The Pac-12 is one of only three Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) conferences that plays a nine-game conference schedule, and they will stay with that model moving forward.
At Pac-12 Media Days on Wednesday, conference commissioner Larry Scott expressed his support for the nine-game schedule when asked by a reporter if he would drop one to “make it a more level field.”
“We regularly discuss that question, and every time we’ve discussed that question, the important principles of having a tough schedule, playing as many teams as possible in the league, challenging yourself have been the overriding principles that have defined what our campuses want to do,” Scott said. “So we’ve been committed to nine conference games.”
The Big Ten and Big 12 also play nine-game conference schedules, while the ACC and SEC each play only eight conference contests. However, the ACC and SEC do have strength of schedule “mandates” to play at least one Power Five non-conference contest, but that still puts them one behind the Big Ten and Big 12 which both have the same requirement.
The Pac-12 has no such requirement, but that doesn’t stop schools such as USC from scheduling up.
“Interestingly, take USC as an example. Not only do they have nine conference games, but they play Notre Dame every year. No one requires them to do that,” Scott said. “I mentioned some of the other games, UCLA playing against Oklahoma. That’s nine tough conference games in the juggernaut which is the Pac-12, plus schools like Oklahoma, Notre Dame, Northwestern, Michigan State, Oklahoma State, Nebraska.”
As part of his response to the scheduling question, Larry Scott also added that the Pac-12 will be adjusting their schedule moving forward to allow for more late-season non-conference games. This season, only USC at Notre Dame (Oct. 12) and Notre Dame at Stanford (Nov. 30) are scheduled after Week 4.
“I think you’ll see over time we’ll have more games, nonconference games later in the season, which I guess is one of the features of the SEC that you might be referring to,” Scott said. “I think you’ll start seeing a little more flexibility in our scheduling and more and more of our schools having some non-conference games later in the season, which is going to mean conference games a little bit earlier in the season.”
When that change will occur is not exactly clear. Most of the future non-conference games scheduled outside of the first few weeks involve Notre Dame playing USC and Stanford, which was already the norm.
But there are several games already scheduled against the BYU Cougars that fall outside of the early-season window. Stanford has late-season games with BYU scheduled in 2020 (Nov. 28), 2022 (Nov. 26), and 2023 (date TBA). USC will play BYU in 2021 (Nov. 27) and 2023 (Nov. 25), while Washington State will face the Cougars in 2021 (Oct. 23).