Pac-12 Football 2013 Schedule Analysis

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Can Marcus Mariota and the Ducks win the North Division?

<p> Pac-12 Football 2013 Schedule Analysis</p>

The start of the 2013 college football season is still months away, but it’s never too early to start thinking about preseason predictions and some of the top games to watch in each conference.

The Pac-12 and the Big 12 are the only two conferences that play a nine-game schedule. In the Big 12, a nine-game slate works perfectly, as the conference has a round-robin format. In the Pac-12, things work a little differently. All 12 teams will play nine games, but some programs have to hit the road five times during conference play. While the unbalanced schedule creates some problems, playing more conference opponents is always a good thing.

Oregon and Stanford are the clear frontrunners to win the Pac-12 North title. But the South is expected to be a four-way battle between Arizona, Arizona State, UCLA and USC. The Bruins have the inside track since they are the defending division champs. However, USC has a favorable schedule, and the Sun Devils are a team on the rise in Todd Graham’s second year.  

2013 Pac-12 Schedule Analysis

North Division

California

Aug. 31 Northwestern
Sept. 7 Portland State
Sept. 14 Ohio State
Sept. 21 Bye Week
Sept. 28 at Oregon
Oct. 5 Washington State
Oct. 12 at UCLA
Oct. 19 Oregon State
Oct. 26 at Washington
Nov. 2 Arizona
Nov. 9 USC
Nov. 16 at Colorado
Nov. 23 at Stanford
Nov. 30 Bye Week

* Welcoming two Big Ten teams to town in the first three weeks wouldn’t normally instill fear in the Golden Bears. However, those two programs combined for 22 wins a season ago. And both expect to compete for a Big Ten title this year as well. This is an extremely difficult way to start a coaching tenure for Sonny Dykes.

* The first bye week is perfectly positioned, but the second is completed wasted. The first off week is positioned between two preseason top-five national title contenders (Ohio State and Oregon) and should give Cal time to lick its wounds and prepare for the Pac-12 opener. The second off weekend comes in the season finale, and unless Dykes miraculously leads his team to a North Division title, it will go to waste.

* The Bears will play all nine Pac-12 games on consecutive weekends with no rest. And other than possibly Washington State at home and a road trip to Colorado, it will face seven bowl teams from a year ago. With a tough non-conference slate, Dykes will need to pull a few stunners in league play, most likely at home, to reach the postseason. More on that…

* Cal will play five road conference games and four home tilts. And needless to say, it gets no favors on the road. Oregon, UCLA, Washington and Stanford all come away from home as well as Colorado. It puts more importance on home wins in swing games against Washington State, Oregon State, Arizona and USC. Having guaranteed losses on the road isn’t always a bad thing if it means a few upsets at home.

 

Oregon

Aug. 31 Nicholls State
Sept. 7 at Virginia
Sept. 14 Tennessee
Sept. 21 Bye Week
Sept. 28 California
Oct. 5 at Colorado
Oct. 12 at Washington
Oct. 19 Washington State
Oct. 26 UCLA
Nov. 2 Bye Week
Nov. 9 at Stanford
Nov. 16 Utah
Nov. 23 at Arizona
Nov. 29 Oregon State (Fri.)

* Throughout history, playing non-conference games against programs like Virginia and Tennessee would be considered marquee intersectional tilts - especially, all the way across the country in Charlottesville. However, both programs are achieving at all-time lows and neither should be able to compete with the Ducks.

* The crossover schedule from the South Division is extremely generous. Games against Utah and Colorado shouldn’t be tests and UCLA comes to Eugene. The Ducks should be heavily favored to sweep the South in those three this fall.

* The first off weekend comes following the non-conference slate and will give the Ducks a chance to breathe before beginning conference play in what should be a manageable early Pac-12 slate. A trip to Washington might be the only close game of the bunch before UCLA comes to town.

* The second off weekend is placed perfectly, following a tricky home game with UCLA and a huge road test at Stanford. The trip to Palo Alto might easily be the toughest game on the Ducks schedule this fall and getting two weeks to prepare will help in a big way. And it will come on primetime TV on a Thursday night. Count us in.

* Oregon should be on upset alert late in November in the desert. Weird things happen when teams visit Arizona late in the year, and Rich Rodriguez’ team will be much better in Week 13 than they will be in Week 4 or 5. A look ahead to rival Oregon State may only further the trap game theory against the Wildcats.

* Oregon will play five home Pac-12 games.



