Earlier this month, the Pac-12 announced its decision to play a conference-only schedule. We now have more details on what Pac-12 football will look like this fall.
The previous announcement means the cancellation of some major college football games this fall. Alabama-USC is the headliner, but we were also set for games like Oregon State at Oklahoma State, Stanford at Notre Dame, USC vs. Notre Dame, and Washington State vs. Houston. Two huge games—Oregon vs. Ohio State and Washington vs. Michigan—were already canceled when the Big Ten made its own conference-only decision.
According to Jon Wilner of The Mercury News, the conference is currently finalizing the schedule. It is set to be unveiled next week, but he has some insight on how things will be structured. September 19 is now the target start date for the season, though everything is in flux.
Per Wilner, the conference is currently planning for training camps to begin in mid-August. A 10 game schedule, with each team playing its full division slate and five crossover games against the opposite division, is currently the plan, but the Pac-12 has a nine game schedule on deck, in case it needs to cut down on weeks.
The new Pac-12 football schedule will have two bye weeks built in, Wilner reports, to give some added flexibility. Byes are set for October and November, but dates have not yet been confirmed, he says.
As with the rest of the slate, the Pac-12 is keeping things very flexible with the championship game, set to be played at the brand new Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas. It is scheduled for Friday, Dec. 4, but could be played during any of the first three weekends of December.
It was originally scheduled for Friday, Dec. 4, and that remains an option under a best-case scenario.
But if that weekend is needed for makeup games — for example: if the teams cannot play the openers on Sept. 19 — the conference has secured the option to stage the championship on the weekend of Dec. 11-12.
And if that weekend is also needed for makeups, the title game could get pushed back to the weekend of Dec. 18-19.
Another interesting note that Wilner includes in the report: potential plans for the bowl season. While many have been writing off minor bowl games for the upcoming year, he says ESPN, which has the right to most of the ever-expanding slate, has the ability to shuffle and reschedule things. It also sounds like we may have bowl season pushed back into January if need be.
ESPN, which owns the vast majority of bowl games, has the option to move them around like chess pieces — they could be rescheduled for January, if necessary.
Flexibility will be key for Pac-12 football and the rest of the sport to be played this fall. It is good to see that the league is being proactive and establishing contingency plans. Hopefully we'll see a season played as safely as possible, without any major outbreaks.