Pac-12 predictably does USC no favors with schedule: Trojans play Utah one week after Notre Dame

The 2023 Pac-12 football season is set to be another strong one.

The Utah Utes won the Pac-12 once again this season but lost in the Rose Bowl, and Cam Rising decided to return for one more season.

Caleb Williams, the Heisman Trophy winner, is back for the USC Trojans and is a leading contender to win the award again. USC will fight for a College Football Playoff spot after a frustrating Pac-12 title game loss to Utah followed by a crushing Cotton Bowl loss to Tulane.

The Pac-12 schedule has been officially released on Wednesday. Pac-12 insider John Canzano mentioned some interesting scheduling notes.

Then came the actual schedule release on Wednesday. The Trojans learned that Utah would be one week after the Notre Dame game. The Trojans certainly wanted to not have to play an elite Pac-12 team either the week before or the week after the Notre Dame game. Predictably, the Pac-12 sent USC out the door — in its final season as a conference member — with an extra-difficult scheduling arrangement. USC hosts Utah one week after the Notre Dame game.

You didn’t think the Pac-12 would make life convenient for USC, did you?

Here are various other observations to make about the Pac-12 schedule:

CIVIL WAR GAME SET FOR BLACK FRIDAY

Nov 27, 2021; Eugene, Oregon, USA; Oregon Ducks wide receiver Devon Williams (2) catches a touchdown pass against Oregon State Beavers defensive back Rejzohn Wright (1) during the first half at Autzen Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

Oregon State ruined Oregon’s hopes of a Pac-12 title game, and the 2023 version of the Civil War game will be on Black Friday, per Canzano:

The Civil War rivalry game between Oregon and Oregon State will be played on Friday, Nov. 24. It’s the only Pac-12 game set for “Black Friday” and one of two Friday games the Beavers are scheduled to play in 2023.

 

DUCKS HOST THE TROJANS

Dan Lanning — USA TODAY Sports

Due to scheduling, the Ducks and Trojans did not face each other in 2022, and that’s too bad. Lincoln Riley vs Dan Lanning would have been fun to see, but we get it in 2023 in Eugene:

Oregon and USC will play in Eugene on Nov. 11. I’ve noted that game on my calendar. It’s the matchup I really wanted to see in the middle of last season.

WASHINGTON'S BRUTAL NOVEMBER

Nov 19, 2022; Seattle, Washington, USA; Washington Huskies head coach Kalen DeBoer stands on the sideline during the third quarter against the Colorado Buffaloes at Alaska Airlines Field at Husky Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

The Huskies are apparently getting no favors in the schedule in the month of November. Here’s why:

The Huskies play at USC (Nov. 4), then host Utah seven days later (Nov. 11). UW plays at Oregon State on Nov. 18. Those three opponents were a combined 21-6 in Pac-12 play last season. The month of November will make/break Kalen DeBoer’s team.

BUFFS' ROUGH PAC-12 START

Jackson State football coach Deion Sanders talks about Southern and the upcoming SWAC Championship during a news conference at JSU in Jackson, Miss., Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2022.
Tcl Deion Sanders
Syndication The Clarion Ledger

Deion Sanders is the new head coach for the Colorado Buffaloes, and the schedule is rough to start the Pac-12 slate for Deion:

Colorado will open conference play vs. Oregon at Autzen Stadium (Sept. 23), then turn around and face USC at home the following Saturday. The Buffaloes conference schedule is front-loaded with those two games. They’ll get eyeballs.

WASHINGTON STATE, UCLA WITH EARLY OFF WEEKS

Nov 12, 2022; Pasadena, California, USA; UCLA Bruins head coach Chip Kelly calls a play in the first half against the Arizona Wildcats at the Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Chip Kelly might not like this:

Washington State and UCLA take their bye weeks early in the season (Week 5).

TROJANS WEEK 0 GAME DOES THEM A FAVOR

San Jose State Spartans cornerback Nehemiah Shelton breaks up a pass intended for USC Trojans wide receiver Drake London in the first half during an NCAA football game on Saturday, Sept 4, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/John McCoy)

USC will have a Week 0 game against San Jose State. Why is this important?

USC has scheduled a Week 0 non-conference game vs. San Jose State. That affords the Trojans the opportunity to take two bye weeks (Week 3 and 13) later in the season. The final week off for USC comes immediately before the conference title game.

KENNY DILLINGHAM GETS HELP

Oregon offensive coordinator Kenny Dillingham calls out to players during practice with the Ducks on Tuesday, April 5, 2022.
O40522 Eug Football Practice 10

Kenny Dillingham is the new head coach at Arizona State, and the Sun Devils won’t be traveling very much at all:

Arizona State will play five of the first six games of the Kenny Dillingham-era at home. The schedule is built to establish some early confidence and possible bowl momentum. ASU plays a total of eight home games in 2023.

