Pac-12 Football: Power Ranking the 5 Toughest In-Conference Schedules
The depth of the Pac-12 Conference seems to have gotten considerably better from a season ago.
Both Stanford and Oregon are Top Five teams in the current AP Top 25 and USA Today polls. UCLA and Washington are also ranked, and Arizona State is right outside of the Top 25.
The in-conference schedule won't be a cakewalk for any team in the conference. In particular, some programs face incredibly tough road schedules.
Here is a look at the toughest in-conference schedules in the Pac-12.
After finishing last season 1-11, Colorado has already doubled its win total in 2013. New head coach Mike MacIntyre looks to have the Buffs on the right track.
The schedule in 2013 doesn't do the Buffs any favors. Road contests against the likes of UCLA, Utah, Washington and Arizona State will definitely provide tests for the young football team.
At home, Colorado will host explosive offenses in Oregon and Arizona.
MacIntyre's team does appear to be improved from a season ago. However, the tough in-conference schedule this year looks to signal yet another rough year in Boulder.
Colorado's full schedule can be found here.
4. Washington State
Captain Mike Leach and his pirate ship full of Cougars will have to sail often from the sleepy hamlet of Pullman, Wash.
The Cougars fared well in the first tough road test of the season. Leach's bunch defeated the Southern Cal Trojans in the Coliseum. The Trojans don't appear to be a great football team at this point, but the win was significant nonetheless. It was the first time that Washington State has won in Los Angeles since 2000.
Road games at Oregon, Arizona and Washington will not be easy by any stretch. In addition, the Cougars will face Stanford in Seattle at CenturyLink Field.
Wazzu will also play upstart Arizona State at home. Aside from perhaps UCLA, the Cougars will likely play four of the top five teams in the conference.
Washington State's full schedule can be found here.
Jim Mora's UCLA Bruins have a tough road to navigate in order to repeat as Pac-12 South Division Champions.
At home, notable opponents include Washington and Arizona State. Both the Sun Devils and Huskies seem to be similar to UCLA in terms of talent levels. Playing each at home is a considerable advantage. Also, it could ultimately be a UCLA-Arizona State battle for the Pac-12 South Division.
The road schedule is considerably daunting.
UCLA will face Stanford and Oregon on the road in back-to-back weeks. Facing two top-five teams is difficult enough. Facing those two teams on the road, in consecutive weeks, is downright cruel.
The Bruins will play Utah in Salt Lake City and will also travel down to Tucson to take on Arizona. Tucson has been a house of horrors for the Bruins. UCLA has not beaten the Wildcats in Tucson since 2003.
The Bruins end the year against the Trojans in the Coliseum. Based on what's currently transpired with both programs, UCLA should win. However, everything gets thrown out in regard to a rivalry game. Truly anything can happen.
UCLA's full schedule can be found here.
Washington is a program on the rise. Steve Sarkisian inherited a team that went 0-12 in 2008. Since, he's done a great job at rebuilding the roster and making the Huskies a viable threat in the Pac-12 North Division.
The 2013 in-conference schedule doesn't do Washington any favors.
The home schedule isn't too bad, although hated rival Oregon heads to Montlake in October. To end the year, the Huskies take on in-state rival Washington State. Last season, the Cougars beat the Huskies in the annual Apple Cup. This is a game that will be fiercely contested.
On the road is where things become arduous.
Washington will have to travel to Arizona State, UCLA, Stanford and Oregon State for games. These contests should give a good indication as to how good Washington truly is. The game in Corvallis against the Beavers could be a trap game.
Washington's full schedule can be found here.
In Sonny Dykes' inaugural season in the Pac-12, he was greeted with a ridiculously difficult in-conference slate.
The Golden Bears have road games against Stanford, Oregon, UCLA and Washington. The aforementioned quartet comprises potentially the four best teams in the conference.
Not only that, but the Golden Bears will host two explosive offenses at home in Washington State and Arizona. Neither of those games could be construed as "gimmes" by any stretch of the situation. Although down, Southern Cal also travels up to Strawberry Canyon.
The Golden Bears might have a tough season. The overall youth on the team is immense, and injuries have decimated what was supposed to be a solid defense.
Cal's entire schedule can be found here.