In Week 1 of the 2022 college football season, the Pac-12 Conference has the opportunity to make a big statement. With Oregon traveling to Atlanta to play Georgia and Utah going on the road to play Florida, the conference has the chance to assert itself as a force within the sport.
On a recent episode of ‘The Late Kick,’ 247Sports’ Josh Pate said that the Ducks and Utes winning those games could change the course of the entire season.
“A lot is the answer,” Pate said. “A whole lot. We were talking about this in a meeting yesterday, and I was thinking about this. What is something that could happen in Week 1 … that could rock the sport within the confines of the season, and I think it’s that.”
Pate said that Utah has a very real chance to take down Florida, especially in Week 1. Billy Napier is just getting his feet wet with the Gators, and Kyle Whittingham has had the Utes rolling for a while.
“Utah goes to Gainesville to play Florida in The Swamp,” Pate said. “Now that’s probably gonna be a pick ’em game. Utah may even be favored. It’s not a wild concept at all that Utah could win that game. It’s a brand new staff against one of the most veteran staffs in college football at the Power Five level. That’s Billy Napier at Florida versus Kyle Whittingham at Utah.”
However, Oregon will be a big underdog against the defending champs, and that upset could really show everyone that the Pac-12 is an ascending force within college football. Those wins would be something the conference could really build around.
“Utah pulling that off would be one thing, but let’s speculate for a second,” Pate said. “What if Utah won and Oregon beat Georgia? That spread would be about two touchdowns, and if that were to happen, the first thing you see Georgia doing after winning a title is losing as a double-digit favorite in their home state in Week 1. I think that would send a pretty decent -sized shockwave through the Pac-12. I think George Kliavkoff, who is the new commissioner out there, would probably be at a podium before the Sun came up the next morning talking about how his conference has arrived and how they’re going to build off this. That’s absolutely how he should handle it.”
In order for the Pac-12 to become relevant again, USC has to be a contender. But that won’t be enough on its own. The league needs other teams like Utah and Oregon to be capable of winning championships and getting to the College Football Playoff.
“These are both Week 1 games,” Pate said. “You have an opportunity to really make an impact. You have an opportunity to set the tone because USC, even though they’re not involved in this at all, would greatly benefit from that. USC, in the future, cannot be the brand of the Pac-12. USC can be the dog in the Pac-12. It can be the biggest dog in the Pac-12, but everyone has been talking about Lincoln Riley at USC and how that’s going to elevate the Pac-12. That’s not elevating the Pac-12 at all. That’s elevating USC. If it’s just USC and no one else out there, they might as well be Notre Dame. For all intents and purposes, from a national perspective, it’s like they’re an independent program floating out there. … You need Utah. You need Washington to come to the party. It’d be really nice if one of these Arizona schools got their act together. I don’t have my breath held on that. UCLA. Stanford. It would be nice. Point is you need them. As a Pac-12 Conference overall, you need them.”