Breaking down WSU's (final?) Pac-12 schedule


Two months ago, Washington State and Coug fans had no idea this season would possibly be the final year for Pac-12 football as we know it.

With eight teams already announcing their departure — and two more rumored to also be on their way out — the crumbling conference's future is questionable at best. But there's still one last season to play with all 12 historic West Coast programs before many depart for various new homes in the Big 12, Big Ten and, possibly, beyond.

Let's take a look at WSU's last hurrah in the current rendition of the Pac-12 Conference.

Nonconference schedule

WSU opens with Colorado State on Sept. 2 in Fort Collins, Colo. — a matchup to be examined more next week.

The highlight of the nonconference schedule is a Sept. 10 showdown against Wisconsin at Gesa Field in which the Badgers will be looking for revenge from last year's 17-14 loss to the Cougs in Madison, Wisc.

WSU's last noncon game is Sept. 16 in Pullman against the Big Sky's Northern Colorado.

Oct. 7 at UCLA

Strangely, WSU's Pac-12 opener at UCLA might be the least interesting conference game on its schedule this year.

The Bruins, along with USC, were the first teams to announce their departure from the Pac-12 last year when they informed the conference they'll join the Big Ten next season.

UCLA went 9-4 last season but hasn't played WSU since a wild 67-63 Bruins victory in 2019.

Oct. 14 vs. Arizona

Last year, the Cougars got the best of their former quarterback Jayden de Laura and the Wildcats. Ironically, this showdown will be the QB's first game back in Pullman since he led the Cougars to a 44-18 win against his new team, Arizona, in 2021. But don't expect a warm welcome back to the Palouse for the former WSU freshman darling.

Oct. 21 at No. 15 Oregon

WSU's 44-41 meltdown loss to the Ducks last season was arguably the team's most-heartbreaking defeat of the season.

This will be the Cougars' only chance at redemption against Oregon before it departs for the Big Ten.

Oct. 28 at Arizona State

Another Arizona school means another interesting showdown against former Cougars.

Former starting linebacker Tre Brown is now with the Sun Devils, as is former defensive coordinator Brian Ward. That should make for an interesting matchup of the ASU defense vs. the WSU offense. Who will outsmart who?

Nov. 4 vs. Stanford

Expect a few more fans to be in the stands at Gesa Field than were at the mostly barren Stanford Stadium in WSU's 52-14 victory last season.

Stanford is currently still in the Pac-12 along with WSU, Oregon State and Cal, but there are rumors the Cardinals could be joining the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Nov. 11 at Cal

The Bears have only mustered a combined 15 points in their last two games against the Cougars. This is a game that could be easy to overlook with higher-profile games against Colorado and Washington looming, so coach Jake Dickert will need to keep his team focused for the trip to Berkeley or the Cougs could end up with an unexpected loss.

Cal is currently still in the Pac-12 but there are reports it could be joining the Atlantic Coast Conference, which totally makes sense for a school called "California."

Nov. 17 vs. Colorado

It's a shame the Cougars will get only one shot at larger-than-life coach Deion Sanders and the Colorado Buffaloes before that team departs for the Big 12.

Colorado's announcement in July that it will leave the Pac-12 set off the chain reaction of Oregon, Washington, Utah, Arizona and Arizona State all following suit over the last month.

Expect Pullman to be a circus when Colorado comes to town in mid-November.

Colorado won just one game in 2022 and hasn't had a winning season since 2016, but Sanders is looking to change that in a hurry.

Of note: The Cougs have not played the Buffs since winning 41-10 in 2019.

Nov. 25 at No. 10 Washington

Could this be the last game of the yearly Apple Cup? Will the rivalry continue in a new format? Will the game go on a hiatus?

These are all questions that will need to be answered about the series between WSU and its highlight opponent of every season. WSU and Washington have played more than 110 times since the rivalry began in 1900 and ending the series because the Huskies are joining the Big Ten would be tragic for fans on both sides.

This finale of the 2022-23 season could shape up to be one of the most anticipated in recent memory due to the game's history, college cultural significance and uncertain future.

Not playing

Three Pac-12 teams the Cougars aren't playing are all ranked in the AP Top 25 — No. 6 USC, No. 14 Utah and No. 18 Oregon State.

Only one of those teams — OSU — is currently still in the conference after the 2023 season.

Wiebe may be contacted at (208) 848-2277, or on Twitter @StephanSports.