Kirby Lee | USA TODAY SPORTS IMAGES
The 2013 season is 16 weeks away, and will get underway with an interesting slate of out-of-conference games for the Pac-12. While they won’t have a marquee matchup against LSU like they have of late, the conference will play Notre Dame three times, as well as host both Ohio State and Wisconsin, while traveling to Nebraska.
Here’s how the conference’s OOC schedules look heading into the season, ranked by team, according to difficulty.
1. Arizona State
Opponents: vs. Sacramento State(FCS), vs. Wisconsin, vs. Notre Dame(Arlington,TX)With Will Sutton back on the defensive line, the Sun Devils come into 2013 as Rose Bowl hopefuls, and face a tough slate that could help them in the polls due to a substantial strength of schedule. Despite opening with Sacramento State –who have two straight wins over Pac-12 teams– the Fighting Grahams will have their hands full with Wisconsin and Notre Dame, before tough in-conference trips to Palo Alto and Pasadena. The matchup with the 2012 runner-up Irish has to be the most intriguing, considering that just last month, Notre Dame cancelled their 2014 trip to Tempe.
Opponents: vs. Northwestern, vs. Portland State(FCS), vs. Ohio StateLike Arizona State, Cal cancels out an FCS opponent with two difficult non-conference games. Though, unlike the Sun Devils they’ll play both Northwestern and Ohio State at home, with an inexperienced roster playing under a new regime with Sonny Dykes. It doesn’t bode well for the Bears, as they face what are probably the two best coached teams in Big Ten.
Opponents: vs. Nevada, at Nebraska, vs. New Mexico StateThe Bruins face a murderer’s row of teams on the road this year, with in-conference trips to Stanford, Arizona, USC and Oregon. But the road worries all start with a trip to Lincoln in September, which is immediately preceded by a solid test out of the gate from Nevada. The Nebraska game is the one everyone’s circled, but Nevada is a dangerous season opener, even at the Rose Bowl. Mora’s bunch is very talented, but they need a good trip through September to have a stand-out season, and could be in a for a bumpy ride.
Opponents: vs. Boise State, vs. Illinois(Chicago), vs. Idaho State(FCS)The Huskies lost to Boise State in the Las Vegas Bowl last December, and now get the honor of hosting the Broncos to open the newly-renovated Husky Stadium. It won’t be easy, especially with a medium-tough trip to Solider Field waiting in September. That said, at least Keith Price and company aren’t headed to Baton Rouge this season.
Opponents: vs. San Jose State, at Army, vs. Notre DameTypically, facing San Jose State and Army in the same season would be grounds for eye rolls and blowouts, especially considering that Stanford could be a national title game contender come November. But don’t discount the Spartans in week 1, as they won 11 games in 2012 and nearly defeated a Josh Nunes-led Cardinal team in Palo Alto last year. Oh, and Notre Dame’s bi-annual trip to the Farm won’t be a creampuff, either.
Opponents: vs. Nicholls State(FCS), at Virginia, vs. TennesseeGive credit to the Ducks for routinely scheduling good out-of-conference games, as they’ve played Michigan, Oklahoma, Boise State and LSU in the last decade, and now conclude a home-and-home series with Tennessee. Luckily for UO though, they get both the Vols and Virginia when they don’t have many expectations, making for an OOC schedule similar to last year’s, when they faced Arkansas State, Fresno State and Tennessee Tech.
Opponents: at Hawai’i, vs. Boston College, vs. Utah State, at Notre DameA trip to Hawai’i means an extra home game by NCAA rule, and the Trojans probably weren’t expecting Utah State to be coming off of an 11-2 season when they signed a contract with the Aggies for the game back in 2010. And considering how USC likes to play one solid BCS opponent per year, the same yet opposite could be said about Boston College, a program that has really fallen on hard times since the game was drawn up years ago. Having said that, USC will be favored in three of the four non-conference games, and they’ll need to win them to gain confidence going into the Notre Dame game in mid-October.
Opponents: vs. Utah State, vs. Weber State(FCS), at BYUUtah’s non-conference school reads like a Salt Lake City sportscaster’s dream, as the Utes will play all three non-conference games against the three other Salt Lake area teams. The big one of course, is that trip to Provo. Not only will it be BYU and Utah’s most anticipated game of the year, it’ll be awfully emotional and perhaps the most
anticipated dreaded game of the decade, as the long-time rivals won’t play again until 2016.
9. Washington State
Opponents: at Auburn, vs. Southern Utah(FCS), vs. IdahoOutside of Auburn still being a member of the SEC and playing in a stadium as hostile as any in the country, Mike Leach’s Cougs don’t have that daunting of an early schedule. Washington State should be improved in 2013 given that it’s year two under Leach, and three wins out of the shoot could be doable if the Cougars can get the best of Auburn, who open the Gus Malzahn era by facing WSU.
10. Oregon State
Opponents: vs. Eastern Washington(FCS), vs. Hawaii, at San Diego StateLast year, the Beavers opened up the year 7-0 for the first time ever. This year they could very well duplicate it, as the In’n’Out aficionados open with three winnable games to start. Mike Riley will be astutely aware of San Diego State’s potential however, especially at Jack Murphy.
Opponents: vs.Colorado State(at Denver), at Central Arkansas(FCS), vs. Fresno StateOutside of the worries that Derek Carr bring to the table, Colorado’s non-conference schedule probably wouldn’t keep many coaches at night. Unfortunately for the Buffaloes however, they could very easily go winless in them. Colorado State beat the Buffs last year and Central Arkansas finished the 2012 season ranked No. 8 in the FCS. Let’s see how Mike MacIntyre does in Boulder.
Opponents: vs. Northern Arizona(FCS), at UNLV, vs. Texas-San AntonioArizona fell just short of scheduling the Cochise County YMCA All-Stars this year. But given that the Wildcats have had a reputation of continuously over-strengthening their non-conference schedule, a year with the three easiest gimmies in the country might not be a bad idea. It’ll at least give former USC quarterback Jesse Scroggins some playing time in low-pressure situations, whether it be in relief or not.