Sure, the Apple Cup is back on a Friday, but at least the Huskies will be coming off a bye. That alleviates a major problem in the Pac-12's 2017 scheduling.
The Pac-12 unveiled the 2018 football schedule on Thursday. There are no TV assignments or kickoff times. Nor, it should be noted, does it carry nearly as many flaws as the ’17 schedule.
Give the conference credit: Next year’s lineup is cleaner, it’s fair, it’s a significant improvement.
The process of creating the schedule hasn’t changed, so there are no guarantees for 2019 and beyond.
But ’18 is undeniably better.
A few items of note:
There are no instances of Saturday road games followed by Friday road games — a dastardly back-to-back that has seemingly contributed to losses by USC, Washington and Washington State this season.
In 2018, the Friday road teams will have played at home the previous weekend, or had a bye.
In all, there are eight weeknight games (seven Friday, one Thursday).
No team will play 12 consecutive games, a development made possible by … Brigham Young.
As an Independent, the Cougars are not bound by a full load of conference games in October and November.
Their dates with Washington in Week Five and Utah in Week 13 created a ripple effect that allowed the Pac-12 schedule to gain a level of balance not present in the past, largely because of the USC and Stanford series with Notre Dame.
In Week 13, when USC hosts the Irish, Utah will host BYU.
That leaves an even number of teams (10) to play conference games — no one is left without a game on Week 13 (the fate that befell USC this year).
All the traditional rivalry games will be played the final two weeks: USC-UCLA, Stanford-Cal and Utah-Colorado are Week 12 (Nov. 17), while Civil War, Apple Cup and Territorial Cup are Week 13 (Nov. 23-24.)
Also on the final weekend: Colorado at Cal, Stanford at UCLA and BYU-Utah (as noted above).
The non-conference schedules, controlled by the schools, are a vast improvement over the ’16 version.
The marquee games, (excluding the two traditional Notre Dame dates) are as follows:
- Washington vs. Auburn (Atlanta)
- Oregon State at Ohio State
- UCLA at Oklahoma
- USC at Texas
- Colorado at Nebraska
- Michigan State at Arizona State
One interesting development:
There are two weeks in the middle portion of the season (Sept. 22 and Oct. 13) in which four teams are idle.
I have zero problem with that. Byes in late September and early/mid October are optimal for the players, and the season is long enough, especially now with Week Zero games (late August), that a slight lull isn’t detrimental.
But those two weeks in which four teams are idle? There’s also a Friday game.
Which means there are only three games on Saturday.
Which means the Pac-12 Networks could be without a game if ESPN and Fox use three combined selections.
Stay tuned on that matter.