The Gophers have a new coach in Jerry Kill and have struggled over the past few years, but they're physical and have talented players, particularly quarterback MarQueis Gray, a game-breaking receiver before switching positions this season.
"You could see with the ball in his hands as a receiver last year, how dangerous and explosive and quick he is, how powerful he is," USC coach Lane Kiffin said. "It's very scary for us. Here's a guy people were having a hard time handling when he was getting the ball six or seven times a game and now he's touching the ball every snap. We're going to have our hands full. This is going to be a big-time challenge for our defense."
UCLA faces a difficult opening challenge in what could be a make-or-break season for coach Rick Neuheisel.
Neuheisel is under pressure this year after a pair of 4-8 records in his three seasons at his alma mater. The Bruins have 16 starters back and plenty of talent, but Houston is loaded with playmakers and has Keenum, who's chasing the all-time NCAA records for yards and touchdowns after tearing his ACL last season.
"It's an important game for us," said Neuheisel, who hasn't decided whether Kevin Prince or Richard Brehaut will start at quarterback. "Will it make or break our season? Absolutely not, but it'll help get ourselves on the right track and believing that things are going our way and it's going to be a really exciting year."
Eleven other coaches and teams in this new version of the conference feel the exact same way.
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