This may sound a little like sour grapes, but it’s not. This is n’t a complaint, merely an observation.
Thanks to USC’s fall from dominance, the Pac-12 South is a very competitive race this year. You have two distinctly bad teams in Utah and Colorado, then 4 teams with a legitimate shot to play in the Pac-12 championship game – USC, UCLA, ASU and Arizona. So lets say they all sweep Utah and Colorado and everyone beats each other a couple of times in their other 3 games. That puts everyone one game within each other in the division games, and causes the 4 games versus the North to be the deciding factor.
Here’s where the unbalanced schedule plays a huge role. Up in the North, you also have 2 bad football programs, in WSU and Cal. But you have 2 teams who have spent time in the top 25 (Stanford and UW), one who has spent time in the top 10 (OSU) and 1 who is a National Championship contender (Oregon). The 4 teams you draw out of this group of 6 are hugely important.
So let’s look at the Pac 12 South teams contending for the title, and who they drew from the North:
Arizona: Oregon, OSU, Stanford, Washington
ASU: Cal, Oregon, OSU, WSU
UCLA: Cal, OSU, Stanford, WSU
USC: Cal, Oregon, Stanford, Washington
If you are a UCLA fan, you have to be excited that the Bruins are the only ones who don’t face Oregon. That’s 1 loss everyone else is getting that you won’t have. Not only do you miss Oregon, you GOT both WSU and Cal. So that’s 2 wins you should have gotten (but didn’t).
ASU probably netted out 2nd best. They get the Oregon loss, but they skip OSU and Washington. They should get at least 2 wins in the mix from WSU and Cal.
USC got a fairly tough road. They have to face Oregon, Stanford and Washington – all tough games, with only one respite – Cal.
Meanwhile, it’s the Arizona Wildcats who had to run the whole North Gauntlet, and they paid the price, finishing 1-3 against their Northern foes.
It’s a quandary every 12 team conference faces, so this isn’t sour grapes on my part. But here in Pac 10 country, we didn’t have this problem in past years. When you have 1 team that is an outlier for being uber talented, and a couple teams as outliers as under talented, it really makes for a giant wild card.