Oregon State

Aug. 31 Eastern Washington
Sept. 7 Hawaii
Sept. 14 at Utah
Sept. 21 at San Diego State
Sept. 28 Colorado
Oct. 5 Bye Week
Oct. 12 at Washington State
Oct. 19 at California
Oct. 26 Stanford
Nov. 1 USC (Fri.)
Nov. 9 Bye Week
Nov. 16 at Arizona State
Nov. 23 Washington
Nov. 29 at Oregon (Fri.)

* Mike Riley’s non-conference slate this year is very manageable. While Eastern Washington and San Diego State have won a lot of games in recent years, neither should be able to compete with the Beavers. A 3-0 mark out of the league is a must way to start for Riley (but more on that in a second).

* The beginning of Pac-12 play couldn’t be easier as crossover games with Colorado and Utah are also must-wins for Oregon State. Those two are penciled in as fifth and sixth in the South Division. Following the bye week, the Beavers get Washington State and Cal. This team could easily be 7-0 to start the year — and really must start that way  — if it wants to contend because…

* The second half of the season is absolutely brutal for Oregon State. Stanford, USC, at Arizona State, Washington and at Oregon is about as tough a five-game slate as there is in the league. The only comfort is the bye week situated before USC and the road trip South to Arizona State. A 2-3 mark in this span would be considered successful. Two of those (USC and Oregon) will take place on Friday night.

* Oregon State will play five road Pac-12 games.
 

Stanford

Aug. 31 Bye Week
Sept. 7 San Jose State
Sept. 14 at Army
Sept. 21 Arizona State
Sept. 28 at Washington State
Oct. 5 Washington
Oct. 12 at Utah
Oct. 19 UCLA
Oct. 26 at Oregon State
Nov. 2 Bye Week
Nov. 7 Oregon (Thur.)
Nov. 16 at USC
Nov. 23 Cal
Nov. 30 Notre Dame

* Not playing in the first weekend has to drive David Shaw nuts. Not only does it delay the hype of a season opener, but it wastes an opportunity to rest his team late in the year between games. The non-conference slate early in the season is perfect for Stanford to break-in his new lineup. Don’t expect Army or San Jose State should press the Cardinal.

* The first five Pac-12 games of the year are nicely positioned with the tougher ones —Arizona State, Washington and UCLA — all coming at home. If one or two of those are Pac-12 title game previews, the Cardinal are lucky they will come at home. Getting one of the South Division contenders Arizona State to start league play isn’t ideal but at least its in Palo Alto.

* While the first off weekend is horribly placed, the second bye is perfectly situated in the toughest three-game stretch of the schedule. Following a tough road trip to Oregon State, Stanford gets the extra week to prepare for the most important game of the year when Oregon comes to town on Thursday night. A trip South to USC one week later has Letdown Alert written all over it.

* Finishing the year with California and Notre Dame at home should be fun for Cardinal fans. The two biggest rivals of the year will cap a tough final month in which three out of four will take place at home.
 

Washington

Aug. 31 Boise State
Sept. 7 Bye Week
Sept. 14 at Illinois
Sept. 21 Idaho State
Sept. 28 Arizona
Oct. 5 at Stanford
Oct. 12 Oregon
Oct. 19 at Arizona State
Oct. 26 California
Nov. 2 Bye Week
Nov. 9 Colorado
Nov. 15 at UCLA (Fri.)
Nov. 23 at Oregon State
Nov. 29 Washington State (Fri.)

* The 2012 season ended with a tough but thrilling two-point loss to Boise State in the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas. These two will play back-to-back games as the Broncos come to town to open the season in must-see action involving the opening of new Husky Stadium.

* The first off weekend will allow Washington time to reflect on the tough first weekend and prepare for another tricky non-conference game across the country in the Big Ten against Illinois.

* Last year, Washington struggled through a nasty early season Pac-12 slate. The 2013 season won’t be any different. Arizona, at Stanford, Oregon and at Arizona State is as tough a four-game swing as there will be in the league and a 2-2 record would be considered excellent.

* While the early slate is tough, the close to the season is relatively easy. Games with California, Colorado and Washington State at home are must-wins. The off weekend will help as well. Road trips to UCLA and Oregon State are tough but winnable.

* Washington will get five home Pac-12 games this fall.
 

Washington State

Aug. 31 at Auburn
Sept. 7 at USC
Sept. 14 Southern Utah
Sept. 21 Idaho
Sept. 28 Stanford
Oct. 5 at California
Oct. 12 Oregon State
Oct. 19 at Oregon
Oct. 26 Bye Week
Oct. 31 Arizona State (Thur.)
Nov. 9 Bye Week
Nov. 16 at Arizona
Nov. 23 Utah
Nov. 29 at Washington (Fri.)

