Toughest 2013 Pac-12 non-conference football schedules

By Clayton Tinkle -

A few Pac-12 schools made an appearance on some Big Ten non-conference schedules, so naturally we’ll go out West to rank the Pac-12 and their own 2013 non-conference schedules.

A few schedules stand apart from the rest, but with no clear favorite to win the Pac-12, the non-conference games could play a key part in building momentum for a dark horse going into conference play.

Below is each Pac-12 school’s 2013 non-conference slate, counting down from the weakest to the toughest in the league.

12. Arizona Wildcats

  • 08/30 – Northern Arizona
  • 09/07 – at UNLV
  • 09/14 – UTSA

Rich Rodriguez has never been a fan of tough out of conference games, and this lineup proves that to be just a little bit more factual. Two of these teams are FBS programs, but give yourself a pat on the back if you know what “UTSA” stands for. The toughest game on this schedule is on the road against a two win team from last year, UNLV. There’s no argument that UNLV should be higher on this list. Arizona easily has the weakest out of conference schedule in the league.

11. Oregon State Beavers

Oregon State did not have the same mindset that their arch rival did when they were scheduling these games. Wisconsin came to town last year, and it fueled a pretty good season for the Beavers, but they won’t get that this year by kicking off against Eastern Washington. Playing in Qualcomm Stadium against the Aztecs won’t be an automatic W, either. SDSU was a nine win team a year ago, and will probably give Oregon State everything they’ve got after their bye week. Anything less than a 3-0 start will be a disappointment in Corvallis.

10. Colorado Buffaloes

There are two reasons this schedule is tough: Colorado State is a rival, and Fresno State’s mascot has the best name of all mascots, ever. Central Arkansas should be a victory, even though the Buffaloes only had one win last year and lost to FCS Sacramento State. Colorado is easily the worst team in the Pac-12, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them go 1-2 in the non-conference. Just being competitive is key for Colorado to get their feet under them this season. For the record, the Fresno State’s mascots’ name is Victor E. His middle initial is E! Now, that’s funny.

9. Washington State Cougars

  • 08/31 – at Auburn
  • 09/14 – Southern Utah
  • 09/21 – Idaho

An SEC team! This schedule is stacked! The Cougars are going to get blown out! Settle down now, please. Keep in mind this is the same Auburn team that went 3-9 and winless in conference play last year. Not exactly “S-E-C” chant worthy. That’s why this schedule is so low. Not only is there a lower-level SEC team on it, but also a one-win Idaho Vandal team, not to mention an FCS foe. While Auburn will definitely be better this year, it doesn’t hold enough merit by itself to bump this schedule any higher. Washington State could start the season 3-0, but 2-1 is more likely.

8. Utah Utes

Washington State and Utah’s schedule flip-flopped in this position for a solid 10 minutes. Ultimately, I didn’t let the SEC label scare me into putting them ahead of the Utes. The bottom line is Utah State at home and traveling to Provo is tougher than hosting Idaho and traveling to Auburn. Not to mention that both of these games are the Utes’ two biggest rivals. That always makes a schedule harder. Utah State is going for two in a row for the first time since ’96-’97, so you know they’ll give the Utes their best shot. BYU, however, will probably need to score more than six points to get their first win in the Holy War since ’09. Utah could quite possibly start out the season 1-2, and that would not qualify as momentum for the conference schedule.

7. Washington Huskies

Boise State quietly went 10-2 in the regular season last year. Also, Boise beat Washington in the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas. On the other hand, Illinois had a very forgettable season in the Big Ten, going winless and 2-10 overall. Illinois will be better this year, but as of now this only qualifies as the 7th best schedule in the conference. Idaho State should be an easy win, and 2-1 should be expected from Washington.

6. Oregon Ducks

The Oregon Ducks planned for the future very well when they set these games up. They get the credit for stepping out of conference and playing the big names, however these two big name schools haven’t been relevant in the FBS in quite a few years. Combined, these three schools had a total of ten wins last year. I give Oregon more credit than they probably deserve, but this schedule shouldn’t provide too many issues unless there are some major improvements from a year ago in Charlottesville and Knoxville.

