The 2016 season marks the 10-year anniversary of the Pac-12 becoming the first major conference to implement a nine-game league schedule. A rigorous conference slate has helped maintain rivalries, and often resulted in Pac-12 teams navigating some of the most challenging and most entertaining schedules in college football.
The upcoming campaign is no exception. In fact, the conference collectively boasts some of the most stacked dockets in the nation for 2016. That means plenty of must-see contests every weekend from Labor Day through Thanksgiving.
Paring down the conference's most exciting dates to just 15 proves about as difficult as navigating a Pac-12 schedule unscathed – a feat no team has accomplished in a regular season since 2010. Nevertheless, let's give it a try.
1. Stanford at Oregon (Nov. 12)
The winner of this burgeoning rivalry has won every Pac-12 championship since 2009, save one — and that exception came last season, when Oregon beat eventual conference champion Stanford in a decision that ostensibly denied the Cardinal a berth in the College Football Playoff.
Stanford returns to Eugene with revenge in mind. Exacting that revenge in Autzen Stadium is a tall task, however. The always raucous Oregon crowd will make things hard on the visitors. Assuming this late-season showdown impacts the Pac-12 North race — and given recent results, why wouldn't it? — the atmosphere should be electric.
2. USC vs. Alabama (Sept. 3 – Arlington, Texas)
The toughest schedule in all of college football this season kicks off, appropriately enough, against the defending national champion. USC runs through an absolutely brutal gauntlet in 2016, beginning with the Cowboys Classic matchup against the Crimson Tide.