With Washington’s loss and the Pac-12’s chances of having a representative in the College Football Playoff all but eliminated, there’s been a lot of attention on the league’s scheduling and whether it hurts the teams it is meant to showcase.
Stanford upset the No. 9 Huskies 30-22 on Friday night, taking out the Pac-12’s last real shot at representation in the playoffs. The playoff has never included a two-loss team.
But this season every one of the conference’s teams has at least two losses. Yes, it could mean that play in the league is having a down year. But schedules have been a recurring theme throughout the season.
Friday night games have particularly come under scrutiny because three ranked teams – Washington, Washington State (at California) and USC (at Washington State) – all lost on a Friday night after a short week.
In fact, road teams are 0-4 on Friday nights after playing the previous Saturday.
Here’s one more thing to consider: Southern California will play 12 straight weeks this season without a bye, but will get the weekend off before the Pac-12 championship. Whatever team the Trojans face – Washington, Washington State or Stanford – will be coming off a short week.
USC clinched the Pac-12 South last weekend with a 38-24 victory over Colorado.
The league’s coaches admit there’s not much that can be done: Television drives scheduling. By extension, the Pac-12’s TV deals provide national exposure.
But even the television factor has been criticized. The start of the game between Washington and Stanford – a showcase of the league’s top team against Heisman hopeful Bryce Love – was delayed and shifted to another channel because of the Camping World Truck Series. And often the league’s marquee matchups – Pac-12 After Dark – don’t happen until many on the East Coast are already headed to bed.
”Really, we’re in a television-driven world, and a television-driven market, and as a coach I don’t really concern myself with things I can’t control,” USC coach Clay Helton said. ”I think that’s the approach of our league. It’s part of college football to be able to play on Thursday, Friday or Saturday nights. From a scheduling standpoint, you see your schedule ahead of time, and you make the most of those opportunities.”
Commissioner Larry Scott addressed the issue a few weeks ago before Stanford’s Thursday night game at Oregon State, saying that the topic of short-week Friday night games had come up in a recent meeting with athletic directors and other administrators.
”There are already about a dozen different parameters that get put into the computer when the schedules get developed, and that is one we’re going to try to take a look at, as much as possible, to have an even playing field, fairness, equity,” Scott said. ”This has come up as an issue of some concern so we’re going to try and address it with future schedules.”
Scott said he also shares the concerns of athletic departments and fans over the frequency of night games, but again, it is a trade off with the league’s broadcast partners that bring exposure to the teams.
Stanford coach David Shaw said he believes the league is also hurt because it puts non-conference opponents at the front of the season for most teams. The result is that teams don’t have a break from Pac-12 play after the opening three weeks.
”So you’ve got a run that every game is meaningful, every game is big, every game is a rivalry. You don’t have a break, and oh, by the way, you may play a 7:30 game and then have a short week and play Friday. Those are brutal weeks, brutal weeks,” Shaw said. ”I haven’t tracked this year, but in previous years we’ve looked at it and usually road teams lost that short week.”
This story has been updated to correct that the name of USC’s coach is Clay Helton.
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