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junkmansports
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PAC 10

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On 08/30/2011 05:40 AM in NCAA Football
The new and improved Pac-12 Conference gets underway on Thursday with a full weekend of games. Only half of the members are facing another FBS school but third-ranked Oregon digs in deep for its battle with SEC powerhouse LSU. Let's take a look at some early season story lines.

QUACK ATTACK IS BACK

The Ducks are again the team to beat in the conference but their hopes of returning to the national championship game will be sunk if they don't beat an LSU side missing its starting quarterback due to suspension.

Oregon plays two other easy non-conference games against Nevada and Missouri State and it gets its rival Oregon State at home in the Civil War. All told, the Ducks play just four true road games this season so the schedule sets up very well.

This is just the third time in college football history that two top five teams will be meeting on opening weekend on a neutral field. The Ducks are 1-point chalk in most shops with some Vegas books making Chip Kelly's kids field goal favorites.

DON'T FORGET ABOUT THE TREE

While the Ducks are getting most of the preseason hype, Stanford is certainly a team that cannot be overlooked. The Cardinal did lose head coach Jim Harbaugh to the 49ers and they have to replace 11 starters, but with quarterback Andrew Luck still in the mix, they are a threat.

The schedule makers did Stanford a favor as well, although not intentionally. They catch the Ducks at home on Nov. 12 and they have only one road game against a bowl team from last season (Arizona). Even better news is that Arizona is picked to finish low in the South.

Stanford closes the season with three straight games at home, hosting California and Notre Dame after the game with the Ducks.

The Cardinal open the season Saturday at home against San Jose State and are listed as a four-touchdown favorite.

SUPERCONFERENCE

The addition of Utah and Colorado to the Pac 12 allowed the conference to split into two divisions. The Utes and Buffaloes both went to the South Division along with USC, UCLA, Arizona and Arizona State. The splitting was done so all rivals would be in the same divisions, thus playing on an annual basis.

The expansion also will allow for a Pac-12 Championship game which will take place at the home stadium of the team with the best conference record. That means more coverage and more money as the championship game is worth around $14.5M, according to Sports Business Daily.

And of course it adds one more championship game to the betting cycle. From a gambling perspective, Championship Saturday has become a huge draw with now five title games taking place including four from BCS Conferences.
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