The final major college football conference to begin its season gets going Saturday.
The Pac-12 kicks off at noon ET (9 a.m. PT) with Arizona State at No. 20 Southern California. Instead of Pac-12 after dark it’s Pac-12 for lunch.
The Trojans are the favorites in the South Division, with each league team scheduled to play six games against division rivals plus one crossover game.
The favorite in the North is No. 12 Oregon, which kicks off in primetime.
Of course, nothing is certain anywhere this season and one of the biggest games on the docket won’t even be played after a California player tested positive for COVID-19. The Golden Bears’ home game Saturday against Washington was canceled and will be declared a no-contest.
California doesn’t have the minimum number of scholarship players available as a result of the positive test and the need for other players to isolate under contact tracing protocols, the Pac-12 said in a statement.
The rest of the nation’s schedule is highlighted by top-10 matchups, with No. 1 Clemson at No. 4 Notre Dame, and No. 8 Florida vs. No. 5 Georgia.
There is a lot going on.
No. 5 Georgia vs. No. 8 Florida at Jacksonville.
Hard to choose between this and the top-five matchup in the Atlantic Coast Conference (Reminder: Notre Dame is playing in the ACC this season), but Bulldogs-Gators gets the nod.
It will most definitely not be the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party this year, but it should decide the Southeastern Conference’s East Division in an interesting contrast in styles.
The Gators are sixth in the country in offense at 7.50 yards per play. The Bulldogs are 14th in yards per play allowed (4.53), but it should be noted that is skewed heavily by one game against Alabama. The Crimson Tide averaged 7.42 yards per play in beating Georgia.
Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson
Lawrence has been ruled out for the top-ranked Tigers against Notre Dame, so what we’ll be watching is him on the sideline watching freshman quarterback DJ Uiagalelei lead Clemson.
Lawrence has been considered the Heisman Trophy co-favorite with Ohio State’s Justin Fields. But missing two games, including Clemson’s biggest regular-season matchup, has got to hurt his chances.
Unless, of course, Clemson loses with an uneven performance from Uiagalelei. Does that open a path to Lawrence coming back down the stretch to save the Tigers’ season and make a Heisman claim as college football’s MVP?
NUMBERS TO KNOW
0-5 — Notre Dame’s record against top-five opponents in 10 seasons under coach Brian Kelly.
24 — No. 23 Michigan’s winning streak against Indiana. The 13th-ranked Hoosiers host the Wolverines as a slight underdog.
31 — No. 9 BYU’s margin of victory in its undefeated start. The Cougars’ toughest game is Friday night at No. 21 Boise State.
No. 15 — The ranking of Coastal Carolina, the best ever for a Sun Belt team. The Chanticleers face South Alabama at home, trying to remain unbeaten.
2000 — The last year Iowa started 0-3. The Hawkeyes will try to avoid that in this unique conference-only season at home against Michigan State.
UNDER THE RADAR
Arkansas State at Louisiana
Before Coastal Carolina became the hot Sun Belt team, it was Louisiana knocking off Iowa State and getting ranked.
The Ragin’ Cajuns then lost to Coastal and have slipped off the radar. But they are still quite good and could end up in the conference title game. Arkansas State also had a marquee upset early in the season, beating Kansas State. The Red Wolves have stumbled since with a defense that can’t seem to stop anyone.
Scott Frost, Nebraska
With the caveat that Frost is not getting fired, this one against Northwestern seems to be another very interesting mental health game for Cornhuskers fans.
Nebraska has not played since getting pounded by Ohio State, which was not surprising. Nebraska’s home game against Wisconsin was canceled because of the Badgers’ COVID-19 outbreak.
This was supposed to be Nebraska’s easiest game in a four-game opening stretch that included arguably the Big Ten’s three best teams.
Northwestern enters unbeaten and favored by about a field goal. In nine meetings since Nebraska joined the Big Ten, the Huskers are 5-4.
Follow Ralph D. Russo at https://twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP and listen at https://westwoodonepodcasts.com/pods/ap-top-25-college-football-podcast/
More AP college football: https://apnews.com/Collegefootball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25