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How Arizona’s 2020 football schedule might look with only Pac-12 opponents

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COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 02 Oregon State at Arizona Photo by Chris Coduto/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

As it stands now, college football is expected to happen this fall in some way, shape or form. That’s about all we know, though, as the coronavirus pandemic makes long-term planning almost impossible.

In preparing for all of the uncertainties ahead, the Pac-12 has been exploring a number of options for the upcoming season, such as playing games without fans. It’s also looked at modifying the 2020 schedule to have Pac-12 schools only face each other, USC coach Clay Helton said last week during a league-hosted webinar.

“It’s been discussed in our Pac-12 meetings, and it’s been discussed by the commissioners,” Helton said. “That is one of the many structures as we go through this situation and this crisis that is a possibility of an all-conference schedule.”

Instead of nine league games and three contests against nonconference opponents, the Pac-12 would play an 11-game round robin. The conference hasn’t played a true round robin in football since expanding from 10 to 12 schools in 2011.

If such a change were to be made it would mean the Arizona Wildcats would drop September home games against Hawaii and Portland State as well as a trip to Texas Tech and replace them with matchups against Cal and Washington State, the two Pac-12 schools they skip during this two-year cycle.

Based on the Pac-12’s scheduling format that would mean Wazzu would come to Tucson and Arizona would visit Cal, giving Arizona six home games and five on the road.

So how would the schedule look? Here are two possible scenarios:

Plug and play

An 11-game schedule would likely start later than normal, allowing for teams to have a full training camp without rushing back to campuses. While Arizona has started to “re-open” other Pac-12 state like California, Oregon and Washington are not as far along in that process.

Since Arizona’s first two games are nonconference—Aug. 29 vs. Hawaii and Sept. 5 vs. Portland State—those would just get dropped from the schedule. The Hawaii game, a “Week Zero” matchup similar to last year’s visit to Honolulu, can be played a week earlier than the traditional Labor Day Weekend start to the season because the NCAA allows Hawaii (and any team scheduled to visit Hawaii) an extra week to get in all its games and not be overburdened by travel.

That would make the 2020 season opener the Sept. 12 visit from Stanford. Arizona’s next Pac-12 game isn’t scheduled until Oct. 3, at UCLA, because it was set to visit Texas Tech on Sept. 19 and then have an off week before going to the Rose Bowl.

Wazzu was set to host Idaho on Sept. 19 but instead could play at Arizona Stadium, while the Wildcats’ visit to Cal could be on Nov. 14 when both teams currently have an open date. Sept. 26 would remain open.

  • Sept. 12 Stanford
  • Sept. 19 Washington State
  • Sept. 26 Off
  • Oct. 3 at UCLA
  • Oct. 9 (Fri.) Colorado
  • Oct. 17 USC
  • Oct. 23 (Fri.) at Washington
  • Oct. 31 Oregon
  • Nov. 7 at Utah
  • Nov. 14 at California
  • Nov. 21 at Oregon State
  • Nov. 28 Arizona State

Inserting Cal and Wazzu into existing holes, while the easiest thing to do, would create some imbalance. Arizona would play four of its first five at home and then four of the next five on the road, including three straight in November. To avoid that would require moving around some games, not just for the UA but for the entire league.

Travel consolidation

One of the reasons the Pac-12 would consider playing only league games is to cut down on travel, which within the conference is already pretty significant. Concerns about COVID-19 becoming more prevalent again as the weather gets colder, similar to the seasonal flu, might prompt the league to schedule more regionally toward the end of the slate.

For instance, the four California schools could face each other the last three weeks of November, as could the Oregon and Washington schools as well as Arizona, ASU, Colorado and Utah.

To do that, though, would require a massive overhaul of the entire Pac-12 slate since many of those matchups are currently scheduled for September and October.

Since yours truly is a dork and has plenty of OCD, I went ahead and tried to rearrange the Pac-12 schedule so that it would begin for everyone on Sept. 12—when Stanford/Arizona is the only current league tilt on tap—and end Thanksgiving weekend with a bye for each school at some point in October.

Here’s how Arizona’s slate would look:

  • Sept. 12 at California
  • Sept. 19 Washington State
  • Sept. 26 Stanford
  • Oct. 3 at UCLA
  • Oct. 10 Off
  • Oct. 17 USC
  • Oct. 23 (Fri.) at Washington
  • Oct. 31 Oregon
  • Nov. 7 at Oregon State
  • Nov. 14 at Utah
  • Nov. 20 (Fri.) Colorado
  • Nov. 28 Arizona State

Only five of Arizona’s games would be on the same date as currently scheduled, but it could be worse. My league-wide revision leaves only Colorado and USC with only three untouched matchups, while most others only have four unaltered games.

I kept Arizona’s two Friday night matchups intact, too, and in both cases they adhere to the Pac-12’s mandate that a team wouldn’t have to play on a short week on the road after having played away from home the week before. In fact, it wouldn’t be surprising to have more games moved to Friday or Thursday night earlier in the season to try to maximize TV exposure (and revenue, especially if the games are fanless).

Arizona gets a fairly balanced slate here, never having to play more than two in a row on the road, though the tough middle gets even harder with a trip to Oregon State wedged into the USC/at Washington/Oregon/at Utah gauntlet. The trade-off is ending with two straight at home, which hasn’t happened for the Wildcats since 2008.

Below is one man’s attempt to make a complete round robin for 2020.