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Washington Huskies open in top Pac-12 game of Week 1

It's not the loaded schedule like that of the weekend of Sept. 14, but there are some very compelling matchups to open the 2013 season. Best of all, there are only three paycheck games against FCS opposition, so the potential for some early intrigue and drama exists. Go back to last season and the first weekend introduced us to Brett Hundley and Marcus Mariota. Could USC safety Su'a Cravens, California quarterback Jared Goff or Washington slot receiver John Ross deliver their own breakthrough moments this year, or will it be someone off the radar entirely?

10. Eastern Washington at Oregon State, Saturday, Aug. 31 at 6 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Network

Rating: 1 star

The skinny: Eastern Washington has produced a couple of fourth-round picks in recent drafts, but this shouldn't be much of a test for an experienced Beavers team. Oregon State head coach Mike Riley has been forced to reshuffle his offensive line at the last minute, as starting right tackle Gavin Andrews is out with mono, but better now than in the heart of conference play.

9. Nicholls State at Oregon, Saturday, Aug. 31 at 4 p.m ET, FOX Sports 1

Rating: 1 star

The skinny: Do the Ducks starters play more than 20 minutes in this cupcake? It's unlikely, but watching quarterback Marcus Mariota and running back De'Anthony Thomas do their thing for 20 minutes is better than nothing. The most fascinating aspect will be watching new head coach Mark Helfrich and offensive coordinator Scott Frost keep the offense zipping along now that tempo guru Chip Kelly is with the Eagles.

8. Northern Arizona at Arizona, Friday, Aug. 30 at 10 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Network

Rating: 1 star

The skinny: After winning the rushing title last season, Ka'Deem Carey should roll up a couple of hundred yards against the Lumberjacks without breaking a sweat. Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez might break one watching his passing offense operate with a new quarterback -- likely senior B.J. Denker -- and a new top receiving threat with Austin Hill out for the season.

7. Colorado vs. Colorado State, Sunday, Sept. 1 at 6 p.m ET, CBS Sports Network

Rating: 1 star

The skinny: Head coach Mike MacIntyre makes his Buffaloes debut after turning San Jose State into an 11-win team. MacIntyre does inherit some intriguing pieces, most notably wide receiver Paul Richardson, who missed last season with a knee injury. If fully healthy, Richardson could be right there as one of the best skill-position players in the Pac-12.

6. Washington State at Auburn, Saturday, Aug. 31 at 7 p.m. ET, ESPNU

Rating: 1 star

The skinny:Mike Leach and Gus Malzahn are unquestioned offensive geniuses, but they have a lot of work to do to get their teams' performances to match their sterling individual reputations. The Cougars did close last season with a win in the Apple Cup, giving them some much-needed momentum. But is an offensive line that allowed 57 sacks and 1.38 yards per carry ready to handle a hostile environment and SEC defensive line?

5. USC at Hawaii, Thursday, Aug. 29 at 11 p.m ET, CBS Sports Network

Rating: 3 stars

The skinny: USC wide receiver Marqise Lee is always worth at least two stars on his own, but the first look at Matt Barkley's successor makes it worth staying up late to see the Trojans steamroll overmatched Hawaii. Lane Kiffin says that both Cody Kessler and Max Wittek will play, but hasn't disclosed how the arrangement will work. After mishandling last season's team that went from preseason No. 1 to finish at 7-6, Kiffin can't afford to have this quarterback competition blow up in his face.

4. Utah State at Utah, Thursday, Aug. 29 at 8 p.m ET, FOX Sports 1

Rating: 3 stars

The skinny: Can Utes quarterback Travis Wilson build on an underwhelming first year? History is against him, but the bulked-up sophomore does have a nice group of receivers around him, and longtime college and NFL head coach Dennis Erickson is now running the offense. Wilson must take advantage of those assets because Utah State can grind out the game with a punishing run game anchored by senior center Tyler Larsen.

3. Nevada at UCLA, Saturday, Aug. 31 at 10 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Network

Rating: 3 stars

The skinny: Pistol innovator Chris Ault is no longer leading the Wolf Pack, but Cody Fajardo is still one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks in the college ranks. Fajardo sliced through a talented but undisciplined Cal defense to open the 2012 campaign and would have claimed another Pac-12 scalp in Arizona if not for a late-game meltdown, but neither of those teams had an impact player like outside linebacker Anthony Barr trying to keep Fajardo in check.

2. Northwestern at California, Saturday, Aug. 31 at 10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2

Rating: 4 stars

The skinny: Sports Illustrated called it "revenge of the nerds," but the smart schools are enjoying unparalleled success on the gridiron. The mission for new Golden Bears head coach Sonny Dykes is to lift Cal into the same rarified air archrival Stanford currently enjoys, while the Wildcats are looking to build on their first bowl win in 64 years. Dykes debuts his spread offense with a true freshman at the controls in quarterback Jared Goff. Cal's new 4-3 defense must contain electric Northwestern running back Venric Mark, but might be without starting middle linebacker Nick Forbes (back).

1. Boise State at Washington, Saturday, Aug. 31 at 10 p.m ET, FOX Sports 1

Rating: 4 stars

The skinny: For the Huskies to finally get over the seven-win hump, it all comes down to the pass rush. Washington produced 26 sacks and allowed 38 last season, the former average for the FBS (tied for 59th out of 120 teams) and the latter in the bottom 20 nationally. Protection will be the bigger concern against the Broncos, who were without defensive end Demarcus Lawrence (team-high 9.5 sacks last season) when these two met last December in the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas and still brought down Washington quarterback Keith Price four times.

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