On a personal note: This column was extraordinarily enjoyable to write.

It feels like months since the Hotline last dove deep into a football-y football topic.

Feels like, because it has been.

Since the coronavirus shutdown began, we have attempted to cover every angle, from academic instruction models to testing timelines; hypothetical schedules, projected schedules and real schedules: player safety and presidential power shifts; positive test results, justifications for football, the Greek Row factor and player boycotts.

Jon Wilner’s Pac-12 Hotline is brought to The Seattle Times through a partnership with the Bay Area News Group. Wilner has been covering college athletics for decades and is a voter in the basketball and football AP polls, as well as the Heisman trophy. He shares his expert analysis and opinions on the conference for the Pac-12 Hotline.

Oh, and a loan program.

Everything, really, but traditional football topics.

Of course, traditional football topics weren’t relevant football topics when we didn’t know if there would be a season.

And we still don’t know, but at least we have a schedule to obsess over.

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Starting with the most difficult …

1. Utah

Home: Oregon State, Arizona, Washington, USC and Oregon
Road: Washington State, Colorado, UCLA, Arizona State and Cal
Miss: Stanford
Comment: Back-to-back roadies (Pullman and Boulder) form a suboptimal start for a lineup that’s heavily reliant on first-time starters. There’s another Week Four trip to L.A. on a Friday night, but this time it’s in Pasadena. If the Utes stumble early, they could be staggering late: No team faces a more difficult second half of the schedule than Utah, which has trips to Tempe and Berkeley and home dates with UW, USC and Oregon. Brutal.

2. Washington

Home: Stanford, Arizona, Oregon State, Colorado and UCLA
Road: Cal, Oregon, Utah, Washington State and USC
Miss: ASU
Comment: The degree-of-difficulty of the road schedule suggest the Huskies might be better off with a canceled season. (Joking!) It certainly means the Jimmy Lake era needs a strong start against Stanford and Arizona at home — drop either of those, and good luck reclaiming lost ground. Trip to Eugene finds Oregon lying in wait with two weeks to prepare, and the Huskies were handed a tricky finish with two Friday games in the final month.

Analysis: Ranking the most (and least) intriguing games of the UW Huskies’ conference-only 2020 football schedule

3. USC

Home: Cal, Colorado, Washington State, ASU and Washington
Road: UCLA, Stanford, Arizona, Oregon and Utah
Miss: Oregon State
Comment: The Trojans cannot afford to misfire early, at least if they hope to contend, because their finishing stretch is one of the toughest in the conference: Starting Nov. 14, they visit Oregon, host ASU, head to Utah on a Friday — the Utes will have been in Berkeley the week before — and then finish with Washington. Oh, and speaking of the Huskies: USC hosts both Washington schools, an event that happens once every pandemic.

4. Colorado

Home: Utah, Arizona State, UCLA, Oregon State and Washington State
Road: Oregon, Arizona, USC, Washington and Stanford
Miss: Cal
Comment: What a start for first-year coach Karl Dorrell, who had no spring practice and gets to play three of his first four games on the road — a quadruple whammy that includes dates with Oregon (in Eugene as the opener), Utah and USC. (The fourth game in that mix is a trip to Tucson.) After their Week Five respite, the Buffs face ASU, then play a Friday road game in Seattle. The stretch run is stocked with winnable games.

5. UCLA

Home: USC, Washington State, Utah, Stanford and Arizona
Road: Oregon State, ASU, Colorado, Washington and Cal
Miss: Oregon
Comment: The opener against USC will set the course (if played as scheduled) for a crucial season for Chip Kelly. Lose, and the Bruins could be headed to an 0-2 start due to the sneaky-tough roadie in week two (Corvallis). The Bruins visit Tempe under difficult circumstances, with the Devils coming off an open date. A poor opening month could seal UCLA’s fate — and perhaps Kelly’s, as well — with three of the last four games are on the road.

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6. Oregon State

Home: Cal, UCLA, Oregon, Arizona and Washington State
Road: Utah, Washington, Stanford, Colorado and ASU
Miss: USC
Comment: The Beavers are one of three teams, along with the Washington schools, to open with back-to-back home games — a framing that provides coach Jonathan Smith the chance to build on momentum from last season. The middle stretch is rugged with Utah, Oregon and Washington in succession, but a terrific chance comes after the open date, when Arizona visits a week after the always taxing trip to Salt Lake City. Three of the last four are on the road.

7. Cal

Home: Washington, Stanford, Oregon, Utah, UCLA
Road: Oregon State, USC, Washington State, Arizona and Arizona State
Miss: Colorado
Comment: The Bears start with back-to-back road games (Oregon State and USC) and are one of three teams with the dastardly assignment, along with Stanford and Utah. The open date falls in late October, followed immediately by a visit from Oregon — and the Ducks will be coming off their rivalry game against Washington. The trip to Tempe on the penultimate weekend could have division implications for one or both teams.

8. Arizona State

Home: Stanford, UCLA, Utah, Cal, Oregon State
Road: Arizona, Oregon, Colorado, Washington State, USC
Miss: Washington
Comment: Expectations are high as the Sun Devils open on the road against their rival, then head to Eugene for a Week Three showdown against the revenge-seeking North favorite. How the Devils handle these early tests will set their course. The mid-November trip to USC, possibly with the division at stake, comes the week after ASU makes the long haul to Pullman. Opportunity awaits at the end with consecutive home games (Cal and OSU).

9. Stanford

Home: Washington, ASU, Cal, UCLA and Oregon
Road: USC, Washington State, Oregon State, Arizona and Colorado
Miss: Utah
Comment: As is the case with Cal and Utah, Stanford starts with back-to-back roadies — and both are daunting: Washington and ASU. Then comes a visit from USC, followed by an open date. The Cardinal has Washington State at home on a Friday — the Cougars will be coming off an open date — as the start to a manageable second half, which includes three of the last four at home. Survive October, and there’s opportunity to contend in November.

10. Oregon

Home: Colorado, Washington, ASU, USC and Stanford
Road: Washington State, Oregon State, Cal, Arizona and Utah
Miss: UCLA
Comment: The Ducks host Washington and USC in the same season for the first time since 2005, but will any fans experience the Autzen bedlam? The early visit from ASU is on a Friday, while the midseason showdown against Washington comes after an open date for the Ducks — major advantages for Oregon in both instances. That said, the November trip to the desert, on a Friday no less, will pack demons galore for the Ducks.

11. Arizona

Home: Arizona State, Colorado, USC, Cal and Oregon
Road: Washington, Utah, Oregon State, UCLA and Stanford
Miss: Washington State
Comment: The difficult start, with ASU at home and Washington on the road, will either be the foundation for a rebirth or the continuation of a multi-year slog that could cost coach Kevin Sumlin his job. The Wildcats have a huge opportunity late, with Oregon visiting on a Friday night following a duel with USC. Arizona had better win early, because the stretch run is challenging with consecutive roadies (UCLA and Stanford).

12. Washington State

Home: Utah, Oregon, Cal, ASU and Washington
Road: UCLA, Stanford, USC, Oregon State and Colorado
Miss: Arizona
Comment: One of the three teams (the others: OSU and Washington) to open with back-to-back home games — a comfortable start for Nick Rolovich, for sure, but Washington State’s assignment is daunting with Utah and Oregon visiting. The trip to Stanford on a Friday follows an open date for the Cougars and finds the home team coming off its rivalry game. Meanwhile, the tussle in the Coliseum comes immediately after USC’s open date.