Pac-10 schedule rankings (cont.)
Posted: Thursday June 21, 2007 2:01PM; Updated: Thursday June 21, 2007 4:24PM
4. Washington State
Behind the ranking: While most teams like to schedule a sure win for their openers, Washington State isn't afraid to jump right into the fire. A year after opening their season at Auburn, the Cougars open at Wisconsin (12-1). The rest of the nonconference schedule isn't nearly as challenging, with home games against San Diego State and Idaho. In conference, the Cougars have to play last year's co-champions USC and Cal on the road while also going to Autzen Stadium to face Oregon. The Cougars face former defensive coordinator Robb Akey -- the new coach at Idaho -- on Sept. 15.
Toughest game: Washington State's season opener in Madison is tough enough, but its conference opener is even more challenging. The Cougars play USC in Los Angeles on Sept. 22.
Cakewalk: Take your pick between home games against San Diego State and Stanford. The two combined for four wins last year.
Trap game: Washington State's best chance for a road win before the season finale in the Apple Cup will be a game against Arizona on Sept. 29. However, that contest comes after the USC game and before a stretch that includes four bowl teams from last season. The Cougars might not win a game on the road all year.
Changes from last season: The Cougars may come to regret scheduling Wisconsin and Auburn for season openers. The Tigers beat Washington State 40-14 in Week 1, likely keeping Wazzu from a bowl game last season. The same could happen this year with the Badgers.
Behind the ranking: At first glance, Arizona's schedule looks like it should crack the top three in the conference. The Wildcats hit the road to play four teams that won 10 or more games last year (USC, Cal, Oregon State and BYU). But Oregon State and BYU are bound to slip a bit because they are breaking in new quarterbacks. It's still a challenging Pac-10 schedule with USC, Cal and rival Arizona State on the road. The Wildcats could navigate through their nonconference schedule with BYU (in the season opener), Northern Arizona and New Mexico with three wins.
Toughest game: Arizona goes to USC on Oct. 13 a week after facing Oregon State in Corvallis.
Cakewalk: Directional schools facing BCS programs can often be a mismatch. That should be the case with Northern Arizona on Sept. 8.
Trap game: Arizona is hoping to make its first bowl game since 1998. The Wildcats can't afford to stumble and expect to make the postseason. A visit to Washington on Oct. 27 could be the difference between making a bowl and staying home again.
Changes from last season: Arizona's nonconference schedule got easier by trading a game with LSU in Baton Rouge for a home game against New Mexico. In conference, Arizona was able to score a big homecoming win over Cal. The Wildcats have to go to Berkeley this season, and the Bears will be looking for revenge.
Behind the ranking: Like USC and Washington State, Oregon scheduled a challenging nonconference road game. After opening at Autzen Stadium against defending Conference USA champ Houston (10-4), the Ducks visit Ann Arbor to face Big Ten favorite Michigan (11-2). The Ducks will also face a Fresno State (4-8) team that looks to improve after last year. In conference, Oregon benefits from playing in the toughest venue in the Pac-10. The Ducks play USC, Cal and rival Oregon State in Eugene.
Toughest game: Michigan expects to be in the thick of the national title race this year, and the Wolverines hope to boost their credentials with an out-of-conference win over Oregon on Sept. 8.
Cakewalk: The Stanford game is an easy pick for every Pac-10 team, but the opener against Houston -- playing its first game without four-year starting quarterback Kevin Kolb -- should by easy pickings for the Ducks.
Trap game: Oregon stumbled badly last year on the road against Washington State, USC and Oregon State. The Ducks could lose look-ahead games at Washington (before USC) or at Arizona (before UCLA).
Changes from last season: Oregon got some help from officials in its big win over Oklahoma last season. Michigan might not make it that close. After the Ducks' struggles on the road last year, they will be glad to face USC, Cal and Oregon State in Eugene in 2007.
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