Never before has scheduling been a bigger issue than the 2014 College Football Playoff.
The committee clearly took a stance on Baylor’s weak non-conference matchups and it cost the Bears a chance at the national championship. That shouldn’t ever be the issue in the Pac-12 — also known as college football's second-best league.
Most will point to the depth of the South Division and how five different teams could be picked to win it. But the North continues to win league championships and compete for national titles.
Scheduling is a huge part of Athlon Sports’ process of making predictions. Here is what you need to know about the Pac-12's football schedules in 2015.
North’s Best Game: Oregon at Stanford (Nov. 14)
Stanford had pushed the Ducks around en route to Pac-12 championships prior to last year’s drubbing in Autzen Stadium. Oregon made a statement in this game last year and these two programs will likely enter the summer as the two front-runners in the North once again.
South’s Best Game: USC at Arizona State (Nov. 14)
The South’s round-robin format features several great matchups but these two programs could be the top two front-runners in the South entering the season. Who could forget how this one ended last season?
Best crossover: USC at Oregon (Nov. 21)
When it comes to brand equity and national intrigue, it’s hard to argue against the Trojans-Ducks matchup in late November. A playoff berth and spot in the Pac-12 title game could be on the line for both programs.
Other crossovers to watch:
Oregon’s visit to Tempe to battle Arizona State might be as important as the Trojans-Ducks meeting and it could be tougher since it comes on the road. Stanford also plays USC (road), UCLA (home) and Arizona (home) in great crossover action as well.
North’s Toughest Schedule: Cal
There is no easy schedule in the North but Cal is probably the most unlucky team in the division. Road trips for the season include games at Texas, Oregon, Stanford, UCLA, Utah and Washington with USC and Arizona State at home. Washington also has a tough run starting Week 6: at USC, Oregon, at Stanford, Arizona, Utah, at Arizona State.
North’s Easiest Schedule: None (Oregon State)
I tried hard to find one schedule that stands out as “easiest” but they are all hard. Stanford has three nasty non-conference games, travels to Eugene and plays USC, UCLA and Arizona from the South. Oregon plays road games at Michigan State, Arizona State, Stanford and Washington as well as home tilts with USC and Utah. Oregon State wins the award by default because the Beavers miss both Arizona State and USC in crossover and get Stanford, Washington and UCLA at home. A non-con trip to Michigan still keeps this slate from being far from "easy" however.
South’s Toughest Schedule: USC
Arizona State and USC have the two toughest slates in the South division but the Men of Troy get the nod here. The Trojans have to face Notre Dame on the road in non-conference action as well as the projected top four teams in the North: Oregon (road), Stanford (home), Washington (home) and Cal (road).
South’s Easiest Schedule: Arizona
First of all, there is no easy schedule in the South. Five teams could win the division so crossover play and non-conference games are the deciding factors. UCLA and Arizona have the two easiest slates because both avoid Oregon from the North, but Zona gets the nod due to a non-conference slate that should provide three easy wins.
Top 10 Non-conference games:
* - neutral site