Finally the day has arrived where the Pac-12 conference has a plan in place and a schedule (again) for football in 2020.
The reigning Pac-12 conference champions and 2020 Rose Bowl victor Oregon Ducks will begin their quest to repeat as conference champions starting on November 7 against the Stanford Cardinal. The schedule for all 12 teams will consist of five divisional games, one crossover, and then the conference championship on Dec. 18.
However, here is where things get tricky for the Ducks.
Let’s pretend for a minute that the world isn't currently going through a global pandemic. College football has been going on for weeks now, no scheduling or travel restrictions and the season continues as normal as can be. All is right on Saturdays. Head coach Mario Cristobal has never shied away from a challenging non-conference schedule (i.e. Auburn in week one last season) and this year was slated to host Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback Trey Lance and the North Dakota State Bison in week one followed up by hosting the Ohio State Buckeyes seven days later.
Should the Ducks have gone 2-0 in those first two weeks, that would have brought more national attention and College Football Playoff conversations into Eugene, Oregon.
This 2020 season looks really different.
Five divisional games and one crossover.
The Ducks ran the table in the North division last season. Oregon went 8-1 in Pac-12 play and the next closet North foe was a tie for second with Oregon State, Washington and Cal all at 4-5. The South was the better conference with Utah (8-1) and USC (7-2) battling it out. Even Arizona State was a challenge last season and was Oregon’s only loss.
This year, Oregon’s crossover game is against the UCLA Bruins which may come back to hurt them in the end.
It would have been more valuable for Oregon to play a South divisional opponent with a higher caliber like USC or Arizona State, and let’s be honest with ourselves here that’s what the Pac-12 and the nation wants the conference championship to be.
The Pac-12 conference is already playing with one arm tied behind its back with how late to the game it is. Will the CFP committee think twice about a 7-0 Pac-12 team over let’s say having two SEC teams or a 8-1 Big Ten team?
Here’s what Oregon Athletic Director Rob Mullens, who is also a member of the CFP committee, had to say on the matter: “I think the committee has a charge and the charge of a CFP committee is to choose the four best teams for the playoff, with a set of criteria,” said Mullens. “And I think a 7-0 Pac-12 team will be given every consideration. This is going to be a unique year.”
Oregon will also start this year ranked No. 14 nationally, according to the AP Top-25. The Ducks are the third team listed in the rankings with 0-0 record behind Ohio State (No. 6) and Penn State (No. 10).
We guess we’ll just have to wait and see how the cards play out.