OK coaches, listen up: Its time for big games
On the Pac-12
In this inaugural Pac-12 season, I have a message for every coach in the Pac-12 - and some predictions.
Mike Stoops, Arizona
I like your passion on the sidelines, even though some think you are a little over the top in trying to influence the striped shirts. It's your eighth season in Tucson, and it could be your best. Week two at Oklahoma State is tough. The good news is that you'll face the Ducks and Stanford at home. Beaver Nation remembers last year's 37-29 win over your Cats, and the horrific injury to OSU's James Rodgers. Hopefully, he will be in the lineup on Oct. 8 when you come to Reser Stadium.
Dennis Erickson, Arizona State
Hey, Dennis, it seems like a lifetime ago you and I did a coaches show together when you were leading the Seattle Seahawks. Now you are in your fifth season at Tempe, your team has new uniforms and helmets - and you get UC Davis to potentially improve your opening-day record with ASU to 5-0. A lot of people are picking your Sun Devils to win the Pac-12 South. You have arguably the best defensive player in the conference in linebacker Vontaze Burfict.
Jeff Tedford, California
Wow, your 10th season in Berkeley. This one will be the most unusual, in a way. This weekend, you're hosting your alma mater, Fresno State, at Candlestick Park. Other home games are set for San Francisco's AT and T Park, including the encounter with Oregon State on Nov. 12. Following that are tough trips to Stanford and Tempe.
Jon Embree, Colorado Buffaloes
I know you took over the program in December and are saddled with a mess of a schedule - including a non-counting conference game against Cal in your home opener Sept. 10. You also get to travel to Columbus to face Ohio State. We officially welcome you to the Pac-12, even though it might be a long, long season in Boulder.
Chip Kelly, Oregon
I am fascinated at how you handle your program. Despite all the off-field transgressions, you have managed to keep the Ducks focused on the matter at hand -including Louisiana State on Saturday. A win over LSU would be great for the credibility and stature of the Pac-12. Every football program is a family, and sometimes a dysfunctional family. It's how you handle the bad decisions by student-athletes that will determine the ultimate legacy you will leave at Autzen.
Mike Riley, Oregon State
I know how pumped you are for season 11 as OSU coach. Your Beavers are 7-3 in season openers and will face Sacramento State at home on Saturday. Some say your team has been snake-bit with injuries. But you cast that aside and talk about the 10 true freshmen who will get to show what they can contribute. QB Ryan Katz should springboard into Pac-12 prominence after a sophomore season of ups and downs. I can feel your excitement about Malcolm Agnew,the freshman running back who has shown everyone he has the potential to be the next Ken Simonton or Yvenson Bernard.
David Shaw, Stanford
Congrats, Dave! You get your first head coaching job and you are handed the nation's top quarterback - that is a little 'Luck-y,' wouldn't you say? You also get the Ducks at home. I have a feeling that the Oregon game on Nov. 12 could decide the North Division title. But the Beavers host Stanford the week before.
Rick Neuheisel, UCLA
I always liked your style when I covered you in Seattle. But last fall, when UCLA escaped with that 17-14 win over Oregon State, you got on the Rose Bowl P.A. system and got a little too boastful about the win and what it meant, etc. If I were a player or a coach I would remember that on Sept. 24 when you bring your Bruins to Corvallis.
Lane Kiffin, USC
I really don't know what to make of you. You are obviously helping the Trojans get through a rough spot, being ineligible for postseason play and all. I know you must bleed USC cardinal and gold, but I thought you really trashed Tennessee. You must like the fact that your first three games are at the Coliseum. You can't win the title, but you can influence who does.
Kyle Whittingham, Utah Utes
I so remember the last time Utah and the Beavers tangled. It was a fantastic game played in Salt Lake City. The Beavers led 28-20 with about two minutes remaining. Utah made a long drive and tied the game thanks to a controversial call in the end zone. Your team then won as time expired 31-28. The Beavers get the Utes in Corvallis in 2011 … it should be a fantastic rematch.
Steve Sarkisian, Washington
You were gracious enough to appear on my show, Northwest Sports Tonight, last week to discuss the 2011 Huskies. You believe QB Keith Price can replace Jake Locker and do a credible job. Can't wait to see if that happens. A trip to Lincoln, Neb., on Sept. 17 could tell the Pac-12 a lot about your team. Eastern Washington and Hawaii tune-ups should help you prepare for your third encounter against Nebraska in a 12-month period.
Paul Wulff, Washington State
I know you are thrilled your team embarrassed the Beavers last season in Corvallis. I don't know if that win helped you stay in Pullman, but it couldn't have hurt.Your early-season schedule in 2011 is favorable: Idaho State and UNLV at home, and your conference openers are Colorado and UCLA.
All Pac-12 coaches
Here is what the conference will look like Dec. 4 after the title game:
South Division, in order of finish: Utah, Arizona State, USC, Arizona, UCLA, Colorado.
North Division: Stanford, Oregon, Oregon State, Washington, California, Washington State
Conference title game: Stanford 38, Utah 24 (at Stanford)
Ron Callan is sports director at KPAM (860 AM), flagship station for Oregon State. You can hear him on Northwest Sports Tonight, week nights from 6 to 9 p.m. on AM 860 and KPAM.com.