Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
Five scary nonconference games Pac-10 teams shouldn't overlook:
Central Michigan at Arizona (Sept. 5): Arizona was excited about winning eight games last year. The Chippewas have won at least that many three years in a row. They've got 16 starters back — including 10 on defense. And, in contrast to the Wildcats who will be breaking in a new quarterback, Central Michigan can lean on Dan LeFevour, who's 14th on the NCAA career list for total offense.
Purdue at Oregon (Sept. 12): Purdue shouldn't be fast enough to keep up with the Oregon, but it made things quite difficult for the Ducks last year. Moreover, this game is sandwiched between the marquee season opener at Boise State and a visit from Utah. Even though Purdue has been sliding of late and changed coaches, the Boilermakers are still a Big Ten team worthy of respect.
Oregon State at UNLV (Sept. 12): Oregon State is a notoriously slow-starting team — see three consecutive 2-3 starts. UNLV welcomes back 15 starters from a team that won at Arizona State a year ago. The Beavers are (again) rebuilding their defense, particularly their secondary. UNLV is talented and experienced at wide receiver. The Rebels are thinking bowl game. And even though this is an 8 p.m. kickoff, the guess here is it will be fairly toasty in Vegas, at least significantly more so than in Corvallis.
California at Minnesota (Sept. 19): Some folks have been touting California as a team that is talented enough to unseat USC (who, me?) But this game should get the Bears' full attention, and not just because they fell flat on a trip east to Maryland in 2008. Minnesota is clearly trending up in the Big Ten under coach Tim Brewster, who is a first-rate recruiter. The Gophers also are one of the Big Ten's most-experienced teams with 17 starters back. Moreover, Cal will be the Gophers' first BCS conference foe in their fancy new stadium, so the atmosphere should be frenzied against the visitors from Berkeley.
USC at Notre Dame (Oct. 17): It's almost impossible to imagine Notre Dame besting the Trojans if you watched last year's game, a 38-3 throttling that wasn't even as close as the 35-point spread suggests. However, recall that the year before losing to 41-point underdog Stanford in 2007, USC rolled the Cardinal 42-zip. At some point, Notre Dame is going to beat the Trojans in this national rivalry. The Irish will be playing at home, where they last challenged the Trojans in 2005, and they also have 17 starters back to help save Charlie Weis' job.