Pac-12 schedules for the 2019 football season range from soft-and-manageable to what-are-you-thinking difficult, which is to be expected.
The issue, as we see it, is the deployment: Ideally, teams with the best rosters would face schedules stout enough to impress the College Football Playoff committee.
That’s not entirely the case in the Pac-12, however.
Of the five teams that seem most likely to compete for the CFP based on returning talent and recent success …
- Three lack marquee nonconference duels and will be vulnerable to committee downgrades when their résumés are compared to other contenders: Utah, Washington and Washington State.
- One has seemingly scheduled itself out of contention: Stanford.
- Only one has it just right, with a showcase nonconference opportunity and tough, but not daunting, path through the league: Oregon.
More below (and much more, including game-by-game predictions, as the season draws closer).
(Note: The 14-week regular season allows for two byes.)
Nonconference: at BYU, vs. Northern Illinois, vs. Weber State
Cross-division misses: Stanford and Oregon
Bye placement: Weeks 6 and 11
While likely not tough enough for the CFP — unless the Utes are undefeated — the schedule is made to order for a division title and run at the Rose Bowl for what should be Utah’s best team since entering the Pac-12. The Utes won the South last year the hard way and now enjoy the flipped cross-division rotation, which excludes the Cardinal and Ducks. Of note: No back-to-back roadies.
Nonconference: vs. Eastern Washington, vs Hawaii, at BYU
Cross-division misses: UCLA and Arizona State
Bye placement: Weeks 9 and 12
Not sure the Huskies could have ordered up a more favorable conference schedule, what with trips to Tucson, Boulder and Corvallis — all likely non-contenders — constituting 75 percent of their road games. The home lineup, meanwhile, is Utah, Oregon, USC and WSU: Great for the fans, and a division title. The nonconference schedule is a major letdown from ’18.
10. Arizona State
Nonconference: vs. Kent State, vs. Sacramento State, at Michigan State
Cross-division misses: Stanford and Washington
Bye placement: Weeks 5 and 9
The Sun Devils have a fairly smooth road with seven home games, an easy windup to East Lansing (for the new starting quarterback) and the North division misses. The late-September visit by Colorado might be easy to overlook but qualifies as a must-win for the bowl math: Four of the next six are on the road, and the two at home (WSU and USC) are difficult.
9. Oregon State
Nonconference: vs. Oklahoma State, at Hawaii, vs. Cal Poly
Cross-division misses: USC and Colorado
Bye placement: Weeks 4 and 9
Four of the first six are at home; four of the last six are on the road. (If the Beavers don’t emerge from September with three wins, forget it.) The nonconference schedule has a nice mix, but the Hawaii trip in Week 2 — after the hyped opener against OSU — is an absolute trap: UH will be coming off a bye. That said, the Beavers’ cross-division misses could have been a tad worse.
8. Washington State
Nonconference: vs. New Mexico State, vs. Northern Colorado, at Houston
Cross-division misses: USC and Arizona
Bye placement: Weeks 6 and 10
The nonconference lineup is mildly challenging only because of the trip to Houston, where Mike Leach will face his former pupil in new Cougars coach Dana Holgorsen. Once the Cougars enter conference play, the road becomes decidedly more treacherous: The away schedule includes Eugene, Salt Lake City and Seattle. Only one top-tier team (Stanford) ventures to Pullman.
Nonconference: at Hawaii, vs. Northern Arizona, vs. Texas Tech
Cross-division misses: Washington State and Cal
Bye placement: Weeks 1, 4 and 11
The Week Zero opener in Honolulu gives the Wildcats an extra bye and sets them up for what should be a successful September. (They should be 3-1, at worst.) But the course of the season hinges on separate three-game stretches: against Washington, USC and Stanford in October; and against Oregon, Utah and ASU to close the year. Four of those six are on the road.
Nonconference: vs. Colorado State (Denver), vs. Nebraska, vs. Air Force
Cross-division misses: Oregon State and Cal
Bye placement: Weeks 5 and 12
The Buffs have a fan-friendly home schedule with Nebraska, USC, Stanford and Washington. But there are no FCS cupcakes to be found, and the cross-division misses are suboptimal. (Mel Tucker gets an up-close look at the North powers.) In fact, once CU hits the middle of October, it’s difficult to identify any likely victories: Oregon, WSU, USC, UCLA, Stanford, UW and Utah.
Nonconference: vs. UC Davis, vs. North Texas, at Mississippi
Cross-division misses: Arizona and Colorado
Bye placement: Weeks 7 and 10
The road lineup (Seattle, Eugene, Stanford and Salt Lake City) might be the toughest in the conference, and there isn’t much chance to settle in with Washington in Week 2. The Ole Miss excursion comes in Week 4, followed by a Friday home affair (ASU) and then a roadie to Oregon (coming off a bye) — a challenging triple-whammy. The finish is daunting with USC, Stanford and UCLA.
Nonconference: vs. Auburn (Arlington), vs. Nevada, vs. Montana
Cross-division misses: Utah and UCLA
Bye placement: Weeks 5 and 11
Auburn will have a new quarterback but loads of talent on the lines of scrimmage. (The Tigers are a super-early 3-point favorite.) For all the playoff implications attached to that duel, don’t overlook Oregon’s conference lineup: road games against Washington, Stanford and USC, plus a visit from Washington State dropped into a terrible spot on the schedule (post-UW, pre-USC).
Nonconference: at Cincinnati, vs. San Diego State, vs. Oklahoma
Cross-division misses: Oregon and Washington
Bye placement: Weeks 7 and 11
The Bruins face two challenging nonconference assignments, but at least Oklahoma is a cupcake. If not for the favorable cross-division misses, UCLA’s schedule would zoom past difficult enter the realm of ridiculous. Roadies: USC, Utah, Stanford and WSU. September: Three of five on the road and home dates with the Sooners and Aztecs. Overall: Good luck with that.
Nonconference: vs Fresno State, at BYU, at Notre Dame
Cross-division misses: Washington State and Oregon State
Bye placement: Weeks 6 and 14
Difficult to look at the Trojans’ first-half schedule and wonder what fate might befall Clay Helton: After the tricky opener against Fresno State comes (in succession) Stanford, a trip to Provo, a visit from Utah, a trip to Seattle, then a bye before the adventure in South Bend. Then again, if Helton survives that stretch, the second half is wholly manageable. (Because of Notre Dame, USC has the final-week bye.)
Nonconference: vs. Northwestern, at UCF, vs. Notre Dame
Cross-division misses: Arizona State and Utah
Bye placement: Weeks 7 and 9
Welcome to the 2019 Stanford football schedule, brought to you by Gluttons For Punishment R Us. Where do we start: With the nonconference lineup against teams that went a combined 33-7? Or with the brutal September that includes USC and Oregon? Or with the lack of a full bye in Week 7 because of a Thursday game? Or with those warm-weather November trips to Pullman and Boulder? On the bright side for the Cardinal: No Utah.
Note: Kickoff times for the early-season games are expected to be released by the conference in the next week.