And so it begins.
And, unlike many a season, the 2022 college football experience kicks off with some pizzaz — highly-anticipated games that might actually tell us something about our favorite Pac-12 teams.
Oregon vs. Georgia (12:30 p.m. Sept. 3 on KATU/ABC)? Yes, please.
Boise State visiting Oregon State (7:30 p.m. Sept. 3 on ESPN)? Heck, yeah.
Storylines abound for both games. Here are some angles to consider:
Another new era for Oregon
No matter how things go in Atlanta, expect overreaction from many Ducks devotees. This is not to slam Oregon fans. Any fan base would be juiced about a matchup that pits its new coach against the team he just left. A Ducks win over the Bulldogs would start national championship talk in some corners. A loss, particularly by an uncomfortable margin, and the sky will be falling.
We don't buy either reaction.
Quarterback play, the battle at the line of scrimmage, the impact of Noah Sewell and Justin Flowe, who steps up to carry the ball and catch it … all of that will be intriguing to see. But tour focus will be on Lanning and his young coaching staff. How do those guys handle adversity? Will Lanning go for a fourth-and-1 at midfield? How will they manage the clock late in each half? How will Lanning react to officiating blunders? Or to Ducks' blunders? Will the Ducks throw deep on their first offensive snap? Will they be prepared for a Georgia gadget play?
No shortage of intrigue, for sure.
The only thing better would be if Oregon had been scheduled to play Miami this week. Alas, unless some ACC-Pac-12 partnership brings it about, we expect the Ducks and Canes will avoid crossing paths given what a loss in such a game would mean to either program. That's OK. This matchup is just peachy.
Expectations on the rise in Corvallis
Beaver football is on its way back, in more ways than one.
Yes, the Oregon State football team opens the 2022 season next Saturday (7:30 PM, Sept. 3, ESPN) against the Boise State Broncos. But the bird's-eye view is that the Beavers are coming off one of their best years in recent memory, winning six games and going to a bowl game for the first time since 2013. Head coach and former OSU quarterback Jonathan Smith has the program buzzing about a potential return to form. The season opener will be a good litmus test for that optimism.
One thing to point out is that Smith, entering his fifth season, is the fourth longest tenured coach in the Pac-12. Only Utah's Kyle Whittingham (18th season), Stanford's David Shaw (12th season) and Cal's Justin Wilcox (sixth season) have been on the job longer, bringing a stability to the sidelines that most other Pac-12 foes don't have.
The Pac-12's leading rusher from a year ago, BJ Baylor, is gone from the roster. Who will seize the opportunity to step up and drive the offense?
Can quarterback Chance Nolan live up to the hype he generated last season? Can one of the running backs break out behind one of the nation's strongest offensive lines? Can the revamped receiving corps hit the ground running? While all those questions abound, the Beaver defense aims to stay stout under another OSU alumnus, Trent Bray.
Oregon State has played Boise State seven times in the past 20 seasons, and the Broncos have won three of the past four to overtake the series lead at 4-3. Despite the proximity of their campuses, the teams haven't met since 2016, a 38-24 Boise State win in Corvallis.
Oregon State will look to get even — again, in more ways than one — while also taking a strong first step on the path back to national prominence.
Portland State at San Jose State
The Vikings open a challenging September with a Thursday visit to the Bay area. Coming off a disappointing 5-7 season, the Spartans aren't likely to overlook the Vikings. Chevan Cordeiro, Hawaii's starter the past two seasons, gives the Spartans a proven dual-threat quarterback. … One of the defenders after Cordeiro will be EJ Ane, a senior transfer who played in 28 games for San Jose State. … The game kicks at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 1 and is slated to stream via themw.com, the Mountain West Conference website.
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