I never really understood the rush for the Pac-12 to cancel the 2020 season. It seems like they could’ve just postponed it and continued doing so until a solution was found, or at least until they saw how the other conferences were handling it. I seem to recall they came up with those 15-minute COVID tests pretty quickly after they made the decision to cancel the season, and find it hard to believe they didn’t know this would be possible at the time. It’s a bad look for a major conference that’s already thought of as lesser compared to its ostensible peers; one more thing for them to mismanage when they’ve already got the most inept commissioner in all of college athletics.
But, whatever, we’ve got football and that’s all that matters!
- November 7th – @ Cal
- November 14th – Oregon State
- November 21st – Arizona
- November 27th – @ Wazzu
- December 5th – Stanford
- December 12th – @ Oregon
- December 18th/19th – Conference Championship Weekend
I don’t know how much strength of schedule is going to play into things, but you have to think it’s at least in consideration. The only game up for debate is the team scheduled from the opposite division – in the case for the Huskies, it’s the Arizona game – and there are two schools of thought on the matter.
One might argue that, since the Pac-12 will be playing fewer games than most other conferences, it’s important to schedule a tougher opponent for the teams who are projected to be the best, that way if they go undefeated it’ll look more impressive. But, by that logic, I think we all understand what’s at stake here: you NEED to go undefeated to expect to make the College Football Playoffs and it almost doesn’t matter how. Unless you’re in the SEC or Ohio State, that is, in which case they’re always looking for a reason to include those schools.
Regardless of my opinion on the matter, there’s little doubt that going undefeated is the most important thing in college football, because among the schools who end up tied with one loss, the Pac-12 will always be left out. And, really, there are enough good programs in each division to make our schedule strengths good enough.
It seems like the schedule-makers agree. While I would put Cal in the running this season, traditionally the best three schools in the Pac-12 North have been Washington, Oregon, and Stanford, who appear to have been gifted the easiest-looking three opponents from the Pac-12 South: Arizona, UCLA, and Colorado respectively.
Comparatively, the top three from the South are USC, Utah, and Arizona State, who have been pitted against WSU, Oregon State, and Cal. The point being, unless there’s some nightmare scenario, there WILL be at least one undefeated team in the Pac-12 this year, and hopefully there will actually be two, one from each division, to meet in the championship game on December 18th.
The Huskies have a relatively difficult road, particularly for a team that’s breaking in a new offensive coordinator, head coach, and starting quarterback. All three of our most difficult games are on the road, which is never ideal. The cream of the crop in the entire Pac-12 appeared to be Oregon before COVID, but now that they’ve had so many people leave to go pro, that’s in doubt a little bit. I think they’re still very good, and it will almost certainly be a race between the Ducks and the winner of the Washington/Cal game in the first week of the season. If the Huskies can get by Cal – which we haven’t done since 2017 – then I do think there’s a clear path for us to be undefeated by the time we get to the Apple Cup on Black Friday. If we can get by the Cougs, then I see a good likelihood of us being undefeated heading into the game at Oregon, which in an ideal universe will be a match-up of two undefeateds!
That Cal game looms pretty large, because the Golden Bears also host Oregon later in the season, but they have to go on the road to ASU, which should be exceedingly difficult. Oregon figures to have the easiest path to stay undefeated, but they weirdly struggle on the road against Wazzu (who they see in week 2), and they could easily lose on the road to Cal if they’re not careful. So, there’s a good chance that all the teams in the Pac-12 lose at least once, which will once again leave us on the outside when it comes to the playoffs.
At some point, they need to expand the playoffs to eight teams, but it doesn’t sound like this will be the year for that (even though it would be perfect, what with all the craziness that 2020 has given us). I mean, why wouldn’t sponsors want more playoff games? Haven’t we learned with March Madness that these are proven money-makers, and the more weeks we have devoted to the playoffs, the more people will watch? Am I missing something? Or am I the world’s greatest financial mind, who is LANGUISHING on this sports blog while my real talents are wasted?!