Breaking Down the 2013 Pac-12 Football Schedule
After a week of dissecting and analyzing the Pac-12's 2013 football schedules, we've come up with a breakdown of everything you need to know about your team's schedule.
Some teams have an easier non-conference schedule than others. Some teams have a more difficult conference schedule than others. Some schedules have oddly-timed bye weeks
Some teams also have a clearer path to the conference championship.
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Washington State is trying to turn its program around in Mike Leach's second year as head coach of the Cougars, but this schedule doesn't help him nor the team in the least bit. The Cougars open the first two games of 2013 at Auburn and then at USC.
The Cougars get a break playing Southern Utah and Idaho but after that, I don't see another win: Stanford, at Cal, Oregon State, at Oregon, Arizona State, at Arizona, Utah and at Washington.
Washington State couldn't even draw Colorado from the South.
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The only thing missing from the Arizona Wildcats' non-conference schedule is some frosting and sprinkles—it's that much of a cupcake. Arizona opens with Northern Arizona, travels to UNLV and then hosts UTSA (Texas-San Antonio).
The Wildcats also get byes before two of their toughest games—at Washington and at USC—and get Colorado and Cal on the road.
Arizona drew Washington, Washington State, Cal and Oregon from the North—two of those teams didn't even go bowling in 2012-13—so overall, it's not a bad draw and at least Arizona doesn't travel to Oregon.
All in all, this schedule is the easiest one in the Pac-12.
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Several Pac-12 teams have a rough stretch ahead of them.
Arizona State's first six weeks are a killer. In their first week of the season the Sun Devils have a bye and don't get another bye until week eight. They start out with Sacramento State but after that, it's a mine field: hosting Wisconsin, at Stanford, hosting USC and then playing Notre Dame in Arlington, TX.
Utah also has a tough opening stretch playing Utah State, Oregon State and at BYU in three of the first four weeks before playing UCLA, Stanford, at Arizona, at USC, Arizona State and then at Oregon—all nine of those teams went bowling in 2012-13.
Washington has a three-week stretch at Stanford, Oregon and at Arizona State. As mentioned before, Washington State has back-to-back road games at Auburn and at USC in the first two weeks and a second brutal stretch of Stanford, at Cal, Oregon State and at Oregon.
Finally, Oregon State ends the last five weeks of the regular season this way: Stanford, USC, at Arizona State, Washington and at Oregon.
Who Avoids Who
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Pac-12 teams play all (five) of their in-division opponents and four cross-division opponents. So every season, a team avoids two teams from its cross-division.
USC avoids Oregon and Washington but UCLA isn't nearly as lucky. The Bruins draw both Stanford and Oregon on the road and also host Washington and Cal, so they avoid Washington State and Oregon State.
Roadblocks to Conference Championship
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Which teams have roadblocks to winning the Pac-12 crown? Actually, all of them do but among the contenders, these stand out the most.
Utah: Hosting Oregon State before playing its Holy War game at BYU is a trap-game. But playing UCLA, Stanford, at Arizona, at USC, Arizona State and at Oregon is also a tall order for the Utes.
Washington: If the Huskies can get through the three-game stretch of at Stanford, Oregon and at Arizona State 3-0, then they could play in the championship game, but Stanford and Oregon back-to-back is tough.
Arizona: Playing three soft teams before conference play can sometimes backfire, but the Wildcats have that very scenario in front of them. Arizona has to play at Washington, take a bye and then play at USC after games with Northern Arizona, UNLV and UTSA.
Arizona State: The Sun Devils have Stanford and USC sandwiched between Wisconsin and Notre Dame. They could be 0-2 in conference play or 1-4 (beating Sacramento State) after five weeks.
USC: The Trojans' first big test comes in week five at Arizona State, but this coming season is going to come down to a Friday night game at Oregon State on November 1—the town of Corvallis hasn't been kind to USC.
UCLA: If the Bruins can split their two back-to-back games at Stanford and at Oregon, then UCLA will most likely be in the driver's seat in the regular season's final two weeks—it has to beat either Arizona State or USC.
Stanford: The Cardinal and the Oregon Ducks look like the North's heavyweights. A sole loss to Oregon could prevent Stanford from repeating as Pac-12 North Champions.
Oregon: The Ducks have two games that should concern them: at Washington and a Thursday night game at Stanford.
Oregon State: The Beavers' last three games could be too much to overcome—at Arizona State, Washington and at Oregon. Washington is a trap game right before the Beavers' annual Civil War game with Oregon.
Roadblocks to BCS Championship
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Last season, Oregon came very close to moving on to the BCS Championship game—Stanford knocked out the No. 2 Ducks in overtime. So of the serious Pac-12 contenders for the BCS Championship, who has the biggest road block?
Oregon: Stanford remains its biggest roadblock. But don't sleep on the Ducks' non-conference game with Tennessee in week three.
Stanford: Besides Oregon, Stanford has to contend with Notre Dame as well—the Fighting Irish made a tremendous goal line stand to give Stanford its second loss of the 2012-13 season.
