Who has the toughest 2023 schedule in the Pac-12 conference?

No matter who you play or when you play them, there’s one constant every year when the Pac-12 football schedule is announced: Fans will complain about how tough a draw they ended up getting.

A team could play all 12 games at home and the fans would still find a way to complain about the order in which the games are played. This annual bellyaching took place on Wednesday. The Pac-12 released the full schedules, giving us the blueprint for one of the most anticipated seasons in recent memor, and a year that will undoubtedly be entertaining.

So are the complaints warranted? USC gets a cushy bye in Week 13 before the Pac-12 Championship game, but do they still have enough reason to think that George Kliavkoff gave them a raw end of the deal? What about Oregon, or Washington? Do tough stretches of games in October and November rise to the level of unfairness?

In a minute, you’ll see that the answer is no, and simply that with the Pac-12 as strong as it is expected to be in 2023, every team has a tough schedule.

We wanted to go through, game by game, and rank everything, though, taking a look at which teams have it the worst, and which teams have no business complaining about their outlook at all. Here are the 2023 Pac-12 schedule rankings, from easiest, to most difficult.

UCLA Bruins

Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

Easiest Games

  • Week 1 vs. Coastal Carolina

  • Week 2 at San Diego State

  • Week 3 vs. North Carolina Central

  • Week 8 at Stanford

  • Week 13 vs. California

Toughest Games

  • Week 4 at Utah

  • Week 6 vs. Washington State

  • Week 7 at Oregon State

  • Week 12 at USC


In my mind, there is no debate that UCLA once again has among the easiest schedules in the Pac-12 next year. They skate by with a trio of non-competitive games to start the season, and they also get the luxury of not playing Oregon or Washington in their final year of Pac-12 play. The toughest stretch of games is Utah, Washington State, and Oregon State, but the Bruins get a bye in between there as well. This is another cakewalk of a schedule, in my opinion.

Arizona Wildcats

Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Easiest Games

  • Week 1 vs. Northern Arizona

  • Week 3 vs. UTEP

  • Week 4 at Stanford

Toughest Games

  • Week 5 vs. Washington

  • Week 6 at USC

  • Week 9 vs. Oregon State

  • Week 12 vs. Utah


The Wildcats have a couple of very easy nonconference games, and a relatively manageable conference slate as well. The toughest stretch will come in late September/early October with three straight games against Washington, USC and Washington State. Other than that, the tough games on the schedule are spread out nicely.

Oregon State Beavers

Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Easiest Games

  • Week 1 at San Jose State

  • Week 2 vs. UC Davis

  • Week 3 vs. San Diego State

  • Week 6 at California

  • Week 9 at Arizona

  • Week 11 vs. Stanford

Toughest Games

  • Week 4 at Washington State

  • Week 5 vs. Utah

  • Week 12 vs. Washington

  • Week 13 at Oregon


I expect the Beavers to be pretty good in 2023, and I think that they will have the ability to take advantage of what is a relatively easy schedule. The three nonconference games should be no problem, and the Beavers also have the benefit of getting Utah, UCLA and Washington at home. Road trips to Washington State and Oregon will be tough, but Oregon State also avoids USC this season.

Arizona State Sun Devils

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Easiest Games

Week 1 vs. Southern Utah

Week 5 at California

Week 13 vs. Arizona

Toughest Games

  • Week 4 vs. USC

  • Week 8 at Washington

  • Week 10 at Utah

  • Week 12 vs. Oregon


For a team near the top of the Pac-12, this looks like a pretty manageable schedule. For a team like ASU — we don’t really know what the ceiling is under Kenny Dillingham in the first year — there are some potentially tough situations. Nonconference games against Oklahoma State and Fresno State could both end up being losses. A late-season stretch against Washington, Washington State, Utah, UCLA and Oregon is pretty brutal as well.

Washington State Cougars

James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Easiest Games

  • Week 1 at Colorado State

  • Week 3 vs. Northern Colorado

  • Week 7 vs. Arizona

  • Week 10 vs. Stanford

  • Week 11 at California

Toughest Games

  • Week 2 vs. Wisconsin

  • Week 4 vs. Oregon State

  • Week 8 at Oregon

  • Week 13 at Washington


I considered moving this one down the rankings because Washington State is fortunate enough to avoid both Utah and USC in the regular season. However, a nonconference game against Wisconsin is not going to be easy, and the Cougars also have to travel to UCLA, Oregon and Washington in their marquee games of the season. If Washington State is as good as we think it can be in 2023, it has a schedule conducive to making some noise.

Stanford Cardinal

James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Easiest Games

  • Week 1 at Hawaii

  • Week 3 vs. Sacramento State

  • Week 12 vs. California

Toughest Games

  • Week 2 at USC

  • Week 5 vs. Oregon

  • Week 9 vs. Washington

  • Week 10 at Washington Stae

  • Week 11 at Oregon State

  • Week 13 vs. Notre Dame


You could argue this schedule deserves to be higher in the rankings, but I think a lot of that may be due to the fact that Stanford isn’t expected to be very good in 2023, and it’s difficult to find many wins on the schedule. Still, a season in which you have a stretch of games featuring UCLA, Washington, Washington State, Oregon State, and Notre Dame in five of the final six weeks would be tough for anyone.

