It's just one weekend in late September.
In a place far, far away.
A place called the Palouse that seems like -- except for the wheat fields -- you could almost fit it onto the USC campus.
A place that when they say "You can't get there from here," they're not exactly exaggerating.
A place where the expression "It may not be the end of the world but you can see it from there," is pretty much on the money.
A place where for most people, the best way to watch a football game there, even at remodeled Martin Stadium, is on TV.
And there's our problem.
And the trifecta -- the Pac-12, the Palouse and problem TV -- especially for, but not limited to, USC.
Just another example of how badly the Pac-12 doesn't get it.
Here they have this bonus big game dumped right into their laps. What could well be an unbeaten Washington State team led by a consensus first-round NFL Draft pick in senior quarterback Luke Falk and maybe the best offensive lineman in the nation, 6-foot-8, 354-pound Cody O'Connell, giving Mike Leach the weapons to pull out the throttle on his wide-open offense.
We're saying "unbeaten" as we look at four straight WSU home games against Montana State, Oregon State, Nevada and the toughest challenge, Boise State, before USC comes to town for a fifth-straight home game for the Cougs. And people get all excited when USC opens with three straight at home.
Looking at how this breaks down, it may be tougher for USC to get here unbeaten than for the Cougs. But should that happen, a USC team in the top two or three after hoped-for wins over Stanford and Texas and led by Heisman favorite Sam Darnold, will offer the Pac-12 its second big, big conference matchup in the first month of the season after USC-Stanford.
Imagine if Ohio State had to play Penn State and Wisconsin in September or Alabama had to face LSU and Tennessee right away. Of course that doesn't happen anywhere else. The Big Ten and SEC build to their big games, keeping conference teams ranked as high as they can for as long as they can.
And sure that's harder to do in the Pac-12 because who the heck knows when a Washington State will get it together. But here they are.
So maybe give the Pac-12 a pass on that, even if its Michigan-Ohio State game is often played in Week 2 when Stanford comes to the Coliseum for what will be an ESPN GameDay candidate between two Top 10 teams, we're guessing. It happens almost every year. What else is new?
Well, what's new is so would the USC-Washington State game be a candidate.
Would have been, is more like it -- if the Pac-12 had scheduled this big game on Saturday of Week 5. But no, the Pac-12 allowed this game to be part of its way-too-extensive Friday night TV package so people on the East Coast and Midwest will get to see some of the best offensive football anywhere -- as long as they stay up past midnight when they get home from their local high school game.
This is a game that could have helped make the case that folks out West can play football. But only if people watch it. Which most won't. And now with the teams not at the top of the Big Ten also playing on Friday, USC-WSU will be going against Nebraska-Illinois.
Let's just say this here: USC should never agree to or be assigned to a Friday night game. It's not in USC's best interests. It's not in the Pac-12's best interests. It's not in TV's best interests. And it's not in college football's best interests. Heck, it's not even in high school football's best interests.
Everybody involved here should have said no -- including ESPN. They took out a great candidate for their own GameDay show the next day. And when you look at the slate of games available on Saturday of Week 5, USC-Washington State is at worst, the second-best game available nationally. Scour the entire schedule and only Georgia-Tennessee comes close although if you like modern offenses, it's USC-WSU.
Sept. 30 has a brutal slate of games. How long do the networks allow this to happen? The same for USC? Had this game been played on Saturday, USC would have had a shot at the best TV game in three of the first five weeks of the season.
But that's not the most important reason USC should have told the Pac-12 to stick this game in their hat. For the second year in a row, USC's players will be asked in September to go on the road in back-to-back weeks in the conference. How often do you see Alabama or Ohio State have to do that?
But that's not the real issue here. The real issue is that the second travel week is also a short week, requiring midweek travel and an extra day of missed classes for USC's players. That's what happened last year when USC had to travel to Stanford on a Saturday and then the next Friday to Salt Lake City for Utah.
That's when USC should have said no. We won't go. Get someone else. This year they should have said we warned you last year that we're not doing these back-to-back, short-travel-week Friday games ever again. We're guessing USC didn't do that.
But had USC thrown down the gauntlet for the Pac-12 then, said do not ever come back to us with that deal again, they might have been playing on Saturday in the day's featured game -- and on GameDay again.
And how cool would that have been for Washington State, which has had a special relationship with GameDay since Sept. 3, 2003, in Austin, Tex., when the Washington State flag first made its way via alumni all over the country to the GameDay set for what will now be 15 straight seasons. What better way to mark one of the cool traditions in college football? How could ESPN not head to the Palouse for this game and made the case for just how hard it is to get to the Palouse? Would have been great TV.
But only if the game was played on a Saturday. Which it's not.
Everybody involved got it wrong. Which for those of us watching the Pac-12 work up close, is no surprise.
As we've been forced on so many occasions to say, the Pac-12 will never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.