UCLA: The Bruins did very well against its non-conference opponents in 2012 but this time around, UCLA will play Nebraska in Lincoln—that's a tough venue. Moreover, Nevada—the Bruins' season home opener—is no cakewalk. Remember, Arizona barely beat Nevada, 49-48, in the 2012 New Mexico Bowl.
USC: The Trojans could sleep on Utah State—last year Utah lost 27-20 (OT) to Utah State and BYU struggled in its 6-3 win over the Aggies. Notre Dame and Oregon State on the road are also concerning.
Arizona State: The Sun Devils have a championship schedule if we've ever seen one. If they can get through Sacramento State, Wisconsin, Stanford, USC and Notre Dame with a 4-1 or 5-0 record, then their last game at UCLA could have championship game implications.
Washington: The Huskies had a brutal mid-season stretch in 2012-13 that accounted for three straight losses (Stanford, Oregon, USC) and this season's schedule has that same one-two punch with a road trip to Stanford, Oregon and then at Arizona State. They also open with Boise State, which could very well determine the direction their season will go.
Best Non-Conference Match-Ups
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Washington vs Boise State: The Broncos beat the Huskies in the 2012 Las Vegas Bowl so the revenge factor is there.
Washington State at Auburn: This would be just the perfect game for Mike Leach to unleash his Air Raid offense and shock the SEC.
Utah at BYU: It's the Holy War, 'nuff said.
Oregon vs Tennessee: The Ducks taking on an SEC team? Yes, please. More please.
Oregon State at San Diego State: The Washington Huskies struggled against the Aztecs in their 2012-13 season opener and the Aztecs beat Boise State last season.
Cal vs Ohio State: Ohio State is no longer banned from bowl season and Cal has a new head coach in Sonny Dykes. This could be a fun game to watch.
Stanford vs Notre Dame: If last season's game wasn't reason enough to circle this on your calendars this season, then you're not a true college football fan.
USC vs Utah State: The Aggies' perfect 2012 season was just five points away—that's the combined point total of their losses to Wisconsin and BYU.
UCLA at Nebraska: UCLA punched the Cornhuskers in the gut in its 36-30 victory last season. But this season, the two teams play in Lincoln, one of the toughest venues in which UCLA will have ever played.
Arizona State vs Wisconsin: Will the Pac-12 continue its domination over the Big Ten? Or will new head coach Gary Andersen—former coach of Utah State—make Wisconsin a fun team to watch again?
Arizona State vs Notre Dame in Arlington, TX: The Fighting Irish are 2-0 against the Sun Devils but it'll be fun to watch a non-secular school play a team with "Devils" in its nickname.
Early Games of the Season
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USC at Hawai'i: We should know fairly quickly if the new and improved USC defense is on the field and whether or not USC appears more focused on lesser-perceived opponents.
UCLA vs Nevada: Three teams that always have an upset up their sleeves are Nevada, Utah State and Boise State.
Washington vs Boise State: See above.
Washington State at Auburn: An upset by the Cougars would be the most Mike Leach-thing ever.
Utah vs Utah State: Last season's score was 27-20, Utah State.
Oregon at Nevada: Nevada lost 69-20 to the Ducks last season—maybe Oregon will score 80 this year.
Cal vs Northwestern: The Wildcats beat the Mississippi State Bulldogs 34-20 in the Gator Bowl so let's not dismiss how good a head coach Pat Fitzgerald is.
Worst Non-Conference Match-Ups
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Arizona vs Texas-San Antonio: I guess playing UNLV and Northern Arizona wasn't sweet enough to satisfy the Wildcats' sweet tooth, so they added a new WAC team that won eight games under head coach Larry Coker. This game could be closer than experts think.
USC vs Boston College: This home-and-home series makes no sense whatsoever.
UCLA vs New Mexico State: I'd expect the SEC or the Big Ten to schedule the Aggies—those two conferences' teams have played the Aggies five times in the last six seasons—but not UCLA.
Washington vs Illinois (in Chicago): This series is another one that makes no sense. No matter which team wins, no one will be pounding his chest over it.
Colorado vs Central Arkansas: Will anyone watch this game on television?
Arizona State vs Sacramento State: Both Arizona and Arizona State take turns every season scheduling Northern Arizona. This season it's Arizona's turn so the Sun Devils scheduled a Northern California FCS team in its place. Any team from New Mexico would make more geographical sense.
Worst Bye Weeks
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Byes are so important to football teams—they provide players time to heal from injuries and also give the coaching staffs an extra week to prepare for a big game. Sometimes; however, the byes are not well-timed.
USC only gets one bye week due to playing 13 games—teams that schedule Hawai'i are allowed an extra game in their regular season schedule. USC takes its bye in week six before a Thursday night date with Arizona. If they had their bye one week later, the Trojans could have had a bye before Notre Dame.
UCLA has a bye in week two before Nebraska and a bye in week five before Utah. This means UCLA will now have to play nine straight weeks without a bye.
Arizona State has a bye in week one (ugh) and its second bye is before—drum roll please—Washington State?
Oregon State has a bye before Washington State in week six and a bye after Stanford and USC in week 11.
Cal has a bye in week four before Oregon, and then takes its final bye in week 14, the final week of regular season play.
Stanford has a bye in its opening week—before San Jose State—but does take a well-advised bye before Oregon in week 10.