With the release of the 2013 Pac-12 schedule on Thursday, which teams came out winners even before the season kicks off in August and which are cursing the schedule-makers?
Winner – Oregon
Now this is a docket tailor-made for another BCS bowl run, as the Ducks have just one set of back-to-back road games – at Colorado and at Washington, not exactly the most fearsome duo. The Thursday night trip to Stanford sets up as the Pac-12 game of the season, though a visit to Arizona 16 days later could be interesting. But all things considered, head coach Chip Kelly should have his eyes on Pasadena next January and a return to the Rose Bowl or BCS championship game.
Loser – UCLA
UCLA plays at Stanford, then at Oregon seven days later. That’s all you need to know about the increased degree of difficulty in head coach Jim Mora’s second season.
Winner – USC
On the other side of town, head coach Lane Kiffin gets a slate that should set up for a bounce back after 2012’s embarrassing slide from preseason No. 1 to 7-6. With early games at Hawaii, Washington State, and Boston College, quarterback Matt Barkley’s successor should be more than ready for the visit to Arizona State to close out September. Oregon State looms as an all too obvious trap game, but other than that, the Trojans have a favorable draw.
Loser – Utah
With a 7-11 record in their first two years in the Pac-12, the transition to a BCS conference has been much tougher than anticipated for the Utes. Now they must face the blur of Oregon’s offense and noise of Autzen Stadium for the first time, along with a home game against Rose Bow champion Stanford. Road games at Arizona and USC in consecutive weeks won’t help matters, so Utah looks resigned to another season at the back of the pack.
Loser – Washington
The Huskies open conference play with Arizona, at Stanford, and Oregon, after the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas rematch with Boise State in their return to renovated Husky Stadium. The heat will be on head coach Steve Sarkisian if Washington can’t step up to the next level.
Dan Greenspan writes about the Pac-12 for Fox Sports Next. Follow him on Twitter @DanGreenspan.