2016 Pac-12 ultimate road trip: USC-Bama the choice Week 1

I found out long ago (oh, oh, oh, oh, oh)

It’s a long way down the holiday road (oh, oh, oh, oh, oh)

Now that that song is officially stuck in your head for the rest of the day (you're welcome), it’s time to embark on the yearly adventure that we call the Pac-12 Ultimate Road Trip (this is crazy, this is crazy, this is crazy).

Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll look at every week in the Pac-12 and pick the can’t-miss game. We’ll probably pick a couple for the Thursday-Friday-Saturday games as well if your checkbook can swing it.

Buckle up. The road trip begins.

Welcome to Week 1.

Friday, Aug. 26

  • California vs. Hawaii (in Sydney, Australia)

Thursday, Sept. 1

  • Southern Utah at Utah

  • Oregon State at Minnesota

Friday, Sept. 2

  • Colorado vs. Colorado State (in Denver)

  • Kansas State at Stanford

Saturday, Sept. 3

  • Rutgers at Washington

  • UCLA at Texas A&M

  • UC Davis at Oregon

  • USC vs. Alabama (in Arlington, Texas)

  • Eastern Washington at Washington State

  • Arizona vs. BYU (in Glendale, Ariz.)

  • Northern Arizona at Arizona State

My choice: USC vs. Alabama

Why: This choice isn’t as obvious as you’d think when you start to examine some of the Week 1 matchups. Because there are some really intriguing ones out there. Cast aside the four FCS opponents (I know, I know this league has a history ... ), and the Pac-12 plays two games against the SEC, two against the Big Ten and one against the Big 12. That’s some hot P5-on-P5 action right out of the gate. More than likely, if USC weren’t playing Alabama, then UCLA-Texas A&M would be the go-to game.

Even the Colorado-Colorado State rivalry has become a fun Week 1 tradition. And is anyone else really eager to see what Arizona’s new defense looks like against BYU? Oh yeah, the Cal game kicks off on the 26th but is really being played on the 27th. So make sure your flux capacitor is working.

But when two of college football’s most storied programs get together, that has to be the choice. Some of the matchups here are fantastic. You’ve got one of the best offensive lines in the country (USC's) going against one of the best defensive lines (Alabama's). Each side has potential All-Americans. Then you get into the Trojans’ skill players and their speed against the Crimson Tide’s.

The biggest concern here has to be the USC defensive line against Alabama’s front five. It’s no secret the Trojans are inexperienced up front, and the defending national champs no doubt will look for ways to exploit that.

And the guy pulling the strings for the Alabama offense is none other than former USC coach Lane Kiffin. That’s as delicious a storyline as you are going to find anywhere across college football in Week 1.

The Trojans opened as a double-digit underdog, so that doesn’t bode particularly well for how they are viewed on the national landscape. But if -- if -- the Trojans can pull of a shocker, they’ll make the rest of the college football stand up and take notice. If they can’t, then Clay Helton will fall to 0-3 since officially being named the head coach. No pressure.

And as far as national perception goes, keep an eye on the rest of those Power 5 matchups. UCLA is probably a 50-50 game, and Oregon State will be an underdog on the road. Washington and Stanford should be favorites. If the league can go 4-1 against other Power 5 conferences in Week 1 (or, dare to dream, 5-0) it will quickly shoot up the power rankings.