The Huskies might have the most balanced schedule of all, but are playing a National Champion in their first game ("C" game), followed by an always dangerous Hawaii (B game), and then hit their "A" game with the rubber match in Lincoln, Neb. It's a nice progressive build-up, and an obvious sign of smart scheduling.
The conference opens play on a Thursday and will play a Thursday game almost every week of the season. That presents some obvious preparation problems, especially for teams with the short week of a Saturday game leading right into one of those Thursday tilts (only a 5 day turnaround).
The first Thursday of the season is almost a joke, with ASU hosting Cal Davis and Utah hosts Montana State. Of course it doesn't get any better the next Saturday when the Dawgs host another FCS team, Eastern Washington, while the Cougs host a terrible Idaho State team. Of course, mighty Arizona will step up against The Northern Arizona University - yet another lower division school - and the Oregon State Beavers take on Sacramento State.
Come on, that's six straight games against sub-division teams. Of course all the proposed losers will be paid well, but if that isn't scheduling for success then what is it?
Only the Ducks are playing a legit big-time opponent when they take their up-tempo express on the road against the Tigers of LSU. Stanford plays their annual "C" game against San Jose State, and that one won't be close.
The very next Thursday will be the first short week game draw and that goes to Arizona, who will have to travel to Stillwater, Okla. to play Oklahoma State. That is poor scheduling, and it will be a tall order for the Wildcats to win that one on the road. They'd better get that NAU game over early in order to stay fresh. I'd be surprised if Arizona shows anything they will use against the Cowboys in their first game, and will want to rest their starters once they get ahead.
On Friday the Sun Devils of ASU will host Gary Pinkel and his Missouri Tigers. That should be an early benchmark game for the conference, as ASU is picked to finish second in the South and is considered one of the better teams going into the season.
After that first week of set-up games things do get a little harder. But honestly, besides Oregon's tough opener against LSU, the only other "big-time traditional" opponents on any of the schedules will be the Nebraska Cornhuskers hosting the Dawgs, Texas @ UCLA, the OSU Beavers @ Wisconsin, Colorado @The Ohio State University, and Notre Dame's two annual battles with USC and Stanford.
The results of those seven games will mean a heck of a lot more than all the others combined. Sure, there are lots of other solid programs scheduled, like Illinois, Pitt, and BYU, but mostly the Pac-12 Conference has chosen to go the path of least resistance, and that only makes sense in terms of developing your program and system.
Getting to that magic number of six win is really what it's all about - become bowl eligible and get those extra 15 days of practice to develop your team. Think about this; if you can win all three of your out-of-conference games then it's possible to get to a bowl by losing six of your nine conference games. Go figure.
Whatever, California might have signed up the all-time worst opponent since Washington played Aberdeen High School. The third week of the season the Cal Bears hosts Presbyterian. Are you kidding me? I thought that was a church. Isn't it interesting that the game is one week before they play against the Washington Huskies. So, get this right, the UW will be playing Nebraska while Cal is playing Presbyterian. Who do you think is going to be showing the most in their game?
For years I couldn't understand why our administration didn't schedule down more. I distinctly remember having a conversation with our AD Barbara Hedges when we were at the Sun Bowl in El Paso. She had just signed us up for another home and away against Nebraska. We had just beaten them in ‘91 and '92 and they had even visited our spring practices to learn more about our defenses. Then we were put on probation and lost scholarships, and of course they wanted us to honor the revenge series.
I remember telling her, "This is who we should be playing - UTEP - not Nebraska," and she laughed with me but said it wouldn't be until 1997 and ‘98 anyway. I tried to explain that the sanctions would most be felt when the kids in our two restricted classes were seniors, but she didn't hear me because she was only thinking about the television dollars.
Then Nebraska beat us both times, the second time kicking our faces in, won a national championship, and I had lost my job. It wouldn't have happened if we'd played UTEP. Unfortunately, money talks and scheduling walks.
That is precisely why a Presbyterian would schedule Cal, or a Portland State would schedule Washington. All of those lower division teams need those big pay days they get for being a practice game that counts. They are paid to lose, it's as simple as that, but you can't afford to not take them seriously. Remember what Appalachian State did to Michigan. They were in the exact same position as Eastern Washington is, and still won in one on the biggest upsets ever.
I also saw Nevada come into Husky Stadium in 2003 to face Keith Gilbertson's Huskies and stunned them before a home crowd of over 70,000. It was probably the biggest win in Chris Tormey's head coaching career. Because Tormey had coached at Washington it made that win huge (probably the biggest upset I'd ever seen in Husky Stadium).
You certainly can't fault a team like WSU scheduling Idaho State, UNLV, and San Diego State. That's good scheduling for where their program is right now, and that's because they have an AD who is a football guy.
Interestingly, a number of schools like BYU, San Diego State, San Jose State, Hawaii, and Notre Dame actually play two Pac-12 teams each this coming season.
A number of softies were added at the last minute, with Cal's blockbuster against Presbyterian joined by Arizona's season ending contest with Louisiana-Lafayette and Oregon's game against Missouri State (not Missouri, Missouri State).
Future Husky schedules have both Portland State and Eastern Washington, with Hawaii returning for a home and away in 2014 and 2015. The addition of Boise State for a home and home series would now have to be considered "A" games, and there is a return to LSU next year. This sort of scheduling is what makes successful football programs.
I remember in our heyday that Mike Lude had us playing the likes of East Carolina, Miami (of Ohio), Bowling Green, Pacific, Toledo, and San Jose State. We played them all at home and never at their places. The Huskies even opened a season against UTEP and won a close one, 55-0.
Those kinds of game are positive from the developmental standpoint because you usually get to play a lot of kids and get them into game conditions. In the new Pac-12 it is obvious that everyone is beginning to understand that winning is what it's all about in your non-league games. That's probably because they don't have to worry about dollars anymore.
Pac-12 Certainly Down Scheduling
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