* While Auburn and USC underachieved in 2012, playing back-to-back road games against two of college football’s top programs is a tough way to start for anyone — much less an embattled coach entering his second, but very important season. At least, Southern Utah and Idaho offer some chances at success in the first month because the Pac-12 slate begins in brutal fashion.

* To start Pac-12 play, Wazzu will play the best three teams in the division and will have to visit Cal over a four-week span. A 1-3 mark to start league play would be positive for Mike Leach.

* The first bye week comes after eight consecutive game weekends including five brutal opponents. Having two weeks to prepare for one of the South Division’s top contenders in Arizona State might allow Leach to gameplan for the huge upset. Don’t be shocked if Wazzu plays well against the Sun Devils.

* The second bye week comes oddly after just the one game with Arizona State. But with winnable games in the final three weekend, it comes at a good time. Arizona, Utah and Washington are better teams but getting an extra week to prepare for the home stretch could bode well for Leach and Company.

* Washington State will play five road Pac-12 games.

 

South Division

Arizona

Aug. 30 Northern Arizona
Sept. 7 at UNLV
Sept. 14 UTSA
Sept. 21 Bye Week
Sept. 28 at Washington
Oct. 5 Bye Week
Oct. 10 at USC
Oct. 19 Utah
Oct. 26 at Colorado
Nov. 2 at California
Nov. 9 UCLA
Nov. 16 Washington State
Nov. 23 Oregon
Nov. 30 at Arizona State

* With Arizona breaking in a new quarterback, the non-conference schedule is a perfect way to start the season. The Wildcats open with Northern Arizona, UNLV and UTSA, which should be three easy victories. And with Arizona heavily favored, it should allow coach Rich Rodriguez to work in a couple of quarterbacks to get snaps in game action.

* The first bye week of the season comes at a good time for Arizona. After playing three non-conference opponents, the Wildcats will have a chance to use the bye week to regroup and sort out the quarterback situation before playing at Washington. Arizona hasn’t had much success recently in Seattle, as it has lost its last two matchups on the road against the Huskies.

* While a bye week before Pac-12 play starts is ideal, Arizona’s second off date has some awful timing. The Wildcats won’t play on Oct. 5, which comes one week after their first bye. With eight Pac-12 games still ahead, the early bye weeks could hurt Arizona later in the season, especially if it suffers any significant injuries.

* Even though Arizona has to play Oregon, it has a favorable crossover schedule with games against Washington State, Washington and California. The Wildcats defeated the Huskies last season and California and Washington State are picked near the bottom of the conference.

* Arizona must play three of its first four conference games on the road, including a trip to USC. The Wildcats are just 1-4 in their last five games at USC.

* After playing most of their early Pac-12 games on the road, the Wildcats play three out of the final four at home. The November homestand should help Arizona close out the season on a high note, as it has winnable games against UCLA and Washington State.

* An interesting trend has developed in the Arizona-Arizona State rivalry in recent years. The Wildcats have won two in a row at Tempe but lost its last two matchups in Tucson? So does home cooking mean anything in this series? 2013 will be an interesting case study.


Arizona State

Aug. 31 Bye Week
Sept. 5 Sacramento State
Sept. 14 Wisconsin
Sept. 21 at Stanford
Sept. 28 USC
Oct. 5 Notre Dame (Arlington)
Oct. 12 Colorado
Oct. 19 Washington
Oct. 26 Bye Week
Oct. 31 at Washington State
Nov. 9 at Utah
Nov. 16 Oregon State
Nov. 23 at UCLA
Nov. 30 Arizona

* Although there are some other ill-timed byes in the Pac-12, Arizona State might earn the award for the worst with its opening week off date. The Sun Devils can use the extra week to prepare for early season games against Wisconsin, Stanford and USC, but an off date in the first week of the year certainly isn’t ideal for Todd Graham’s team.

* After an early bye week, Arizona State finally takes the field for its opener on Sept. 5 against Sacramento State. Playing the Hornets on Thursday night is a plus, especially since the Sun Devils welcome Wisconsin to Tempe on Sept. 14.

* Arizona State and Wisconsin will meet for only the fourth time on Sept. 14. The Sun Devils own a 2-1 edge, but the Badgers won the last meeting 20-19 in Madison in 2010. Arizona State’s run defense is a huge focus for Todd Graham and his defensive staff this spring, and playing a team like Wisconsin with two potential All-Big Ten backs should give the defense a gauge of where it stands heading into Pac-12 play.

* Arizona State opens Pac-12 play with two huge contests: at Stanford and USC. The Sun Devils have lost their last two matchups against the Cardinal, including a 33-14 defeat at Stanford in 2009.

