The Pac-12 football season nears kickoff

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Aug 22, 2016, 4:20 PM | Updated: Aug 26, 2016, 1:00 am
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For many people, fall is the Disneyland of seasons. It’s not the cooling weather, but the start of the new college football season that gets them happy when September rolls around.

Arizona is Pac-12 country and college football fanatics can make sure they catch all the conference contests this season with CenturyLink’s Prism TV with multiview and watch-and-record options.

Here are some highlights and projections for the upcoming season.

Non-conference

Writing for USA Today, Paul Myerberg gives the Pac-12 kudos for its tough non-conference schedule.

Despite playing nine league games, the Pac-12 as a whole annually plays a far more intimidating nonconference slate than any of its Power Five peers, he notes. Not that anyone else even tries.

In 2015, that brutal non-conference schedule cost the Pac-12 a spot in the College Football Playoff. Stanford lost its season opener against Northwestern and ended with a 10-2 record. And things don’t get easier in 2016 with USC playing Alabama Sept. 3 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas and the Cardinal traveling to Notre Dame to face the Fighting Irish Oct. 15.

Three Pac-12 teams have early games against independent BYU. Arizona opens with the Cougars Sept. 3 at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale. In spite of the location, both Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez and athletic director Greg Byrne expressed concerns that the Cougars might have more fans in the stands than the Wildcats. Utah faces BYU at home Sept. 10 and the UCLA Bruins travel to Provo for BYU’s home opener Sept. 17.

No love for local teams

Both Arizona and Arizona State went bowling in 2015 but neither is seeing much support in the preseason. Sports Illustrated picked the Wildcats fourth in the South Division, followed by the Sun Devils. Only lowly Colorado was given less respect. In fact, SI projected the Pac-12 will again be left out of the playoffs. Athlonsports.com had Arizona State fourth and Arizona fifth.

In a column making predictions for the Pac-12 this year, Bryan Fischer, national college football columnist for BleacherReport.com, picks Washington to win the North and USC to take the South. He even predicts Colorado will make a bowl game. He never mentions either Arizona school. Going against the grain, CBS Sports projects the Wildcats will earn a berth in a bowl game at the end of the season — possibly the Independence Bowl.

The disdain for ASU is a little hard to fathom since last season’s team was eight points away from being 9-4 instead of 6-7. And even though the Wildcats finished the season 7-6, they averaged almost 48 points per game in 2015 and return some key players on offense. Their lowest output was a 37-point double-overtime victory against Utah.

Key personnel

With last year’s starting quarterback trying to make it in the NFL, the Sun Devils need a new signal-caller. The best options are sophomore Manny Wilkins and redshirt freshman Brady White, although neither has thrown a pass in college. ASU head coach Todd Graham says he doesn’t plan to name a starter until the first game.

Sporting News lists N’Keal Harry of Arizona State as a freshman to keep an eye on. The four-star wide receiver is expected to see lots of playing time.

ASU’s offensive hopes are pinned on running backs Demario Richard and Kalen Ballage. With a new quarterback, they will no doubt be counted on to carry the team as well as the ball.

Surprisingly, at Arizona, the biggest question to start the season might also be at quarterback, even though the Wildcats have last year’s returning starter in junior Anu Solomon. Rodriguez has hinted at the possibility of going with sophomore Brandon Dawkins. The Arizona defense will also be scrutinized under new defensive coordinator Marcel Yates.

Heisman hopefuls

The Pac-12 has a bevy of players getting mentions for Heisman consideration. The early odds-on favorite is Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey. The Sporting News tabs Washington State quarterback Luke Falk as a player to watch, as well as UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen and USC running back Ronald Jones II.

Whether you cheer for the Sun Devils, the Wildcats or even a team that isn’t part of the Pac-12, your best bet to make sure you don’t miss any of the action is to have CenturyLink’s Prism TV with multiview and watch-and-record options.

 

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The Pac-12 football season nears kickoff