Scheduling 101: Analysis and Applied Theory

In honor of those students returning to school this week and for Wildcat freshman gracing our campus for the first time, I kindly ask that you step into my classroom so we can briefly discuss an important aspect of your fall semester curriculum – gaining a clear understanding of our football schedule.

First off, pull out your calendars and place a huge "X" on the dates of September 2nd, 9th, 16th, 23rd and 30th, as well as October 7th, 14th, and 21st. Then cross out every Saturday in November from the 4th to the 25th because you're going to be busy those days. Second call home to mom and dad and tell them that you'll be cutting your Thanksgiving weekend short because you have to return to school for a final exam. If they question you, tell them it's an advanced studies course that will help you obtain your degree sooner and deny, deny, deny that you'll actually be heading back to the Center of the Universe to attend the UA/ASU game. For you freshman, the advanced studies thing is a lie that your parents will eventually uncover but when they do hopefully it's three years from now when you're a junior or "second-year sophomore" and are so adept at lying when you call home that you'll be able to convince dear old dad that deceiving your mom so you could go to the big rivalry game as a freshman was his idea in the first place. Third, write down these three rules and put them somewhere safe, yet easily accessible. One – if you find yourself needing to study for a particular class on a Saturday during football season, you should consider dropping that course. After all, that's what summer school in college is for. Two – If you're dating someone and they want to do anything besides watch football on our game days, then, well, you know, you might want to consider finding another mate. After all, that's why UA has an enrollment of over 25,000 students. Third, buy something red and wear it to the games. After all, you're only a college student once so embrace it. Fourth, get to know the football schedule; love it, learn it, live it.

Without further ado, let's move onto our schedule. At first glance, this season looks to be a brutal one. We open with a BYU squad whose program is experiencing a resurgence that is not all too different from ours. We then travel to Death Valley to play a Top 10 team in LSU, which is closely followed by us hosting another Top 10 opponent, USC. We then finish the season by playing who most experts consider to be three of the top four teams in our conference – Cal, Oregon and ASU. So, why am I smiling you might ask? I'm smiling because there's more to a schedule then just a list of the teams who are on it.

Wildcat Insider reader Johnv8r started a thread in one of our forums that discussed the interesting aspects of Pac-10 scheduling this season. He astutely pointed out that bye weeks are an integral factor in every league schedule and proceeded to outline what each conference foes' prep week looked like throughout the entire season. In short, no single team gets a week off prior to playing Arizona while UA gets an extra week to prepare for Wazzou. This got me to thinking…what other quirks in our schedule could possibly benefit us? After some thoughtful analysis, it hit me like a Luis Holmes clothesline tackle – every team we play has a monster game either the week before, or the week after they play us and in some cases both before and after they play us.

This is huge. You always here analysts say things like, "they better not look ahead to next week's game against [insert big name school]." Analysts use these sorts of clichés because clichés are oftentimes true and in our case, I really think if any team makes the mistake of overlooking us then they're going to get smacked like the Bruins did last season. Quickly, here's how our Pac-10 season schedule plays out. Our first opponent is USC at home. They play an intersectional non-conference game against Nebraska the week prior and then travel to Wazzou to play the Cougars on the road after visiting Tucson. While the Washington State game may seem like no big deal, keep in mind that the last time they played the Trojans in Pullman they won. Up next is Washington at home who will have hosted the Bruins the prior week before traveling to USC after they visit us. UCLA faces Stanford prior to getting a visit from Arizona. This will be a tough game for us because of the "payback" issue but it's not like we beat them on a last second field goal last year. We beat them by 38 points for crying out loud. Also, let us not forget that the Bruins have to pack their bags for a trip to Eugene to play the Ducks the following week.

Stanford's schedule is ludicrous. They play at UCLA and at Notre Dame before hosting us. Then they go back on the road to play ASU in Tempe before finally getting a bye week. Oregon State plays at Washington, then comes to Tucson, and then hosts USC. Washington State catches us after our aforementioned bye week right between road games against UCLA and ASU. Ouch! The Cal Bears play us in Tucson in mid-November right after they host the Bruins and right before they play the Trojans in the Coliseum. That is not an easy stretch as the battle for state supremacy will likely be on the line during that stretch. Oregon gets us at that hockey arena they call a stadium but not before playing the Trojans in Los Angeles. More notably, Oregon will renew its Civil War rivalry with the Beavers the following week. I wonder who their minds will be on more – the Cats or the Beavers. As for the Sun Devils, they get us in the last game of the season where anything goes. They do play the Bruins the previous week but if what I'm saying in this article actually holds water, the Sun Devils are more likely to be looking ahead to our game which will increase their likelihood of losing to UCLA but should have little or no effect on how they prepare for us.

So, with Cal, Oregon State and Washington possibly overlooking Arizona in favor of their match up with USC, USC coming off a game against Nebraska, and Oregon, Stanford, and Washington State having to play us wedged between two tough opponents, all that's left is a UCLA team coached by Karl Dorrell and an Arizona State team coached by Dirk Koetter. Is it really possible that we could go undefeated in the Pac-10 and earn a Rose Bowl birth? Most would say no, but on paper the schedule is definitely in our favor. And besides, as Ronnie Lott once said, "If you can believe it, the mind can achieve it."

Bear Down!

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