Let’s be adults here, folks. Let’s be grownups. Let’s be mature individuals and admit the simple truth. It’s okay. It’s not a sign of weakness to admit what we can all see in the room: The Pac-12 very clearly catered to the University of Oregon in crafting and approving of its 2023 conference football schedule. The conference was just as clear and transparent in not catering to the University of Southern California.
We can simply admit this as mature adults, or we can look off to the side and pretend this didn’t happen. It’s your choice.
We don’t have to pretend. We can be honest with ourselves and each other and see this schedule for what it is.
Let’s be very clear: USC was catered to and given a soft, cushiony ride last year in the 2022 schedule release. The Pac-12 rolled out the red carpet for the Trojans. We never refused to admit that, too.
Then came the move to the Big Ten. Suddenly, USC was no longer valued by George Kliavkoff. Oregon was.
We can just admit this or pretend these considerations are irrelevant. Come on now. Let’s go through the details and simply admit the truth:
BACK TO BACK ROAD GAMES
Dan Lanning — USA TODAY Sports
Oregon is the only Pac-12 team which doesn’t have to play road games in consecutive weeks on the 2023 football schedule.
Come on now. Something like that just doesn’t happen by accident. It’s called P-H-I-L K-N-I-G-H-T.
OREGON-UTAH ON OCTOBER 28
December 3, 2021; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Oregon Ducks running back Travis Dye (26) is brought down by Utah Utes defensive end Van Fillinger (7) and linebacker Karene Reid (32) during the second half in the 2021 Pac-12 Championship Game at Allegiant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Oregon plays Utah on Oct. 28.
The week before, on Oct. 21, Utah plays at USC. Oregon plays Washington State at home.
Come on now. Utah gets a uniquely tough road. The Utes were one of the big losers in this schedule alongside USC.
Oregon is being put in position to succeed. Phil Knight would approve.
OREGON-WASHINGTON OFF WEEK
Nov 12, 2022; Eugene, Oregon, USA; Washington Huskies quarterback Michael Penix Jr. (9) throws a pass during the first half against the Oregon Ducks at Autzen Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports
Oregon and Washington get the week off before they play. The Ducks and Huskies also get a week off in the middle third of the season, which is when an off week is most advantageous.
Let’s be honest: Kliavkoff needs Oregon and Washington to stay in the Pac-12. He needs to make sure those schools have minimal to no reason to want to bolt for another conference. Of course he’s going to throw those schools a bone or two. It’s actually smart politics. I respect it.
Let’s just be grownups and admit this was part of the calculus when schedule was released. It’s not an idle coincidence.
Come on now.
USC "OFF" WEEK
Dec 2, 2022; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Southern California Trojans quarterback Caleb Williams (13) is pursued by Utah Utes safety Sione Vaki (28) on a 59-yard run in the first half of the Pac-12 Championship at Allegiant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Come on now. USC doesn’t have the week “off” in Week 13.
USC getting Week 13 “off” really isn’t a true off week, since the Trojans will have played their 12-game slate before Week 13. Having that week open means something only if USC gets to Las Vegas, and the Pac-12 made it supremely difficult for the Trojans to get to Vegas.
Nov 5, 2022; Boulder, Colorado, USA; Oregon Ducks quarterback Bo Nix (10) leaps into the end zone for a touchdown carry in the fourth quarter against the Colorado Buffaloes at Folsom Field. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
If you look closely at Oregon’s 2023 football schedule at Ducks Wire, you will notice that none of the three big games for the Ducks — Washington, Utah, or USC — come back-to-back. They are all separated by easier, more manageable games.
Washington, Utah and USC do not have that enormous luxury.
WASHINGTON BACK TO BACK
Sep 30, 2022; Pasadena, California, USA; Washington Huskies quarterback Michael Penix Jr. (9) hands off to running back Cameron Davis (22) in the first half against the UCLA Bruins at the Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Washington plays USC on Nov. 4 and Utah on Nov. 11. Back-to-back games against the toughest teams in the Pac-12.
Dec 2, 2022; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Utah Utes wide receiver Money Parks (10) runs the ball for a touchdown against the Southern California Trojans during the second half of the PAC-12 Football Championship at Allegiant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Utah plays USC on Oct. 21, Oregon on Oct. 28. Back-to-back against the top tier of the conference.
The UCLA-Oregon State back-to-back is on a short week in late September. The Utes were done no favors, which — when combined with USC’s rough ride — adds to the reality that Oregon is uniquely set up to succeed here.
USC BACK-TO-BACKS, PLURAL
Oct 15, 2022; Salt Lake City, Utah, USA; Utah Utes quarterback Cameron Rising (7) in tackled by USC Trojans linebacker Shane Lee (53) and defensive lineman Brandon Pili (91) in the second half at Rice-Eccles Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports
USC has a Pac-12 back-to-back against Washington on Nov. 4 and Oregon on Nov. 11. Oregon plays Cal the week before playing USC.
Really, this could not be any clearer.
USC also has a back-to-back involving Notre Dame on Oct. 14 and Utah on Oct. 21. Tough games in consecutive weeks, twice.
Come on now. We all have our eyes open here.
OREGON BLACK FRIDAY
Nov 27, 2020; Corvallis, Oregon, USA; Oregon State Beavers wide receiver Kolby Taylor (5) catches a pass against Oregon Ducks linebacker Isaac Slade-Matautia (right) during the second half at Reser Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
The Pac-12 made sure to put Oregon-Oregon State on Thanksgiving Friday to ensure that the Ducks get an extra day of rest before the Pac-12 title game if they get there.
Oct 13, 2021; San Francisco, CA, USA; Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff speaks to the media during the Pac-12 men’s basketball media day. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
From start to finish, the 2023 Pac-12 football schedule gives breaks to Oregon which don’t exist for other programs, particularly USC and Utah. We can either admit this as mature adults, or pretend this didn’t actually happen.
George Kliavkoff isn’t a villain for doing this, we should clarify. He’s just being smart and catering to most of his constituents, chiefly Phil Knight.
If Kliavkoff did make one mistake, it’s that he actually didn’t cater to Utah enough. Could the Utes have second thoughts after being wronged in a few obvious ways by this schedule? We’ll see.