Four Week 3 games pitting teams from the Big Ten Conference against members of the Pac-12 highlight a strong Saturday slate.
On a weekend I have taken upon myself to dub "War of the Roses," Bleacher Report Big Ten Lead Writer Andrew Coppens and I discussed a few finer points of this series.
Visit Andrew's Big Ten Blog for previews with a Midwest slant, and to read the other end of our Q&A.
Q: The proposed, annual Big Ten vs. Pac-12 series was squashed before it really got going. Washington coach Steve Sarkisian said on Tuesday's teleconference call he prefers that so he can schedule SEC, ACC and Big 12 in alternating years. What is sentiment in Big Ten country about the abortive series?
A: Oh, what could've been, right? Seriously though, most in Big Ten country were looking forward to this agreement, not just in football but across the spectrum. It's no secret these two conferences have perhaps the closest relationship of any, and the annual matchups sure would've been fun to see.
However, most Pac-12 people won't like this next part. Most here in Big Ten country saw the absolution of the agreement as the Pac-12 chickening out.
Not so much the mid-level teams like [Washington State] or Oregon State, but for teams like Stanford and USC, who wouldn't possibly want to play two tough non-conference games. [note: USC and Stanford maintain annual non-conference games with Notre Dame.] Going forward it will be fun to see how the relationship develops, given the postseason matchups that will happen in the Holiday and Kraft Fight Hunger bowls.
Q: Which of the four games Saturday is most important to the Big Ten and why?
A: I think it is the Wisconsin game at Arizona State. As much as the Top 25 matchup between UCLA and Nebraska is big, this one is bigger, because we really don't know if these two teams are for real yet. A win out west against an opponent that has never lost to a Big Ten team at home?
Yeah, that would be a big deal. Wisconsin went out to Corvallis last year and laid a stinker against the Beavers and then closed the season out in a heart-wrenching loss to Stanford in the Rose Bowl.
Getting the west coast monkey off its back will be huge. It would also signal to teams like Ohio State that they aren't going to cakewalk over these guys like some seem to think.
The feeling I get around the Badger program is that they feel confident and a little hurt that others don't recognize how good they actually are.
Q: Which Big Ten players that Pac-12 followers might be getting their first real looks at are likely to wow this weekend? What makes them special?
A: I can't believe I'm saying this, but one of them is Illinois' Nathan Scheelhaase. He's been amazing so far, leading the Big Ten in passing and 3rd in efficiency as well. His 2012 season was a complete disaster between ineffective play and a bad knee injury. The comeback so far has been great.
Outside of that, I think people will want to watch for a pair of freshmen in Dontre Wilson of Ohio State and Corey Clement of Wisconsin.
It remains to be seen exactly how much playing time both will get, but over the first two weeks of the season, they look like they belong on the field.
Q: Since the turn of the millennium, the Big Ten has just two wins in the Rose Bowl Game. How much motivation is that for the conference's teams in this series?
A: Honestly, I'm not sure the Rose Bowl is much of a motivation for anyone this week, if only because not one of the matchups is between teams that played each other in a Rose Bowl recently.
On the flip side though, Wisconsin has dropped the last three and two of those to Pac-12 teams, so you can bet guys like Chris Borland and Beau Allen will remind the rest of the Badgers how important this game can be to building back their reputation.
For everyone else, it's about testing themselves in 2013 and not looking backwards as much.
Kyle Kensing is the Pac-12 Lead Writer. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow Kyle on Twitter @kensing45.