It's never too early to talk about the most exciting games of the next football season, and according to ESPN the Oregon Ducks will be in two of the Pac-12's 10 most compelling games of 2016.
The first game to make the list is Oregon at Washington State at No. 7. Here's what the Worldwide Leader's David Lombardi had to say about the Oct. 1 matchup:
The Cougars don't appear to be fading anytime soon. [Starting quarterback Luke] Falk is back, as are key receivers Gabe Marks and River Cracraft. The team's three running backs also return, so the table is set for a prolific offense to pair with an improving defense on the Palouse. That's a potent combination -- one that should be very frightening to Cardinal and Ducks teams that both must replace their quarterbacks and integral pieces of their offensive lines.
Stanford and Oregon have owned the Pac-12 North ever since the league's expansion in 2011, but cracks began to show this past season, and this game has the potential to hasten a changing of the guard in that division -- especially since the current top dogs are in such states of transition.
Despite his words about cracks beginning to show, Lombardi's second Ducks game on the list is the Nov. 12 home game against Stanford at No. 2:
Until one or two other teams seize the spotlight, this is the Pac-12's premiere game. Stanford and Oregon are the only two programs to have won a league title since its expansion in 2011. In fact, one has to go back to the Pete Carroll era at USC -- 2008 -- to find the last team not named the Cardinal or Ducks to have won a conference championship.
This has also become a pivotal game in the larger national picture. It has carried significant national title implications in each season this decade. In 2010 and 2011, Oregon beat Stanford to prevent the Cardinal from playing for all the marbles. In 2012 and 2013, Stanford administered similar payback. And a year after the Ducks beat a weaker Cardinal team en route to the College Football Playoff in 2014, they upset the resurgent 2015 Stanford team that would have otherwise ended in the final four.
So, at this rate, the 2016 rematch will again have plenty at stake.
What beat Oregon-Stanford for No. 1 on the list? The non-conference matchup of USC vs. Alabama on Sept. 3.