5. UCLA Bruins

Three very solid opponents lands UCLA at sixth in the schedule rankings. UCLA outlasted Nebraska in a thriller last year, but now they have to travel to one of the hardest places to win in the nation in Memorial Stadium. UCLA would like to go 3-0 out of conference, but one slip in each game could have them on the losing end of things. 2-1 is much more likely.

4. Stanford Cardinal

San Jose is a frequent in Pac-12 country as a non-conference opponent, and they are getting better because of it. The Cardinal only beat SJSU by three last year, and they are going to have to face the pesky Spartans again, making this no easy game. Going to West Point shouldn’t be a problem, but playing Notre Dame is going to be tough. What makes it even tougher is the game is a week after California comes to town for what could be a huge game in deciding the Pac-12. Being tired after an already tough schedule will not help matters for the Cardinal.

3. USC Trojans

This schedule was hard to rank. Although there are four FBS schools (USC plays an extra game since they travel to Hawaii), Boston college had two wins last year and could easily be the worst team on the slate. But this isn’t your Dad’s Utah State team. The Aggies were five points away from going undefeated last year. The Trojans should enjoy their vacation to kick off the season in Hawaii as it should be an easy game as well, albeit on the road. The toughest contest is going to be in South Bend when they take on Notre Dame for the Jeweled Shillelagh. USC has won nine of the last 11 against the Irish, but Notre Dame will be looking to win consecutive games in the series for the first time since ’00-’01.

2. California Golden Bears

The only reason this schedule is number two on the list is because Arizona State has a neutral site game and both of California’s are at home. Two ten win teams on the slate add up to a pretty tough schedule. Ohio State was also the only undefeated team in the nation last year that didn’t play for a national title and they are only expected to be better this year. However, the Buckeyes only beat Cal by seven last year in Columbus. A win there for California over Urban Meyer, Braxton Miller, and company would be a huge momentum builder and perhaps push them to be the aforementioned dark horse Pac-12 title contender.

1. Arizona State Sun Devils

Arizona State and California both put together exceptional non-conference slates this year, but the Sun Devils barely edged the Golden Bears out. A quick warm up with Sacramento State opens the schedule with an easy win, and then the Badgers of Wisconsin come to town. Don’t expect the Badgers to play as bad this year as they did at Oregon State last year. Also, while losing some talent, the Fighting Irish’s signal caller is still in South Bend and should put on some fireworks for the fans at Cowboys Stadium. Arizona State has two high profile games, and they would be in great shape heading into conference play if they can come out of this slate with a 2-1 record. Hopefully that loss isn’t to Sacramento State.

Clayton Tinkle is a contributor to

Comments (36)

UCLA “three solid games” and you included New Mexico State in that…give me a break!

Get what you are saying, but may have been more of a nod that UCLA didn’t schedule an FCS team. I’m sure Clayton will chime in shortly.

Tinkle is clueless…..he rips Minnesota for playing SJSU,saying the Spartans are weak…but now he has them as team tough enough to make Stanford’s schedule pretty tough…and giving UCLA credit for playing NMSU as solid opp? Kevin,is Tinkle a fellow UGa guy?

If you read his bio, you’ll see his favorite team is Michigan.

I don’t think he “ripped” Minnesota for playing SJSU. He said overall the slate was “weak” and that the three FBS teams they play are “less than stellar.”

Michigan,huh? Well he sounds like a UGa writer…..*s*
But I still stand on what I wrote….how does SJSU rank as “less then stellar” when playing the crappy Gophers but a quality team when playing Stanford? The reason is because Tinkle doesn’t know much about any team outside of the Big 10. If he did,then he would known SJSU went 11-2 last year and finished ranked 21st and unlike Michigan,won their bowl game…and SJSU will be loaded for bear once again this year with tons of returning starters and improved depth at every position.

