Every game is a "Super Bowl," Oregon coach Chip Kelly tells us. In part, he's right. Beating ranked foes only means so much if you fall to other teams you should beat.
But some games, to use Kelly's term, feel a bit more Super Bowl-y than others. Here are our picks for the biggest Pac-12 games of 2011 -- obviously, from a preseason perspective.
Oregon versus LSU, Sept. 3: File this one under "Duh." Winner could rise to No. 1. Oregon could win one for not only the Pac-12 but also the rest of a college football nation that has grown weary of SEC dominance and the subsequent crowing about that by SEC fans. The Ducks and Kelly also could get rid of the belief that good teams with extra preparation time can stop their high-tempo, spread-option attack.
Missouri at Arizona State, Sept. 9: The Sun Devils enter the season with high expectations, and beating a nationally-ranked foe at home could launch a special season. A victory would energize the fan base and give the ASU confidence. Of course, the Sun Devils visit Illinois the following weekend, so they will need to avoid the letdown there.
Utah at USC, Sept. 10: Welcome to the Pac-12 Utah. This is the Coliseum, where some of the best teams in the history of college football have played. Show us what you got! If the Utes win, they immediately announce that they belong. And if USC loses, fans might start grumbling about coach Lane Kiffin, fair or not.
Arizona State at Utah, Oct. 8: At this point, this looks like the South Division game of the season, particularly because Utah doesn't play Stanford or Oregon and, by the way, Arizona State doesn't play Stanford.
Oregon at Washington, Nov. 5: Oregon has lately dominated what is perhaps the bitterest rivalry in the Pac-12 -- winning seven in a row, each by at least 20 points. At some point, the Huskies will beat the Ducks again. Might it be a season when the Ducks come to Husky Stadium and could be looking forward to the game we describe below?
Oregon at Stanford, Nov. 12: This looks like the Pac-12 game of the season and one of a handful of games that, from a preseason perspective, appear to have national title implications. Last season, the Ducks handed the Cardinal its only defeat in Eugene and that win propelled them to the national title game. Might Andrew Luck and Stanford return the favor on the Farm in 2011? Also, considering Luck's fellow Heisman Trophy finalist LaMichael James will be leading Oregon, this game could have a big say in who wins college football's top individual award.
Stanford at Notre Dame, Nov. 26: The last regular-season game of Luck's career. The Fighting Irish are supposed to be greatly improved -- see a No. 16 preseason ranking. Hard to believe this game won't have significant meaning for both teams, such as a BCS bowl invitation of one sort or the other.