As the calendar flips to August, it can only mean one thing: college football is here. Fall camps are opening or getting ready to open all across the country, and the first game of the season—the big Florida vs. Miami showdown in Orlando—is less than four weeks away. But there's plenty of work to be done before the first snaps that count are taken. This week, we'll be previewing August practice for each major conference, plus the Group of Five. Up next, it's the Pac-12 (previously: SEC, ACC, Big 12).
Top August Story
The Pac-12 has a big image problem. The perception and exposure is such that the conference is even toying with kicking off games at 9 a.m. local time (noon ET) to get more eyeballs on the product. The problem? The product hasn’t been very good. A league team hasn’t competed in the College Football Playoff in three of the last four years. The conference has a chance to change the perception with a few early season non-conference Power 5 games. “The first three or four weeks are going to dictate the narrative for our conference,” commissioner Larry Scott said earlier this summer at Pac-12 media day. Oregon duels Auburn in Arlington, Texas. Stanford meets Northwestern on the Farm and UCLA welcomes in Oklahoma. Arizona State travels to Michigan State, and Arizona is at home against Texas Tech. Oregon State faces Oklahoma State at home, and Colorado hosts Nebraska.
Positional Battle to Watch
Arizona State has not one, not two, but three true freshmen competing for its starting quarterback job. Get your popcorn ready. Jayden Daniels, Joey Yellen and Ethan Long, rookies who signed as top-40 ranked QBs this year, are all set to compete with junior Dillon Sterling-Cole for the starting gig vacated by Manny Wilkins. Daniels, a California product, seems to be the favorite. He was ranked as the second-best dual-threat QB in the class and turned down offers from Alabama, Georgia, Oregon and USC to compete in Tempe.
Positional Group Under Pressure
Take your pick: Washington’s secondary or its linebackers. The Huskies return just two starters from their 2018 defense, and that list of departures includes the leading tackler in the FBS, linebacker Ben Burr-Kirven, and two second-round NFL draft picks, defensive backs Taylor Rapp and Byron Murphy. The Huskies enter the season as one of the favorites out West, but the inexperience on defense will be a challenge that they’ll need to rectify quickly. They get explosive offenses in two of the first three weeks, Eastern Washington and Hawaii.
New Coach Spotlight
There’s only one: Mel Tucker at Colorado. The 47-year old Nick Saban protégé landed his first full-time head coaching job this offseason, and his task is not easy: recharge a Buffaloes program that has advanced to one bowl game in the last 11 years. Tucker brings with him to Boulder an NFL and SEC pedigree, a physical-minded, defensive guy who’s implementing his own version of the Saban method in the mountains. His history with Saban dates all the way back to a graduate assistant stint at Michigan State in the mid-1990s. He spent time with Jim Tressel at Ohio State, too, and had stops at the pro level in Chicago, Jacksonville and Cleveland. He helped direct Georgia’s defense the last three seasons.
Week 1 Game to Circle
It doesn’t get much bigger for the Pac-12 than the rare game against the SEC. Oregon and Auburn tangle in Arlington in a significant measuring stick affair for what many believe is the Pac-12’s best chance to reach the playoff this year. The Ducks and QB Justin Herbert are loaded and poised to make a deep run in Mario Cristobal’s second year. Washington was poised last year too, and then it lost to Auburn in a similar kind of neutral site, early-season matchup. Oregon enters this one as the favorite, and it carries with it, maybe, the fate of the Pac-12’s CFP chances.