre Dame, so what we’ll be watching is freshman quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei lead Clemson.
Lawrence has been considered the Heisman Trophy co-favorite with Ohio State’s Justin Fields. But missing two games, including Clemson’s biggest regular-season matchup, has got to hurt his chances.
Unless, of course, Clemson loses with an uneven performance from Uiagalelei. Does that open a path to Lawrence coming back down the stretch to save the Tigers’ season and make a Heisman claim as college football’s MVP?
Numbers to know
0-5: Notre Dame’s record against top-five opponents in 10 seasons under coach Brian Kelly.
24: No. 23 Michigan’s winning streak against Indiana. The 13th-ranked Hoosiers host the Wolverines as a slight underdog.
No. 15: The ranking of Coastal Carolina, the best ever for a Sun Belt team. The Chanticleers face South Alabama at home, trying to remain unbeaten.
2000: The most recent year Iowa started 0-3. The Hawkeyes will try to avoid that in this unique conference-only season at home against Michigan State.
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