He means NM State is as competitive as any of PAC12 teams. Actually, PAC12 is better than the WAC and about 1 or 2 levels below the Mountain West Conference

Haha, if you take a loom at the acc rankings the same writer says “as terrible as new mexico state is” against BC and “nothing stands out” on Nevada vs FSU. Biased much?

Kevin is exactly correct! Nine of the other schools scheduled a FCS team. I gave the Bruins credit for not doing so. Thanks for the read!

Well done, Clayton. I wish all the Pac-12 schools would stop scheduling FCS schools. I think I read somewhere that there are only three FBS schools that have never played an FCS school, and two of those are from the Pac-12. It was USC and UCLA, with Notre Dame being the other. If only the rest of the conference would follow suit.

An FBS school losing to an FCS school is not unheard of. Look at Oregon State losing to Sac State, and Ole Miss losing to Jacksonville State. I’m not excusing it. But it does happen.

BYU plays 2/3 of the toughest OOC teams that the #1 toughest PAC schedule plays with wisconsin and notre dame, both on the road…

You failed to mention the rest of BYU’s schedule (Mid Tennesee, Utah St, Houston, Idaho St, Nevada, Virginia, Georgia Tech, Boise St). I mean, come on, hardly comparable to a Pac12 schedule.

2014 schedule gets worse for Washington with the addition of Georgia State-$75 bucks a ticket to watch that claptrap!

Thanks for the read, all. I agree that some FCS teams can beat FBS schools, and it’s not as uncommon as it used to be. Just the philopshy of scheduling a tune up game strikes me the wrong way, and I’m sort of glad it comes back to bite some big schools.

Good point about BYU’s schedule. We will touch on the independents in this series. THAT will be fun.

And don’t forget that Utah has chosen to dumb down their schedule even more in the future by refusing to schedule their rivals, BYU, in 2014 and 2015.

Don’t forget that they have Michigan and Fresno State those two years

Besides, remember that texas and texas A&M stopped their series against each other because of being in different conferences. utah-byu is the same, only it is more of a temporary stop

That’s exactly my point, Big Man. Rather than schedule BYU those two years, Utah chose to instead schedule Fresno State.

@ Cubbage :
But how is it “dumbing down” when BYU hasn’t beaten a ranked team since 2009?

Its not so much about BYU, as it is about Utah’s AD just trying to get to a bowl game. Utah is a struggling program. Still trying to have a winning record in the PAC 12.
Still trying to get a conference victory over a PAC 12 team with a winning record.
We played our 2 worst games in 2011 and 2012 and still beat them by 2 scores each of the last 2 years.
The main problem is, I don’t think they are good enough to beat Fresno State or BYU in 2014 and 2015. They should have added another FCS team. Being from Cali, I have a lot of respect for Fresno State.

Dumb Down. What a tool! YA we’ll see ya in Provo this year then back up on the hill in 2016.

That’s exactly my point, Big Man. Rather than schedule BYU those two years, Utah chose to instead schedule Fresno State.

No we scheduled Michigan in place of TTDS, Fresno was already scheduled in 2011.

Cubbage: Are you suggesting that Fresno State is somehow on par or better than BYU?

I think he is, and I’m going to agree with that.

The main problem is, I don’t think they are good enough to beat Fresno State or BYU in 2014 and 2015. They should have added another FCS team. Being from Cali, I have a lot of respect for Fresno State.

@ cubbage We havent lost to TTDS since 2009, we have taken the last 9-11 You dont think were good enough? Fresno will give us a better game then TTDS.

Utah Ute.

I know that you are offended when people say you are dumbing down your schedule.
But I am assuming from your responses you are young, or older but just unable to control your emotions.
Sounds like you are really into this BYU game and defending The Utes and that is great.

I will just assume you are young and have not followed football over the last 30-40 years.

There are maybe 10-15 teams that have built up a legacy over that time and have been consistent winners in the 70’s (When I first started to follow college football) 80’s, 90’s and up to today.

USC is one of those Teams, Texas is one, Ohio State is one, Bama, Oklahoma. I am guessing if you ran the numbers BYU is in the top 10-15 for wins during that time.

