The Pac-12 long has been the flagship conference of quality non-conference football scheduling. The Pac-12 was a pioneer in moving to nine conference games, and the Pac-12 didn’t back down from good non-conference games, either. Few games against lower-division opponents. Plenty of games against fellow major-conference schools.
But the Pac-12 is sliding back toward the pack. Three of the league’s schools – Arizona, Colorado and Oregon State – are not playing a major-conference opponent. And eight of the 12 schools are playing I-AA opponents. It is not automatic anymore that the Pac-12 plays the nation’s best non-conference schedules.
Time to rank the Pac-12 in non-conference:
1. Southern Cal: Fresno State, at Boston College, Notre Dame. You can always count on the Trojans to man up. Excellent schedule.
2. UCLA: at Virginia, Memphis, at Texas. The Bruins don’t want to get left behind by USC. UCLA always answers the bell, too.
3. Utah: Idaho State, Fresno State, Michigan. The Utes are relatively new to the Pac-12, but unlike fellow newcomer Colorado, have not gone soft.
4. California: at Northwestern, Sacramento State, Brigham Young. Two losable games out of three. Can’t ask for much more than that.
5. Oregon: South Dakota, Michigan State, Wyoming. Great September matchup against Sparty. That’s a Rose Bowl quality game.
6. Stanford: Cal-Davis, Army, at Notre Dame. Here’s a question I don’t know the answer to. How did Notre Dame and Stanford become such buds? They played just four times before 1988 but this will be the 25th matchup in the 27 seasons since.
7. Arizona State: Weber State, at New Mexico, Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish spruce up any schedule.
8. Washington State: Rutgers, at Nevada, Portland State. Playing Rutgers now carries a little more weight, since the Scarlet Knights are in the Big Ten.
9. Washington: at Hawaii, Eastern Washington, Illinois, Georgia State. UW gets an extra game for playing in Hawaii. Didn’t do much with the opportunity.
10. Arizona: Nevada-Las Vegas, at Texas-San Antonio, Nevada. If Nevada had a third football school, I assume ‘Zona would schedule it.
11. Colorado: Colorado State in Denver, at Massachusetts, Hawaii. The Buffs can’t play anymore and don’t even try to schedule, but ah, there was a time, my friends, there was a time.
12. Oregon State: Portland State, at Hawaii, San Diego State. The Beavers didn’t get a fourth game, despite a trip to Hawaii. Coach Mike Riley’s decision.