Much of the talk this summer has been about scheduling, whether it be FCS teams, number of conference games, or scheduling a conference game and then counting it as a nonconference game.
But the Pac-12, as usual, will play some pretty tough schedules, and Ted Miller and Chantel Jennings are discussing which team they think has the hardest road through the league in 2014.
Chantel Jennings: I’m going with Oregon State. I certainly don’t envy Mike Riley. Yes, he has a weapon in Sean Mannion, but Mannion is going to have some pretty big tests throughout the season as he searches for his new safety blanket with Brandin Cooks down in New Orleans.
For starters, the Beavers begin their Pac-12 season with a trip to Los Angeles to play USC. Steve Sarkisian hasn’t been there long at all but if his record at Washington against Oregon State is any indicator (a very convincing win last season, 3-2 in five years), it’s going to be a tough one.
After that opening, the road gets smoother. Really, from Oct. 4 through the middle of November Oregon State has a pretty favorable schedule, with the major exception of a trip to Stanford on Oct. 25. I’d take the Beavers at home against Utah, Cal and Washington State and a road trip to Colorado shouldn’t be too terrible for Mannion and Riley.
But the last part of the Beavers schedule just gets brutal. And by brutal I mean uphill both ways without shoes on broken glass.
Yes, the Arizona State and Oregon games are at home, but those games are going to be tough. And a road trip to Washington sandwiched in the middle could be very bad as well. Early in the year, a visit to Seattle might not be that terrible but I’d imagine that by the end of November, Chris Petersen is going to have the Huskies clicking on all cylinders and that isn’t the friendliest of stadiums.
The Beavers should be bowl eligible by then (and if they’re not, Oregon State might not be seeing the postseason in 2014), but ending the season with that kind of a three-game stretch -- and a very possible three-game skid -- is rough.
Ted Miller: Stanford played the nation's fourth-toughest schedule last year, though it ranked only fourth in the Pac-12, and the Cardinal's 2014 slate is even tougher, at least from a preseason perspective.
For one, Stanford plays six road games, including five in conference play after having five at home in 2013. Five of those games -- Washington, Notre Dame, Arizona State, Oregon and UCLA -- will be against teams likely inhabiting the preseason top 25. Oregon and UCLA are top-10 teams.
Then there are the Pac-12 misses: Arizona and Colorado. The Wildcats again look like a bowl team and the Buffaloes are improving, but Stanford's competition in the North Division have far more advantageous misses. Oregon, to note the Cardinal's chief rival, misses Arizona State and USC.
Speaking of USC, the Trojans visit in Week 2, sandwiched between Stanford's only easy games -- UC Davis and Army. After a bye, Stanford then travels to Seattle and Notre Dame on consecutive weekends. The season concludes with road games at rival California and UCLA, the South favorite.
This schedule is unrelenting. It's the best reason to favor Oregon in the North Division.
But if the Cardinal finishes 11-1 or even 10-2 and then win the Pac-12 championship game, you'd have to think they will be squarely in the hunt for a berth in the College Football Playoff.