* If Arizona State wants to win the South Division, it has to breakthrough against USC. The Sun Devils are just 1-12 in their last 13 games against the Trojans, with the last victory coming in 2011. Arizona State lost 38-17 at USC in 2012.

* While Arizona State catches Stanford in crossover play, the rest of its games with the North are favorable. The Sun Devils host Oregon State and Washington, along with a road date against Washington State in crossover play – three games they should be favored to win.

* Could the Nov. 23 showdown between Arizona State and UCLA decide the South Division champ? The Bruins have won back-to-back division titles, but the Sun Devils weren’t too far behind last season. Arizona State has lost three out of its last four games to UCLA. However, the last two losses in the series have come by a combined three points.

* Here’s an interesting stat to consider in the Arizona-Arizona State rivalry: The home team has not won since 2008. The Sun Devils won 41-34 in Tucson last season. 


Colorado

Aug. 31 Colorado State (Denver)
Sept. 7 Central Arkansas
Sept. 14 Fresno State
Sept. 21 Bye Week
Sept. 28 at Oregon State
Oct. 5 Oregon
Oct. 12 at Arizona State
Oct. 19 Bye Week
Oct. 26 Arizona
Nov. 2 at UCLA
Nov. 9 at Washington
Nov. 16 California
Nov. 23 USC
Nov. 30 at Utah

* Mike MacIntyre should be a good fit at Colorado, but the Buffaloes could have a hard time finding victories in 2013. Since there are few guaranteed wins, getting the season started off with a victory against Colorado State is a must. The Buffaloes have won two out of the last three against their in-state rival. But the Rams won 22-17 last season.

* Central Arkansas is one of the few breaks on the schedule, but Fresno State in Week 3 is no easy matchup for Colorado. The Bulldogs destroyed the Buffaloes 69-14 last season and should be a heavy favorite in this matchup.

* The first bye week of the season comes at a good time for Colorado. After getting non-conference play finished, MacIntyre and his staff will have an opportunity to evaluate his team before opening Pac-12 action at Oregon State.

* The Sept. 28 meeting visit at Oregon State will be Colorado’s first trip to Corvallis. The Buffaloes and Beavers have not played since 1988 and interestingly enough, no matchup has taken place in Corvallis.

* While the Buffaloes will be better in 2013, they are likely to be a double-digit underdog in most of their Pac-12 games. So where are the opportunities to earn a victory? How about Nov. 16 against a rebuilding California team? Or Nov. 30 on the road at Utah? Again, opportunities are limited for Colorado. But it should be more competitive than it was last season in conference games.
 

UCLA

Aug. 31 Nevada
Sept. 7 Bye Week
Sept. 14 at Nebraska
Sept. 21 New Mexico State
Sept. 28 Bye Week
Oct. 3 at Utah
Oct. 12 California
Oct. 19 at Stanford
Oct. 26 at Oregon
Nov. 2 Colorado
Nov. 9 at Arizona
Nov. 15 Washington
Nov. 23 Arizona State
Nov. 30 at USC

* The defending Pac-12 South champions open the year with a wildcard matchup. Chris Ault retired at Nevada at the end of last season, and the school hired Texas A&M assistant Brian Polian as its new head coach. While the Wolf Pack return quarterback Cody Fajardo and some solid pieces on both sides of the ball, it’s hard to know what to expect with a new coaching staff.

* After a bye in the second week of the season, UCLA hits the road for the final time in non-conference play to take on Nebraska. The Bruins won 36-30 in Pasadena last season, and the overall series between these two teams is separated by just one contest (5-6). However, UCLA has lost its last four trips to Lincoln. With two explosive offenses, expect plenty of points when these two teams meet on Sept. 14.

* With both of their bye weeks before October, UCLA will have to navigate a difficult conference slate with no off date until after the Nov. 30 game against USC. And that’s assuming the Bruins don’t win the division and play in the conference title game.

* UCLA’s first two games of conference play should be victories – at Utah and California – but after is where the competition kicks up a notch. The Bruins have arguably the toughest crossover schedule in the South Division, playing at Stanford and Oregon, while hosting Washington. If there’s a reason to pick against UCLA to repeat as Pac-12 South champions, the schedule might be the biggest obstacle.

* UCLA has lost its last four matchups against Oregon. The Ducks won 60-13 in Eugene during the last regular season game between these two schools.

* UCLA has lost five in a row to in-state rival Stanford. The last victory for the Bruins on the Farm was on Sept. 1, 2007.

