Ranking college football schedules this early is admittedly tricky, but our Chris Low took a stab at it on a nationwide scale this week. He ranked the country's 10 weakest nonconference schedules for the 2017 season, and we'll now take a look at the Pac-12's easiest six. Here are the league's toughest six from Thursday.
Sept. 1: vs. Colorado State in Denver
Sept. 9: vs. Texas State
Sept. 16: vs. Northern Colorado
The toughest matchup on paper here is Colorado State, but the Buffs walloped them 44-7 to open last year. Texas State finished 2-10, while Northern Colorado is an FCS foe. There isn't any real travel in here, either, so it's the easiest Pac-12 slate.
Sept. 1: at Rutgers
Sept. 9: Montana
Sept. 16: Fresno State
There was much hand-wringing in Seattle regarding the Huskies' weak nonconference slate last year, which ranked as the worst in the nation for much of the season. It ultimately didn't cost Washington a spot in the College Football Playoff, but likely did relegate the Huskies to the No. 4 seed. Besides the fact that Washington must travel cross-country to open the season, the 2017 slate isn't much harder: Montana is an FCS foe while Fresno State went 1-11 last year. Remember that this schedule was finalized before Chris Petersen took over; Auburn, BYU, and Michigan are all on future Huskies' schedules.
Sept. 2: Northern Arizona
Sept. 9: Houston
Sept. 16: at UTEP
The Wildcats should waltz over FCS foe Northern Arizona to begin the season, but their next matchup again Houston -- now led by coach Major Applewhite -- will be a test. UTEP, meanwhile, finished 4-8 last year. But that game does come on the road, and as 2016 showed, Arizona should take nothing for granted.
Sept. 2: vs. Montana State
Sept. 9: vs. Boise State
Sept. 23: vs. Nevada
The Cougars would certainly like to purge the foul taste of recent nonconference disasters out of their mouths. Washington State has lost at home to an FCS opponent in two consecutive seasons; perhaps the third time will be the charm for them when Montana State comes to Martin Stadium on Sept. 2. There'll also be a chance to avenge last season's loss to Boise State at home. Nevada, which finished 5-7 in 2016, is a mediocre opponent on paper.
Sept. 2: vs. Portland State
Sept. 9: vs. Minnesota
Sept. 23: at Colorado State
The Beavers narrowly lost to Minnesota on the road last season, so the Golden Gophers' visit to Corvallis is a chance for payback on that front. It'll also be an opportunity for Oregon State to demonstrate that it is indeed on the upward track under Gary Andersen. If that ends up being the case, the Pac-12 can score an early point against the Big Ten. The Sept. 23 trip to altitude at Colorado State has the potential to get weird.
6. Utah Utes
Aug. 31: vs. North Dakota
Sept. 9: at BYU
Sept. 16: vs. San Jose State
The Utes won't have trouble with North Dakota, but their new-look roster -- several key players on both sides of the ball must be replaced -- will be tested at archrival BYU the following week. That, much like the following matchup against San Jose State, won't be a cakewalk for a Utah team that'll be looking to establish its identity.