SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -Two Pac-10 teams are assured of having one conference loss before the calendar even reaches September.
The opening weekend of play in the Pac-10 is highlighted by two conference tilts, with Stanford hosting Oregon State on Thursday night and Washington visiting Oregon on Saturday.
``We probably would choose another route,'' Oregon State coach Mike Riley said. ``But I know our players are excited about it. It's certainly a big challenge on the road against Stanford right off the bat. This is the lot that's been cast.''
This is the third straight year Stanford has opened the season against a conference team, with the Cardinal losing to UCLA and Oregon the past two seasons. The Ducks last did it in that 2006 home game against the Cardinal, while it has been 10 years since the Huskies did it and 14 years for the Beavers.
Playing any opener can be tough for a college coach, where the lack of preseason games provide a level of mystery about how good his team is and what the opponent will do.
But Oregon coach Mike Bellotti sees a bright spot as well.
``Sometimes starting out with a lesser opponent, you don't learn as much about your team,'' he said. ``Obviously this is an equal opponent, a Pac-10 opponent, a rivalry team. It's great. It's got our players' attention from the point six months ago when we announced this game.''
The Pac-10 is the only BCS league to have any conference games on the opening weekend. That's in part because the Pac-10 is the only one of those six conferences to have nine league games, making it more difficult to fit all those games into the schedule.
``We play nine conference games, so there are no cupcakes on the schedule,'' Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh said. ``Every week that you play there will be high quality football teams, great athletes, well-coached teams. If I did have the authority to make the schedule, I would try to find a cupcake or two.''
Arizona State, California and Washington State open conference play next weekend. UCLA hosts Arizona in the Pac-10 opener for both teams on Sept. 20.
Southern California won't play its first conference game until four weeks after the Cardinal and Beavers open the Pac-10 season. The Trojans visit Oregon State for a Thursday night game on Sept. 25. That same weekend, Stanford will play its third conference game at Washington.
AD WARS: UCLA is making a direct challenge to USC's dominance in the Pac-10 already under new coach Rick Neuheisel.
In an advertisement this week in the Los Angeles Times, Neuheisel is pictured pointing straight ahead under the message: ``The Football Monopoly In Los Angeles Is Officially OVER.''
``It looks like we have our marketing program convinced,'' Neuheisel said. ``I saw it for the first time this morning. My wife said it was a nice picture. That's all I know.''
Neuheisel said surpassing USC is a goal for the Bruins and he saw no reason to hide it or to fear that it would inspire the Trojans.
``That game in my experience is a game that everybody is going to bring their A game anyway,'' he said. ``I don't imagine we could get their guys to plan any harder than they would have. I'm not concerned with that.''
USC Pete Carroll isn't taking much offense, at least publicly, saying he hadn't even seen the ad.
``I don't know much about that,'' Carroll said.
COACHING DEBUTS: Rick Neuheisel and Paul Wulff know what it's like to be involved in a football game at UCLA and Washington State, respectively.
Being the head coach at their alma mater is a different story.
Neuheisel, who played for the Bruins and spent seven years there as an assistant, makes his debut as UCLA's head coach on Sunday against No. 18 Tennessee.
``I'm very excited for the game,'' he said. ``There's no question it will be fun to run out of the Rose Bowl tunnel. But that will be short-lived because on the other side of the field will be the Tennessee Volunteers and we all know what kind of program they are. You can't get too lost in the moment or you will get it rained on your head pretty quickly.''
Wulff, a former center for the Cougars, begins his tenure with a game against Oklahoma State in Seattle.
``It's a little surreal still,'' he said. ``It feel like things aren't totally settled. We're ready for a game. It's time. We worked really hard to get to this point. I don't know that we're 100 percent settled in everything we do. We've made a lot of headway. This game will be a measuring stuck so we can build from there.''
EXTRA POINTS: Arizona State is the only Pac-10 team opening the season against a team from the lower Football Championship Subdivision, with a game against Northern Arizona. ... Washington State plays Portland State on Sept. 20 in the only other Pac-10 game against an FCS school. ... QB Kevin Riley makes his second career start for California against Michigan State. In Riley's first start, he tried to run with the ball in the final seconds instead of throwing it away, costing the Bears the chance at a game-tying field goal in a 31-28 loss to Oregon State. Cal would have been in position to move up to No. 1 in the poll with a win, but instead lost six of its final seven regular season games.

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