California Golden Bears

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Easiest Games

  • Week 1 at North Texas

  • Week 3 vs. Idaho

  • Week 12 at Stanford

Toughest Games

  • Week 2 vs. Auburn

  • Week 4 at Washington

  • Week 6 vs. Oregon State

  • Week 7 at Utah

  • Week 9 vs. USC

  • Week 10 at Oregon

  • Week 11 vs. Washington State


Now we’re getting into the part of the conference where the schedules are really difficult. Cal has a nice nonconference schedule bolstered with a game against Auburn, and they play all five of the top teams in the Pac-12 during the regular season. From Week 6, the Golden Bears play OSU, Utah, USC, Oregon, Washington State and UCLA. An off week is in there as well. That’s a tough schedule, even for one of the top teams in the conference.

Oregon Ducks

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Easiest Games

  • Week 1 vs. Portland State

  • Week 3 vs. Hawaii

  • Week 5 at Stanford

  • Week 10 vs. California

Toughest Games

  • Week 2 at Texas Tech

  • Week 7 at Washington

  • Week 8 vs. Washington State

  • Week 9 at Utah

  • Week 11 vs. USC

  • Week 13 vs. Oregon State


It’s easy to see the Ducks’ 2023 schedule is backloaded, with a majority of the big-time games coming after the bye week in early October. While the Texas Tech game will be an awesome showdown in Week 2, five of Oregon’s toughest games come in the final seven weeks of the season. The stretch of Washington, Washington State and Utah is tough in late October, but fortunately, the Ducks get relatively easy games — vs. Cal, at Arizona State — in between matchups with Utah, USC and Oregon State. Oregon also has the benefit of getting a bye week before playing Washington, and matching up against Utah the week after they play USC, as well as USC the week after they play Washington.

Utah Utes

Jeffrey Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

Easiest Games

  • Week 3 vs. Weber State

  • Week 7 vs. California

  • Week 12 at Arizona

Toughest Games

  • Week 1 vs. Florida

  • Week 2 at Baylor

  • Week 5 at Oregon State

  • Week 8 at USC

  • Week 9 vs. Oregon

  • Week 11 at Washington


This is a tough schedule. While some teams get the luxury of having saving their toughest matchups for the second half of the season, it feels like Utah’s 2023 is fraught with tough opponents spread evenly throughout the year. The non-conference slate against Florida and Baylor could end up being tough, and then the Utes have a back-to-back at USC and vs. USC. They also have to travel to Oregon State and to Washington in there as well. If Utah can make it through that and get to the Pac-12 Championship game, nobody will argue that they didn’t earn it.

Colorado Buffaloes

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Easiest Games

  • Week 3 vs. Colorado State

  • Week 7 vs. Stanford

  • Week 11 vs. Arizona

Toughest Games

  • Week 1 at TCU

  • Week 2 vs. Nebraska

  • Week 4 at Oregon

  • Week 5 vs. USC

  • Week 10 vs. Oregon State

  • Week 12 at Washington State

  • Week 13 at Utah


Welcome to the Pac-12, Coach Prime. We expect Colorado to be better under the new regime in 2023, but it’s hard to see a path to a winning record with this schedule. The Buffaloes start out with tough non-conference games against TCU and Nebraska and then are met with a one-two punch of Oregon and USC to open up the Pac-12 slate. A closing stretch of UCLA, Oregon State, Washington State, and Utah in four of your final 5 weeks is also a tough way to go out.

USC Trojans

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Easiest Games

  • Week 0 vs. San Jose State

  • Week 1 vs. Nevada

  • Week 2 vs. Stanford

  • Week 6 vs. Arizona

  • Week 9 vs. California

Toughest Games

  • Week 7 at Notre Dame

  • Week 8 vs. Utah

  • Week 10 vs. Washington

  • Week 11 at Oregon

  • Week 12 vs. UCLA


I think this might be a controversial take, but USC has one of the hardest schedules in the Pac-12 this year. Of course, people will look at the bye in Week 13 ahead of the Pac-12 title game, but remember that the off-week only matters if the Trojans can get to Vegas, and there’s absolutely no guarantee of that with how the rest of the schedule shapes up. The first seven games shouldn’t be a problem for USC, but playing Notre Dame and Utah back-to-back, followed by a stack of Washington and Oregon just a couple of weeks later is absolutely brutal. A lot of people like to hate on USC, but I understand why Trojan fans are a little annoyed at how things lined up in their final year of the Pac-12. That’s not an easy slate for anyone to deal with.

Washington Huskies

Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

Easiest Games

  • Week 2 vs. Tulsa

  • Week 4 vs. California

  • Week 9 at Stanford

Toughest Games

  • Week 1 vs. Boise State

  • Week 3 at Michigan State

  • Week 7 vs. Oregon

  • Week 10 at USC

  • Week 11 vs. Utah

  • Week 12 at Oregon State

  • Week 13 vs. Washington State


Oh boy, that’s a doozy. Not only do the Huskies have a very respectable non-conference schedule with Boise State and Michigan State on there, but they have to finish the year with this stretch of games from early November and on: at USC, vs. Utah, at Oregon State, vs. Washington State. That’s a brutal closing month, and one that could make or break the Huskies in the end. Fortunately, they get a bye the week before the Oregon game, but I think Washington has it’s work cut out if it wants to get to the Pac-12 title game.

Story originally appeared on Ducks Wire