Pac-12 football: the must-see games for 2023
In the middle of may, college football fans look at the upcoming season schedules and plot out the likely wins, the probable losses, and the toss-up games they circle in red as the true keys to the season.
A football schedule is marvelous in its simplicity and accessibility. Even before the internet arrived in the 1990s, college football fans knew which 11 teams (now 12 — the season expanded from 11 to 12 games nearly 20 years ago) their team and other competitors would play. Fans didn’t have to Google search for this information.
Fans have been examining college football schedules in late spring and early summer for generations. With USC entering its last Pac-12 football season before moving to the Big Ten, there’s an extra-poignant feel to this 2023 journey. Each Pac-12 clash for USC will carry a little extra weight.
Patrick Conn of College Sports Wire looks at big Pac-12 games along with other must-see games for the 2023 college football season.
WEEK ONE: FLORIDA VS UTAH
Sep 3, 2022; Gainesville, Florida, USA; Utah Utes quarterback Cameron Rising (7) and Florida Gators quarterback Anthony Richardson (15) meet after a game at Steve Spurrier-Florida Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
That Florida-Utah showdown last season was terrific and put Anthony Richardson even more on the map. He’s not there this year for Florida, but Cam Rising did return for Utah. The game is in Salt Lake City as Utah seeks revenge for 2022.
WEEK FOUR (HONORABLE MENTION): COLORADO VS OREGON
Apr 22, 2023; Boulder, CO, USA; Colorado Buffaloes head coach Deion Sanders hits the field before the start of the spring game at Folsom Filed. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Deion Sanders has worked wonders in Boulder in just a matter of months, and it won’t stop anytime soon. He walks into Eugene to face a top-25 Oregon Duck team, and this one will show how good Deion’s CU team can be.
WEEK FIVE (HONORABLE MENTION): USC VS COLORADO
Apr 22, 2023; Boulder, CO, USA; Colorado Buffaloes head coach Deion Sanders is interviewed by ESPN broadcaster Quint Kessenich during the first half of a spring game at Folsom Filed. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
The Buffs host the USC Trojans, and we can only imagine the buzz this game will bring. The Trojans should be Pac-12 favorites, and the reloaded and retooled Buffs team will have a full house in Boulder. Here’s what Patrick Conn wrote about this game:
The Trojans want to win the Pac-12 before leaving for the Big Ten next season and the Buffs want to be the team that ruins it for Lincoln Riley and company. Will USC’s defense be able to slow down Shedeur Sanders and could Travis Hunter find a way to slow down Caleb Williams?
WEEK SEVEN: USC VS NOTRE DAME
Nov 26, 2022; Los Angeles, California, USA; Southern California Trojans quarterback Caleb Williams (13) and Notre Dame Fighting Irish quarterback Drew Pyne (10) shake hands after the game at United Airlines Field at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
It won’t be Caleb Williams versus Drew Pyne in South Bend; they will play each other in Tempe, since Pyne transferred to Arizona State. Trojans-Irish is always a must-watch. Wake Forest transfer QB Sam Hartman is set to take over as the team’s signal-caller in Marcus Freeman’s second season.
WEEK EIGHT (HONORABLE MENTION): USC VS UTAH
Dec 2, 2022; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Utah Utes quarterback Cameron Rising (7) throws against the Southern California Trojans during the first half of the PAC-12 Football Championship at Allegiant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Utah beat USC twice last year, and the second win was in the Pac-12 title game. Can the defense and Alex Grinch figure out a way to stop the Utes? It does help USC that Dalton Kincaid, who crushed the Trojans in 2022, is now in the NFL.
WEEK NINE: (HONORABLE MENTION): OREGON VS UTAH
Nov 19, 2022; Eugene, Oregon, USA; Oregon Ducks quarterback Bo Nix (10) talks to a reporter after a game against the Utah Utes at Autzen Stadium. The Ducks won the game 20-17. Mandatory Credit: Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports
The Ducks are seeking a Pac-12 championship, but Utah has been the champs in back-to-back seasons. A victory here for either team will drastically improve their chances of a Pac-12 title game trip.
WEEK TEN (HONORABLE MENTION): USC VS WASHINGTON
Sep 17, 2022; Seattle, Washington, USA; Washington Huskies quarterback Michael Penix Jr. (9) and head coach Kalen DeBoer talk during the fourth quarter at Alaska Airlines Field at Husky Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
The Trojans avoided both Oregon and Washington last year. Not this time. USC will face the Huskies in the Coliseum. Michael Penix Jr. versus Caleb Williams is one of the best QB matchups of the entire season.
WEEK 11 (HONORABLE MENTION): USC VS OREGON
Dan Lanning — USA TODAY Sports
The Trojans play Washington and Oregon in consecutive weeks. That’s rough, but that’s how loaded the Pac-12 is. Bo Nix versus Caleb Williams is another great QB battle, and former Trojans WR Gary Bryant Jr. recently transferred to Eugene.
WEEK 12: UCLA VS USC
Nov 19, 2022; Pasadena, California, USA; Southern California Trojans running back Austin Jones (6) runs the ball against UCLA Bruins defensive back Stephan Blaylock (4) and linebacker Laiatu Latu (15) during the second half at the Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Yes, the Trojans face UCLA after both Washington and Oregon, this time at the Coliseum. Dorian Thompson-Robinson is gone as is Zach Charbonnet, so the Trojans should be favored once again, although Dante Moore has a ton of potential for the Bruins.