NINE-GAME PAC-12 SLATE

Sep 3, 2022; Los Angeles, California, USA; A detailed view of the Pac-12 Conference logo at United Airlines Field at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Changes might be coming for the future of the Pac-12, but they will have a nine-game slate for at least one more season:

t’s a nine-game conference schedule once again for the Pac-12. There’s been talk about the Pac-12 dropping to eight conference games, but some members have expressed mild opposition. Mostly because they don’t believe finding a fourth non-conference game would be affordable and easy without more planning. A potential move to eight conference games in 2024 is still on the table, per a source.

THE NEW SHOWDOWN SATURDAY

Nov 30, 2018; Santa Clara, CA, USA; Washington Huskies president Ana Mari Cauce (left) and defensive back Byron Murphy (1) celebrate after the 2018 Pac-12 Championship against the Utah Utes at Levi’s Stadium. Washington defeated Utah 10-3. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

In 2022, “Pac-12 Showdown Saturday” was November 19. Utah visited Oregon and USC played UCLA.

This year, Showdown Saturday is November 11, 2023: USC visits Oregon and Washington hosts Utah. That will be all sorts of fun.

UTAH ROUGH PATH

Dec 2, 2022; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Southern California Trojans running back Raleek Brown (14) carries the ball agaisnt Utah Utes defensive end Gabe Reid (91) in the first half of the Pac-12 Championship at Allegiant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Utah has two very difficult two-week segments in its schedule: Sept. 23 versus UCLA and then on a Friday, Sept. 29, at Oregon State. Playing Oregon State on the road in a short week wouldn’t be enjoyable under any circumstance, but playing UCLA and not Arizona State or Cal heading into Corvallis is especially tough.

Utah then faces USC on Oct. 21 and Oregon the next week on Oct. 28. That’s brutal, too. Oregon has to love how that schedule arrangement works out.

OREGON AND WASHINGTON GET A WEEK OFF BEFORE THEIR MEETING

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

Ducks Wire wrote the following:

“Conveniently, both the Ducks and Huskies are going to get a bye on October 7, the week before their clash in Husky Stadium on October 14. This allows everyone an extra week to get rested and prepare for what is shaping up to be among the best games of the year for both teams.”

BACKLOADED SCHEDULE

Dec 18, 2020; Los Angeles, California, USA; Oregon Ducks quarterback Tyler Shough (right) collides with USC Trojans safety Talanoa Hufanga (15) during the third quarter at United Airlines Field at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

Also from Ducks Wire:

“While the front-half of Oregon’s 2023 schedule is relatively light, with the biggest games against Texas Tech and Colorado, the back half is completely loaded with some great teams. In the final seven weeks of the season, the Ducks will travel to Utah and Washington, while hosting USC and Oregon State. Fortunately, those four games are all separated by weeks against beatable teams, like Washington State, California, and Arizona State. Still, the stretch run for the Ducks will be brutal, and it starts in October.”

COLORADO IS THE EXCEPTION

Jackson State football coach Deion Sanders talks about Southern and the upcoming SWAC Championship during a news conference at JSU in Jackson, Miss., Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2022.

The Pac-12 schedule is backloaded … except for Colorado. The Buffs host Oregon and USC in September, a clear move to make sure those games are high-visibility encounters before CU loses them and becomes less nationally relevant. It’s all about television. Follow Buffaloes Wire for more on Coach Prime and Colorado football.

ARIZONA STATE LIVES AT HOME

Sep 2, 2021; Tempe, Arizona, USA; A general view of game action between the Arizona State Sun Devils and the Southern Utah Thunderbirds during the first half at Sun Devil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Arizona State has five of its first six games at home, and USC — on Sept. 23 — is part of that. The Sun Devils will be playing a lot of games in hot weather. It’s still 100 degrees in the Phoenix area in late September. Here’s guessing that the game will be a daytime kickoff, just to make life harder for USC. Remember 2005, when the Trojans battled the heat and fell behind by multiple scores against ASU before rallying in the second half.

ALL ABOUT TELEVISION

Dec 3, 2021; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff speaks before the 2021 Pac-12 Championship Game between the Oregon Ducks and the Utah Utes at Allegiant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The bottom line is that the Pac-12 schedule for 2023 wanted to maximize television visibility and the splash factor. Everything is tailored to television, which makes sense given that the Pac-12 is trying to negotiate a new media rights deal.

Story originally appeared on Trojans Wire