We continue to look at some of the marquee nonconference games involving Pac-12 teams in 2016.
Opponents: vs. Stanford, at USC
Date of matchups: Saturday, Oct. 15 (Stanford); Saturday, Nov. 26 (USC)
Offseason storyline: Kizer vs. Zaire. While Stanford and USC have their own unresolved quarterback situations, Notre Dame does too. It’s just different. The Irish know they have two dependable options. Zaire began last season as the starter and after playing like a potential Heisman Trophy candidate in the opener against Texas (he’s 3-0 as a starter), was lost for the season the following week, allowing Kizer to step into the spotlight. The presumed back up helped guide the Irish to an appearance in the Battlefrog Fiesta Bowl and a 10-3 record.
What's at stake?
Stanford: The Cardinal has a brutal six-game stretch to open the season, capped by its trip to South Bend. If it is able to get through Kansas State, USC, at UCLA, at Washington and Washington State, then a win at Notre Dame would assuredly have the Cardinal in prime College Football Playoff position with six of its seven hardest games -- on paper, at least -- in the rear view. Stanford has won five of the last seven against the Irish, but the teams have traded wins over the past five seasons. To add more intrigue: the Cardinal’s 38-36 win at home last year was among the best games in college football last season and effectively eliminated the Irish from playoff contention.
USC: As the Trojans' final game of the regular season, the game’s meaning could be immense, but it could also serve more as a glorified scrimmage as it did in 2014 when USC closed the season with a 49-14 win. Either way, it’s one of the more storied rivalries in college football and a game worth looking forward to. Regardless of how good the teams are, the game’s timing means it should factor into the College Football Playoff discussion, if only minimally, as people inevitably try to apply the transitive property.