|Sept 1||vs. San Jose State|
|Sept 8||vs. Duke|
|Sept 15||vs. USC|
|Thursday Sept 27||at Washington|
|Oct. 6||vs. Arizona|
|Oct. 13||at Notre Dame|
|Oct. 20||at California|
|Oct. 27||vs. Washington State|
|Nov. 3||at Colorado|
|Nov. 10||vs. Oregon State|
|Nov. 17||at Oregon|
|Nov. 24||at UCLA|
- Six home games versus six road games. With Notre Dame on the road and the ninth Pac-12 game on the road, it's an even 6/6 split, which is as bad as it gets for a BCS-conference team.
- The important games are on the road. I see five gimmes on the schedule. I see the remaining seven games as losable, at least today, when we have little idea as to how good the opponents or 2012 Stanford will be. Of these seven competitive games, five are on the road, and the USC home game will be before school starts in earnest. Stanford will have a true home field advantage in exactly one competitive game this season: versus Arizona on October 6. On the flip side, it's now that much less likely that the Redcoats cost us a game.
- Thursday nighter in Seattle. A rowdy atmosphere in a city that has been Stanford's kryptonite for decades.
- No true bye week with said Thursday night game.
- The date most analogous to a bye is Sept. 22, which is far earlier than ideal. As a result, Stanford will end the season playing eight straight games. We're going on the road to Oregon and UCLA for the final two games, contests that should go a long way to determining our bowl fate. Think we'll be tired?
- The crappy opponents are bunched together. It'd be really great to have Colorado in between Notre Dame and Cal, or Washington State in between USC and Washington, allowing us to rest up the best we can in lieu of a true bye week, and giving us time to recover and get up for another huge game. Instead the five gimmes are clumped into a SJSU/Duke block and a Washington State/Colorado/Oregon State block. The flip side, of course, is that we get USC and Washington back to back, and Notre Dame and Cal abut each other as well.
- This year, Stanford was clear favorites in its first seven games, with USC, Oregon, California and Notre Dame in the final five contests. Next year, a Stanford team losing four potential first-rounders and many other key players could really use a backloaded schedule like that. However, it's just a two-week honeymoon period and then USC/Washington/Arizona/Notre Dame/Cal. Good luck, Brett Nottingham. And whomever fills David DeCastro's shoes. And Jonathan Martin's shoes. And Delano Howell's shoes. And Michael Thomas' shoes. And so on.
- We miss Utah and Arizona State. Yeah, they're both dangerous on paper, but both teams disappointed in their first year in the Pac-12. ASU has disappointed since the Jake Plummer and Terrell Suggs played in the desert and Utah has a long way to go to prove it belongs in a big boy conference. C'est la vie when you play USC and UCLA every year.
- Finally, this hasn't mattered for years because we were too bad, and now it didn't matter these last two seasons because we were too good, but the Pac-12 bowl tie-ins are a joke. There are, count ‘em, zero New Year's Day games outside of the Rose Bowl. The No. 3 team in the conference (presumably Stanford if USC and Oregon finish one/two) goes to the Alamo Bowl… to face the Big 12's fifth-place team. Meanwhile, the Pac-12's fifth-place team goes to the Maaco Bowl. The Pac-12, of course, has more teams than the Big 12. Larry Scott, fix this! Until then though, unless David Shaw is the national coach of the year and brings Stanford to its third straight BCS game, it's going to be an underwhelming bowl destination.
Okay, with that out of the way, two final thoughts. First, one redeeming feature of the schedule is that the Pac-12 North opponents come late, with all but one coming in the final six games. That backloaded divisional schedule could be helpful if we gel and make a late push for the division crown. Yeah, it seems unlikely, but if we can come together by November 17 and win in Autzen, we're odds-on favorites to be playing for a conference title.
Finally, a schedule like this should take expectations off the team. Folks who study the schedule will realize that it's worth about an additional loss as compared to 2011's friendlier schedule. Plus, unless we sneak by preseason top-five USC and/or Oregon and into the BCS, we're not playing in a January bowl, as mentioned above. So an additional loss won't likely cost us a primo New Year's Day bowl game and $15 million, but instead, bump us from the Alamo to the Holiday Bowl. Should take a little pressure off a squad that has the unenviable task of trying to fill the biggest footprints in school history.
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