Some things to watch in Week 1 of the Pac-12 Conference football season:
GAME OF THE WEEK: Easy. No. 6 Washington vs No. 9 Auburn in Atlanta. This Week 1 marquee matchup could have playoff implications down the road. It also features two of the top quarterbacks in college football: Washington’s Jake Browning and Auburn’s Jarrett Stidham. Browning is hoping to regain his 2016 form when he threw for 43 touchdowns. Stidham, one of the SEC’s most efficient passers last season, will become Auburn’s first two-year starter at QB since Nick Marshall in 2013 and 2014.
MATCHUP OF THE WEEK: There’s likely trouble ahead for Oregon State quarterback Jake Luton in the form of Ohio State defensive end Nick Bosa. The 6-foot-4 Bosa was the Big Ten defensive lineman of the year with 34 tackles and 8.5 sacks. Luton was a junior college transfer who won the starter’s job last year but he played just four games before he sustained a thoracic spine fracture in a 52-23 loss at Washington State. And there’s lots of other drama at Ohio State that makes this game intriguing.
NUMBERS GAME: Arizona, Cal and Washington each return the most starters with 18, Washington State has the fewest with 10. … There are five new coaches in the Pac-12 this season: UCLA’s Chip Kelly (making his return to the Pac-12); Oregon State’s Jonathan Smith, Arizona’s Kevin Sumlin, Arizona State’s Herm Edwards and Oregon’s Mario Cristobal. … The Pac-12 has the most returning 1,000-yard rushers among the Power 5 conferences with five, led by Stanford’s Bryce Love with 2,118 yards last season. … The Pac-12 was 11-1 in season openers last season.
UPSET WATCH: Washington State at Wyoming. The Cougs are just a 1-point favorite over Wyoming, which already opened its season with a 29-7 victory at New Mexico State last weekend. So the Cowboys have already had a chance to work out a few kinks. Washington State has a new quarterback, even though coach Mike Leach isn’t revealing who it is. “We’ve got four quarterbacks and one of them will play and it’ll be a thrill a minute to discover which one that’s going to be,” Leach said this week.
IMPACT PERFORMER: Gotta be Love, who decided to return to Stanford for his senior season — and graduate with his degree in human biology in hopes of someday becoming a doctor. Love was a Heisman Trophy finalist last season and he is a preseason favorite for the award again. He starts this season’s campaign on Friday night when San Diego State visits the No. 13 Cardinal.
Compiled by AP Sports Writer Anne M. Peterson in Portland, Oregon.
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