People are reacting strongly to our claim that USC got a rough break with the Pac-12 football schedule. That’s not a surprise.
What’s more surprising is that a lot of the people responding to our piece on the Pac-12 schedule are not even willing to admit that George Kliavkoff had real-world economic and political incentives to push out an Oregon-friendly schedule which doesn’t give USC the same smooth path.
To be clear: Oregon’s schedule isn’t “easy” on a larger, objective level. With Utah and Washington and Oregon State all being very good teams, the Pac-12 is going to be tough to win for any of its title contenders. No schedule is “easy” in terms of being able to go 11-1 or 12-0.
However, some schedules are easier than others when compared side by side. Little details in terms of off weeks, road trips, short weeks (Friday night games), and the alignment of games can matter in affecting the trajectory of a team’s season.
In 2022, USC received those breaks. In 2023, the Trojans did not.
In 2022, USC was the school George Kliavkoff and the Pac-12 really needed to keep happy. Unfortunately, the Trojans had their sights set on the Big Ten, and as we noted, there probably was nothing George Kliavkoff could have done about it.
Notably, though, the 2022 schedule was very favorable to USC. The effort was made to make the Trojans happy. This was and is still obvious.
Now, with USC out the door and heading for the Big Ten, the political and economic calculus for the Pac-12 is different. Making Oregon — not USC — happy is the key goal.
This isn’t complicated.
Let’s keep this point in mind: It’s not monstrous or despicable or anything of the sort for the Pac-12 to give USC a less friendly schedule and Oregon a more friendly schedule. We can all be adults and admit that the Pac-12 should have done that.
Why can’t others admit the same?
We talked to Ducks Wire editor Zachary Neel on his podcast earlier this week. At Ducks Wire, Zac took down notes and published what we told him.
Here’s an excerpt of our comments to Zac:
“First off, if you’re George Kliavkoff, you want to be more generous to Oregon and Washington. Just in terms of the politics, you would want to throw a bone to the teams that are staying in your conference, and not to the ones that are leaving. So it’s not as if Kliavkoff is an idiot for smoothing the road for Oregon and Washington by giving them both an off-week before their big meeting. USC doesn’t have an off-week before playing Washington or Oregon; USC has to play Washington and Oregon back to back,” we noted.
“That’s not the worst part of this for USC, though. The worst part is that in odd-numbered years, USC has to play Notre Dame in South Bend in mid-October. If you’re a USC fan, the one thing they wanted out of this schedule was ‘don’t give us a top-tier Pac-12 opponent — Utah, Washington, Oregon — don’t give us one of those three opponents either the week before or the week after Notre Dame. Well, the Pac-12 gave them Utah the week after Notre Dame. That was the flip-the-bird moment, and that’s really the centerpiece of why the Pac-12 shoved USC out the door angrily and didn’t give USC a decent shake.”