We continue our series taking a closer look at each Pac-12 team's nonconference schedule.
Nicholls State University, Aug. 31
Coach: Charlie Stubbs (6-27), fourth year
2012 record: 1-10, 0-7 Southland
Returning starters: nine offense, eight defense
Offensive headliner: Running back Marcus Washington, an all-league honorable mention pick last year, led the team in rushing with 598 yards and rushed for six touchdowns. He averaged 76.5 all-purpose yards per game last year.
Defensive headliner: Linebacker Chris Bermond finished second on the team last year with 64 tackles (36 solo) and posted two tackles for a loss with a pair of pass breakups.
The skinny: Assuming there are no acts of God, we'll see NSU in the season opener this year. It has a lot of players returning, but anyone who saw it against Oregon State last year saw the talent differential between the Southland squad and an upper-tier Pac-12 team. And we're going to go out on a limb and call Oregon upper tier.
at Virginia, Sept. 7
Coach: Mike London (16-21), fourth year
2012 record: 4-8, 2-6 ACC
Returning starters: seven offense, seven defense
Offensive headliner: Tailback Kevin Parks returns after leading Virginia with 734 rushing yards and five touchdowns last year. He also caught 24 balls for 189 yards.
Defensive headliner: Defensive end Jake Snyder was tops among the team's defensive linemen with 44 stops last year and second with 2.5 sacks.
The skinny: Virginia is looking for a new quarterback after the departure of both Michael Rocco and Phillip Sims. It also lost leading tackler Steve Greer (122 tackles), so there are some holes to fill on both sides of the ball. The Cavaliers have been up and down in London's tenure, going 4-8 in Year 1, 8-5 in Year 2 and then 4-8 last year.
Tennessee, Sept. 14
Coach: Butch Jones, first year
2012 record: 5-7, 1-7 SEC
Returning starters: five offense, eight defense
Offensive headliner: The Volunteers lost a lot on offense from last year, but running back Rajion Neal returns as the rushing leader after posting 708 yards and five touchdowns.
Defensive headliner: Linebacker A.J. Johnson, who was second-team All-SEC last season, returns after posting 138 stops last year -- tops on the team -- to go with 8.5 tackles for a loss and a sack.
The skinny: A lot of UT's all-league offensive players from last year are gone, including tight end Mychal Rivera and receivers Justin Hunter and Cordarrelle Patterson. Also gone is quarterback Tyler Bray. That said, the Vols do have a fairly experienced offensive line, headlined by tackle Antonio Richardson. This is Tennessee's return trip from the 2010 matchup, which Oregon won 48-13.
Thoughts: Over/under on the amount of minutes Marcus Mariota will play in all three games? Ninety minutes? No real threats here and Oregon's starters should be well rested heading into conference play on Sept. 28 when they host Cal. Nicholls State University has been an under-performing FCS squad, Virginia is rebuilding with new offensive and defensive coordinators and Tennessee is starting anew with Jones (once thought to be the next head coach at Colorado). This provides a nice cushion for the Ducks as they transition to game day under new head coach Mark Helfrich. Anything less than a 3-0 start is almost unimaginable.
You can see the rest of the series here.