So when you tell the Nation you are swapping out a top 10-15 team in wins over the last 40 years for Fresno State. You just dumbed down your schedule.

And that is not a rip on Fresno State, because I think they will beat you twice by 2 scores. And the one at Fresno could get away from you in a hurry if you are not careful.

I don’t think you have a good football team right now. That might change in 10-15 years, but you haven’t beaten anyone in the Pac 12, and you just took away your “super bowl game” for some odd reason against BYU.

I think it was because you were trying to “Big Time” BYU. But you can’t even get bowl eligible. You can’t beat USC and you can’t beat anyone in the PAC 12 with a winning record. You aren’t BIG TIMING anyone, you are not fooling anyone, just yourself.

PS – what does TTDS mean? you said it in your post and maybe I am too old, but I am not familiar

Why do Utah fans get so insecure and feel the needs to take over these posts?
We get it, in 2008 you played nobody all year and played an unmotivated Alabama team in an anti-climatic Sugar Bowl. Congratulations???????
But what have you even done since then?
We have played you twice since you were let in the Pac12. Each time you got smashed by 3 TD’s. You haven’t even had a winning PAC12 season and now you want to chirp????
Beat somebody relevant in conference and then feel free to come on this board.
One last thing, don’t justify switching out BYU for Fresno State. You made that move because you were scared you are never going to a bowl again, not because you think it is a better game for your fans.
We aren’t dropping WSU, UCLA ain’t dropping USC and ASU ain’t dropping Arizona. Take a page from your big brothers and quit quitting rivalries, getting killed in conference and acting like a little brother.

Cubbage: Are you suggesting that Fresno State is somehow on par or better than BYU?

Like USC guy says, it is a moot point since Utah would struggle to beat Fresno, Michigan or BYU over the next 5 years. It would be a 50/50 proposition at best. Maybe they go 1-4 or 2-3 at best. But, I see Utah going 0-5 over the next 3 years to BYU, Michigan and FSU.

Good read hard to argue with these rankings. As long as the Pac 12 has a 9 game conference schedule teams will continue to try and play down in 2 of 3 non conference games. When you look at 3 non conference games by themselves it is easy to criticize scheduling down. But when you understand that you have to play 5 conf road games every other year it is understandable.

Prime example are the 2012 Utes. They went 2-1 in non-conf (0-1 on the road) 2-2 in conf home games and 1-4 in conf road games. finishing 5-7 and missing a bowl. Imagine what kind of scheduling changes they need to make when they are adding Stanford and Oregon to the schedule now. A loss to either BYU or USU in 2013 almost guarantees that they miss a bowl again.

This is the very reason that Wazzu dropped BYU in 2013 and why others are scheduling FCS schools or lower level FBS schools in 2 of 3 non conf games. This trend is likely to continue as long as the Pac 12 has a 9 game schedule. Teams want to win and want to become bowl eligible should we blame coaches and AD’s for trying to win?

It is sad to see our Pac 12 brothers pull a little brother move like that to avoid playing BYU.
Just to try and get to a bowl eligible, weak sauce amigos. We wouldn’t dump UA for Fresno, Man up Utes it’s a clown move bro, clown move!

Agree with ASUYOLO. Would rather see my team play games against meaningful competition, both in and out of conference. With college football changing, and more and more teams playing tough inter-conference opponents, I believe most programs will need to schedule and play tougher competition, rather than teams like Buffalo. It’s what the fans want, anyways.

I’m loving these “toughest non-conference” articles. Here’s hoping you’ll do one for every conference. And don’t forget about the independents. I mean, I’m sure we’re all DYING to know who has the tougher non-conference schedule: Idaho, Army or New Mexico State? :)

Thanks for all the feedback, guys. Really appreciate the debate.

@Andy – Doing one for each, Big Twelve coming next. Independents included, of course!

Fun read guys. USC may win them all this year as ND is the only really tough team on their schedule.

No one plays an easier out of conference schedule than the sec and the big ten. And 8 home games every year. Give me a break