* Regardless of what happens in the crossover games against Oregon and Stanford, UCLA’s division title hopes could rest on a November stretch that starts with a road trip to Arizona on Nov. 9, then a home date against Washington, which is followed by a home matchup against Arizona State and a short trip across town to play USC on Nov. 30. Even if the Bruins lose to Oregon and Stanford, they can likely win the division by beating both Arizona State and USC.
 

USC

Aug. 29 at Hawaii
Sept. 7 Washington State
Sept. 14 Boston College
Sept. 21 Utah State
Sept. 28 at Arizona State
Oct. 5 Bye Week
Oct. 10 Arizona
Oct. 19 at Notre Dame
Oct. 26 Utah
Nov. 1 at Oregon State
Nov. 9 at California
Nov. 16 Stanford
Nov. 23 at Colorado
Nov. 30 UCLA

* Due to a road trip against Hawaii to open the season, USC will play 13 games in 2013. With the team still on scholarship limitations, is the extra game a bad thing? It’s hard to say, but USC shouldn’t have much trouble with Hawaii or Boston College in non-conference action. Assuming USC doesn’t suffer a rash of injuries before the heart of Pac-12 play, it shouldn’t hurt too much by playing an extra game.

* Outside of the road trip to Notre Dame, USC’s toughest non-conference game will be against Utah State. The Aggies went 11-2 last year and return much of their core, including quarterback Chuckie Keeton.

* Although Washington State should be improved, the Trojans should get a good barometer test of where they stack up in the Pac-12 with a Sept. 28 game at Arizona State. The Sun Devils handled USC 43-22 in Tempe in 2011 but lost 38-17 to the Trojans last year. Arizona State and UCLA are the early favorites to win the South Division. But if USC can go on the road and win, the Trojans can throw their hat into the conversation as well.

* The first bye week of the season comes at a perfect time for USC. With a key South Division game against Arizona on Oct. 10, along with the annual matchup with Notre Dame, the off date is a good chance for the Trojans to regroup.

* USC has won five matchups in a row at Notre Dame. Interestingly enough, the Fighting Irish have won the last two in Los Angeles. Notre Dame should be favored, but the Trojans played the Fighting Irish tough last season, despite losing quarterback Matt Barkley to a shoulder injury the week before against UCLA.

* The Trojans have a favorable crossover schedule with the North Division. Most importantly, USC does not play Oregon. The Trojans host Stanford and play on the road at Oregon State, but they also miss Washington. For a team that underachieved last season, USC has the schedule to make a quick rebound in the conference standings.

* Will USC establish control in the rivalry with UCLA once again? The Bruins snapped a five-game losing streak to the Trojans last year. However, USC has won seven in a row at home.


Utah

Aug. 29 Utah State
Sept. 7 Weber State
Sept. 14 Oregon State
Sept. 21 at BYU
Sept. 28 Bye Week
Oct. 3 UCLA
Oct. 12 Stanford
Oct. 19 at Arizona
Oct. 26 at USC
Nov. 2 Bye Week
Nov. 9 Arizona State
Nov. 16 at Oregon
Nov. 23 at Washington State
Nov. 30 Colorado

* Utah opens its 2013 campaign with back-to-back games against in-state foes. The first matchup is against Utah State, a team breaking in a new coach in Matt Wells. However, the bigger storyline in this game should be revenge. The Aggies snapped a 12-game losing streak to the Utes last year, and with a challenging Pac-12 slate ahead, Utah needs this game to get bowl eligible.

* With only nine returning starters, the Sept. 14 game against Oregon State should give Utah a good barometer test of where it stands in relation to the rest of the Pac-12. The Beavers won nine games last season and are expected to be picked in the top four of the Pac-12 North. Are the Utes going in the right direction? We should have a better idea after the Sept. 14 game against Oregon State.

* Can Utah continue its recent run of success against BYU? The Utes have won four out of the last five meetings, including a 54-10 blowout victory in Provo. Expect the Cougars to have revenge on their mind this season.

* The first bye week comes at a good time for Utah, as the upcoming stretch against UCLA, Stanford, Arizona and USC will be challenging. And considering the schedule, it’s very possible Utah enters November with a 2-6 record.

* In 2013, Utah will play Stanford for the first time since 1996. The Cardinal won the last meeting on Sept. 7, 1996, but these two programs have met only five teams in school history.

* This will be the first meeting between Utah and Oregon as Pac-12 foes. The Utes and Ducks last met 2009 in Eugene but have played 26 times in school history.

* Wins in Pac-12 play are difficult to find for Utah, and the season finale against Colorado could be the only guaranteed victory. The Utes lost to the Buffaloes in Salt Lake City in 2011 but defeated Colorado 42-35 in Boulder last year. 

 

Writeups compiled by Braden Gall (@BradenGall) and Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)


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