The Arizona Wildcats were supposed to be hosting rival ASU this weekend, the first piece of a revised 10-game schedule put together by the Pac-12 in late July. It was supposed to be a weekend off on the original slate, you know, the one that was in place before the coronavirus pandemic changed everything?
Soon Arizona will get Version 3.0 of its 2020 schedule, this one only seven games long and not beginning until early November. Better than nothing, right?
In bringing back football on Thursday, the Pac-12 gave only basic details about the schedule. Games will begin Nov. 6-7, allowing for six weeks of competition before a Dec. 18 championship game between the division winners. The remaining 10 teams will also play that weekend, presumably matching up against whoever is in the similar place in the opposite division.
The schedule is expected to be released “in the coming days,” according to the Pac-12, with Arizona coach Kevin Sumlin saying Friday that could be as early as this weekend or not until sometime next week.
So, what might Arizona’s schedule look like?
Five of the six opponents are certain, as the Wildcats will face every team from the South Division. The sixth game will be a “crossover” foe from the North Division.
Though not a certainty, it stands to reason the five division games will be in the same location as they were in Arizona’s two previous schedules. That means the Wildcats would host ASU, Colorado and USC and visit UCLA and Utah.
That means the sixth game would be played on the road, which narrows the options for Arizona. Oregon, Stanford and Washington were on tap to play three of five North Division games on the road in 2020, so those are the Wildcats’ most likely crossover foes.
Commissioner Larry Scott said Thursday that all six games will count toward determining division winners, so how the league decides those crossover games will have a major impact on who plays for the conference championship. A random draw would take out any accusations of favoritism but brings with it the risk of affecting a Pac-12 champ’s already slim chances of making the College Football Playoff, so don’t be surprised if the league goes the way of the SEC when deciding added games in giving its perceived best teams the weakest possible opponents.
If that’s the case, expect Arizona to be playing in Eugene for the second year in a row.
When will that game be on the schedule? Speculation is the crossover games could come first, getting them out of the way, then leaving the final five weeks for division matchups.
But just as enticing could be getting things rolling with rivalry games, as was going to be the case with the Arizona and Oregon schools on the first revised schedule. Having the Territorial Cup as the season opener was enticing during that two-week period between when the 10-game Pac-12 slate was announced in late July and the season was scrapped, and the anticipation that would build over five to six weeks would be intense.
The ASU matchup could also be the final scheduled game, on Dec. 11-12, or slotted into its traditional post-Thanksgiving slot on Nov. 27-28.
For my money, this is how I think it will end up:
- Nov. 6 (Fri.) at Oregon
- Nov. 14 USC
- Nov. 21 at UCLA
- Nov. 28 ASU
- Dec. 5 at Utah
- Dec. 11 (Fri.) Colorado
- Dec. 19 TBD