Pac-12 need-to-knows: It’s not all about Utah and Oregon, new QBs in the spotlight, eyeballs matter and more

Southern California quarterback Caleb Williams (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

Five nuggets as we look ahead to Week One …

1. Defining success

With so much attention on the twin duels in SEC country, we should not forget 2021.

Oregon produced a super-colossal victory at Ohio State on the second Saturday of the season, but the uplifting narrative was eventually swallowed whole as the Pac-12 sustained one result after another in non-conference play.

Two losses to San Diego State.

Two losses to FCS opponents.

Too many losses to the Group of Five.

In order for first-class victories to create an afterglow for the entire conference, there must be an underlying foundation of success across the board. Otherwise, the big-game victor is treated as an outlier among the mediocrity.

What does indisputable success look like for the Pac-12 this week?

— A victory by either Utah or Oregon.

— Three wins in the four games mentioned above.

— A sweep of Rice and Bowling Green by the L.A. schools, and no losses in the four games against FCS opponents.

Anything less, and the ledger gets muddled.

2. QBs, and new QBs

Two schools have yet to confirm their starting quarterbacks, Colorado and Oregon.

For the Ducks, it’s all about gamesmanship: Coach Dan Lanning wants to keep Georgia guessing, but Bo Nix is the likely starter against the defending national champions.

Colorado’s shroud is legitimate. We expect both Brendon Lewis, who started in 2021, and JT Shrout, who was injured last year, to play Friday against TCU.

All in all, seven teams will start quarterbacks acquired from the transfer portal in the 2021-22 offseason cycle: Washington, Washington State, Oregon, Cal, USC, Arizona and Arizona State.

Only one, Arizona’s Jayden de Laura, played in the Pac-12 last season (for WSU).

Five teams will rely on returnees: Oregon State (Chance Nolan), Stanford (Tanner McKee), Utah (Cam Rising), UCLA (Dorian Thompson-Robinson) and Colorado (Lewis or Shrout).

Quarterback play was substandard throughout the Pac-12 last season, in part because of the year-long COVID disruption. We expect noticeable improvement in ’22.

3. Eye on the eyeballs

Two teams play on broadcast television Saturday and therefore have the widest possible audiences: Arizona’s trip to San Diego State will be televised by CBS, while the Oregon-Georgia showdown is set for ABC at 3:30 p.m. Eastern.

Beyond that, there are three games on ESPN, one on FS1 and six on the Pac-12 Networks.

Of those scheduled for the conference’s wholly-owned media company, two will be shown exclusively on their regional feed: Cal vs. UC Davis and Stanford vs. Colgate are on Pac-12 Networks/Bay Area (and the Pac-12 Now app).

Week Three serves as the peak for national exposure, with four games on over-the-air television.

4. Power lineup

In all, Pac-12 teams are scheduled to play 11 games against Power Five opponents:

Big 12 (two): TCU and Oklahoma State

Big Ten (three): Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan State

SEC (three): Georgia, Florida, Mississippi State

Independent (three): Notre Dame

— The Pac-12 has three teams ranked in the preseason AP poll: No. 7 Utah, No. 11 Oregon and No. 14 USC.

How does that total compare? The SEC has six, the ACC five, the Big Ten four and the Big 12 three.

— Utah is the first Pac-12 team to face Florida in Gainesville since USC in 1982, according to the conference office.

— Colorado has scored at least 35 points in its last four season openers.

— Arizona’s opener at San Diego State is the first game in the new Snapdragon Stadium, which has a current capacity of 35,000 and is part of SDSU’s Mission Valley campus.

— Oregon State has dropped its past seven season openers.

— Stanford’s date with Colgate represents its first matchup in three years against a team outside the Power Five.

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