The Pac-12 will once again become a football powerhouse this season since USC’s bowl sanctions have been lifted. The Trojans won seven of their last eight games to close out the 2011 season and their only loss came in a triple-overtime game against Andrew Luck’s Stanford Cardinal. However, none of that mattered. Even if USC went undefeated they weren’t going to be able to play in any bowl games.
Now, it’s different. USC looks like a contender for the BCS National Championship, ranked No. 1 in the preseason polls, and there’s no doubt that the Oregon Ducks and Stanford Cardinal are in for some big time competition from the Southland.
Meanwhile, Washington looms just behind as a dark horse trying to put a dent in the standings.
Here are the top five games in the Pac-12 this season with price information, too:
5. Stanford at Notre Dame – Notre Dame Stadium, October 13
Stanford lost Andrew Luck to the NFL this past spring, but they still have a solid team that will try to make a run at Oregon. Jim Harbaugh instilled a winning culture in the program and the school that’s known more for its academics than its athletic programs will be trying to make big moves in the Pac-12.
This mid-October game against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish should be a huge one for the Cardinal. Generally speaking, road games across the country are not easy for college athletes. A win here will jolt the confidence and swagger in the Cardinal and help them going forward.
Tickets for this showdown start at $132 on StubHub. The most expensive tickets are as high as $2,300.
4. Notre Dame at USC – The Coliseum, November 24
Notre Dame isn’t what it used to be, but they’re a traditional fan favorite and their rivalry with the Trojans is one of the best intersectional rivalries in college football. In last season’s duel, the Trojans defeated the Fighting Irish, 31-17, at South Bend. However, the last time these two schools played at the Coliseum, the Fighting Irish won, 20-16, after USC wide receiver Ronald Johnson dropped a wide open ball which would have lead to a touchdown.
Now we’re in 2012 and the Trojans are one of the best teams in college football. This game will be the last on the schedule for both teams. USC will likely need a big win in order to secure solid positioning for a BCS spot. Meanwhile, the Fighting Irish, will try to spoil the party in Downtown Los Angeles.
This is what rivalries are all about, folks. Throw away the records, this one’s going to be a barnburner.
Tickets for this huge game start at over $100 on the secondary market and go as high up as $10,000.
3. Washington at LSU – Tiger Stadium, September 8
The Washington Huskies have always been on the cusp of being one of the best teams in the Pac-12. They just haven’t been able to get over the hump. The Huskies started off 5-1 last season, but finished 7-6. They struggle against ranked teams.
So what’d they do?
They scheduled themselves to play against one of the toughest teams in the country in LSU. The Tigers played in the BCS National Championship last year and they’re expected to be contenders this year, too.
Washington hopes to march into Baton Rouge and steal a victory to give them confidence against future opponents like USC, Oregon, and Stanford. They have a tough workload in front of them early on and an upset will give them a jolt of swagger.
Tickets for this game start at $96.
2. Stanford Cardinal vs. Oregon Ducks – Autzen Stadium, November 17
These two schools are slowly becoming fierce rivals. Assuming Washington’s brutal schedule knocks them out of contention, this matchup will likely determine who plays in the Pac-12 Championship Game.
Oregon marched into Palo Alto last year and destroyed No. 3 Stanford, 53-30, to knock them out of BCS contention. There’s no doubt that Stanford still has painful memories from that game. They’d love to return the favor this season. However, it’ll be difficult considering the fact that the Cardinal have lost Andrew Luck and several offensive linemen to the NFL.
Tickets for this game from $90 to $645.
1. Oregon vs. USC – The Coliseum, November 3
Every college football fan remembers the unbelievable ending at Eugene last season when USC almost blew a huge lead, but held on to win in the dying moments of the game.
This year, the stakes will be higher because the games actually matter for the Trojans. Their star quarterback, Matt Barkley, passed on millions of dollars in the NFL to take care of some “unfinished business.” He’ll be leading his band of Trojans, featuring guys like Nickell Robey and Robert Woods, at the Coliseum in this matchup that will likely be a preview for the Pac-12 Championship Game.
Tickets range from $93 to $300.