Pac-12 football this week: Deion Sanders, Kenny Dillingham debut

Aug 31, 2023, 8:10 AM | Updated: 8:23 am

Caleb Williams, USC Trojans quarterback...

Southern California quarterback Caleb Williams (13) evades a tackle attempt from San Jose State cornerback Jay'Vion Cole (8) during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Los Angeles, Saturday, Aug. 26, 2023. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

(AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

The Pac-12 might be crumbling after this year, but the list of storylines to begin this year runs long.

The Arizona State Sun Devils will debut their new era under first-time head coach Kenny Dillingham on Thursday against Southern Utah. The Colorado Buffaloes begin their own rebuild under Deion Sanders.

For Arizona Cardinals fans believing that their team could be digging for the top pick in the 2024 NFL Draft, eyes might be on reigning Heisman winner Caleb Williams and the USC Trojans. Williams is considered one of the best quarterback prospects to come out of college this decade.

The quarterback talent runs deep behind him with Washington’s Michael Penix Jr., Utah’s Cam Rising, Clemson transfer D.J. Uagalelei for Oregon State, Arizona’s returnee Jayden de Laura and more.

Here are some things to watch this week in the Pac-12 Conference:

Upset watch in Deion Sanders’ Colorado debut?

Colorado at No. 17 TCU. OK, it may be a stretch, but it’s going to be fun to watch. The Buffaloes are coming off a 1-11 season and have 86 newcomers with three returning starters, but Deion Sanders has made this a must-watch game.

The flamboyant former NFL star has created a buzz around Colorado’s program and turned Saturday’s game into one of the most anticipated in Colorado history. Taking down the Horned Frogs will be a big ask. TCU played in the national championship game last season and is a nearly three-touchdown favorite, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.

New faces

An already-loaded Pac-12 quarterback crew got even stronger with DJ Uiagalelei’s transfer from Clemson to Oregon State. The former five-star recruit threw for 5,681 yards and 36 touchdowns to 17 interceptions in 36 games for the Tigers. … This week will mark the debut of two new head coaches in addition to Sanders: Kenny Dillingham at Arizona State and Troy Taylor at Stanford.

Caleb Williams watch

Caleb Williams, QB, Southern California. Why not start with the reigning Heisman Trophy winner. Williams had a massive first season after transferring from Oklahoma and had a strong start to this season, passing for 278 yards and four touchdowns in the sixth-ranked Trojans’ 56-28 victory over San Jose State last week. USC hosts Nevada on Saturday.

Pac-12 football game of the week

Florida at No. 14 Utah, Thursday. The Utes get a big first test in a season of high expectations. Utah has won the last two Pac-12 championships and is among the favorites to take the title in what be the conference’s final season. The big question is who will play quarterback for the Utes. Cameron Rising is still rehabilitating a torn ACL suffered in the Rose Bowl.

Bryson Barnes and Nate Johnson could both play. The Gators won’t have a decision at quarterback. Transfer Graham Mertz will take his turn leading Florida’s offense after throwing for 5,405 yards and 38 touchdowns in 32 starts over three seasons at Wisconsin.

Matchup of the week

Boise State at No. 10 Washington, Saturday. Like Utah, Washington is expected to be in the mix for the Pac-12 title before heading off to the Big Ten next season. The Huskies have one of the Pac-12’s best quarterbacks in Michael Penix Jr., who will be relied on even more with starting running back Cameron Davis out for the season with a lower-body injury. The Huskies face a tough opener against the Broncos, who have had a knack for knocking off Power Five programs through the years. Boise State QB Taylen Green will be a handful with his ability to run or pass after throwing for 2,042 yards and accounting for 24 TDs last season.

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