Last year’s Pac-12 nonconference slate got off to a rocky start.

If it wasn’t Utah losing to Florida in horrific fashion with a Cameron Rising goal-line interception, it was Oregon getting destroyed by eventual repeat national champion Georgia, 49-3.

Week 2 offered a little reprieve as Washington State upset Wisconsin and Oregon State beat Fresno State, but Arizona blew a shot at a big SEC win by losing to Mississippi State.

The following week saw Washington pull off the upset this time, beating Michigan State, but the Wolverine State fought back with an Eastern Michigan win over Arizona State.

What will this year have in store for the Pac-12? Here’s a look at the half-dozen games that will tell the tale for the conference …

Florida at Utah, Week 1

How could this not top the list? It’s not like the Ducks open with the Bulldogs again.

Last year’s matchup was heading in the Utes’ favor late until Anthony Richardson led the Gators on a 14-play, 75-yard drive to score the game-winning touchdown with 1 minute, 25 seconds left. Rising led Utah down the field, but a game-sealing interception decided things with 17 seconds left.

Richardson is gone now — and apparently in the running for the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft somehow? — and the Gators don’t appear as dangerous next year. Rising, though, may be out, too, depending on his recovery from a torn ACL suffered in the Rose Bowl. The Utes return a ton of offensive talent, including tight ends Brant Kuithe and Thomas Yassmin as well as wide receiver Devaughn Vele.

Colorado at TCU, Week 1

Well, Coach Prime will get his first test in a hurry.

While the Horned Frogs lose a metric ton of talent in 2023 — they rank just 118th nationally in ESPN’s returning production rankings — do we really expect Sonny Dykes’ squad to totally collapse? Wishful thinking, and the good news for Colorado is that even if TCU does end up tanking, the Buffaloes will still get major credit for a key Week 1 win.

And speaking of the Buffaloes, it will be downright fascinating to see how all this comes together for Deion Sanders. Can he actually make Colorado competitive in Year 1? All eyes will be on QB Shedeur Sanders and the offense to look world’s better than it did last year in Boulder. If they don’t, the Buffs are going to be battered once more.

Boise State at Washington, Week 1

Boise State returns a solid 73% of production, including 81% on defense, from a team that finished 10-4 after starting 2-2. The Broncos steamrolled the Mountain West Conference, going undefeated in conference play, and they are generally considered 1 of the top Group of 5 teams heading into the season.

The Huskies, meanwhile, have one of the best returning offenses in all of college football.

This battle of Chris Petersen’s two former squads will be a big one. They’ve surprisingly only met 5 times in history, with Washington winning 3, including in 2019.

UCLA at San Diego State, Week 2

Both the Bruins and Aztecs have to replace some major athletic production in 2023, but what a fun swan song for UCLA, bidding goodbye to the Pac-12 with a matchup against the league’s newest potential member. And what a nice opportunity for SDSU to prove a thing or two to its neighbors to the north.

The last time these teams met, in 2019, the Aztecs defeated the Bruins for the first time in program history after 21 consecutive losses. A second straight win would be wild.

Utah at Baylor, Week 2

Baylor is looking to bounce back from a down year under Dave Aranda, and a win over the two-time defending Rose Bowl entrants would be a coup for the Bears. Baylor loses a ton of talent this year, ranking 100th in ESPN’s returning production rankings, but the Bears shouldn’t be counted out. Let’s not forget: 2 years ago, they won 12 games.

Baylor will be looking to stop Rising and Co. with a retooled defense featuring 10 new recruits with 3 stars or better.

The Utes will have to contend with 2022 All-Big 12 honorable mention selection Blake Shapen, who completed better than 63% of his passes, 5th-best in program history. He needs to do more with his accuracy, though, finishing with just 2,709 yards. Utah doesn’t want to see any progress first-hand, though.

Washington at Michigan State, Week 3

In a Week 3 that is relatively light in terms of competition, the most intriguing matchup is Washington’s rematch with Michigan State. Last year’s game served as a coming out party for Michael Penix Jr., who passed for 397 yards and 4 touchdowns with zero interceptions in the win over the Spartans.

This time, Washington is even better. The Huskies had one of the best offseasons in the sport with the return of Penix, a terrific trio of receivers in Rome Odunze, Ja’Lynn Polk and Jalen McMillan, and some major defensive stars like Bralen Trice. The Spartans, meanwhile, return the 11th-most offensive production nationally but lose 83% of their defensive production, which ultimately may be a good thing for a unit that struggled last year.