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The Minimalist Schedule: Pac-12 Edition

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Plus a special bonus appearance from an FBS Independent!

Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports. Banner Society Illustration.

One of the many advantages of a minimalist schedule, where every program plays one home game and one road game, is the opportunity to occupy more of the television stage. Presently, Pac-12 teams have to compete for attention with forty or fifty other games, often in disadvantaged time slots. But if everyone’s only playing twice, the schedule gets a lot less crowded, and an Oregon State game viewers might have skipped previously now becomes a primetime event.

Sure, you might still think this idea is stupid. But is it stupider than the Pac-12 Network? Didn’t think so.


Game 1: Arizona State

Game 2: Arizona State


Game 1: Arizona

Game 2: Arizona

Despite exploring multiple scheduling permutations for the Wildcats and Sun Devils, I kept circling back to a seemingly immutable truth: I’m pretty sure these two would be happy to just play one another forever. They care about ruining a promising Oregon season or getting a USC coach fired, but nothing quite reaches the sloppy fervor of the Territorial Cup.

Neither school has another meaningful active rivalry or an interesting old rival they’ve ignored for years. So let’s just give them each a home game against the other. Sweep the series and you are the greatest Territorial Cup champion in history. Lose both games and you are its starkest failure. Split the games and spend months bickering over who got screwed by the refs worse.


Game 1: UCLA

Game 2: Stanford

Big Game remains intact, and we still get to determine University of California System supremacy. (Apologies to Davis.) Cal’s started 2-0 in conference play just one time in the last decade, and this seems like an achievable way to do that again.


Game 1: Colorado State

Game 2: Nebraska

Win the state. Make Scott Frost sad. This is a full season, for you, Colorado. You don’t need conference games to succeed.


Game 1: Washington

Game 2: Oregon State

The Washington game has had more in the way of national implications in recent years, but you should know that the Wikipedia page for the Oregon-Oregon State rivalry includes the words “abducted,” “prisoner,” “kidnapped,” and “resulting fire.” They each refer to different incidents.


Game 1: Washington State

Game 2: Oregon

Practice your kidnapping plan on Wazzu. Learn from what went wrong and adjust accordingly for Oregon. Also, football, if you feel like it.


Game 1: Notre Dame

Game 2: Cal

The Stanford-Notre Dame rivalry didn’t really get going until the 1980s, which makes the Cardinal fairly young in the pantheon of Fighting Irish nemeses. But those games are reasonably spicy, and I need Stanford here because of a Notre Dame plan I will reveal at the end of this post.


Game 1: Cal

Game 2: USC

Bad news: UCLA’s gonna go 0-2 here. Good news: UCLA has a bunch of other problems so maybe nobody will notice?


Game 1: Notre Dame

Game 2: UCLA

Can’t lose an immensely frustrating game to Arizona State if they’re not on the schedule in the first place!


Game 1: Utah State

Game 2: BYU

You’ve proven your worth in the Pac-12, Utah. Won the South, came a game away from maybe getting into the College Football Playoff. Now it’s time to enjoy your reward: spending a season clawing at the eyes of your neighbors while they try to rip your hair out at the root.


Game 1: Oregon

Game 2: Washington State

Probably the easiest choice I’ve made in this project.


Game 1: Oregon State

Game 2: Washington

There’s not a ton of history to the Oregon State game, but both teams had a spot to fill and this game serves as a good psychological setup for the bigger rivalry that follows it. Say you’re Wazzu and you beat the Beavers. Well, now you have to win the Apple Cup to go undefeated, a thing you haven’t done in the last hundred years.

Conversely, say you lose to Oregon State. Now you need a victory over Washington to avoid a winless season, which you’ve never experienced. Not even under Paul Wulff!


Game 1: Stanford

Game 2: USC

Notre Dame’s played Navy more than any other opponent, but USC’s second on the list and the Navy game usually isn’t all that close. Michigan and Michigan State are both options, as are Pitt and Northwestern and Purdue and Army. Narrowing down a Notre Dame season to just two games cannot be done without leaving off a team some segment of the fanbase really, really wants to play.

But at Stanford/USC schedule offers something the other opponents don’t: the chance to just live in California for a season. What will you use as a home stadium? Well, Stanford’s not really using theirs, and that makes travel a breeze when you play the Cardinal “on the road.” The weather’s certainly better, you’ll be close to lots of recruits, and inevitably there will be a “more people went to this Notre Dame home game in California than this Chargers game.”

(Look, you’re the ones who started rivalries requiring cross-country travel in the first place.)