The Pac-12 has a problem.
Every league, whether it's the NFL, MLS or the Pac-12 has to think about how their scheduling works. There's a format that is set up and is a nice starting point every year. Because there are a lot teams involved, talking about that format at a league level gets a little tricky. You need teams to pair up and everything to balance out.
For the most part, The Pac-12 has everything sorted out. Everyone opens with three consecutive out-of-conference games, and then everyone plays 9 straight conference games: 5 divisional game and 4 cross-divisional games. That's the new rule made conveniently as soon as Utah joined the league. It's all neat and tidy.
But like many things in college football ... then there's Notre Dame.
Every year, Notre Dame plays Stanford and USC, hosting one and traveling to one every year. When USC visits Notre Dame, that game is in October, and Stanford is in week 13 (the week before championship week). When Notre Dame visits USC, that game is in week 13 and Stanford usually visits South Bend in October.
When the new rule was created, Notre Dame's 26-game history with Stanford was deemed so important that they would be an exception to this rule moving forward. This creates a problem for the Pac-12 because adding Notre Dame two weeks a year means on those weeks there are now 13 teams to schedule instead of 12.
Scheduling games for 13 teams in one week is a little complicated.
Below is the Pac-12 2012 schedule for week 13:
Cal plays 12 straight weeks of football only to get a bye the week before the championship game. Now, Cal probably won't be playing in that game, but if they did, it's kind of unfair to the other 11 Pac-12 teams to let Cal have a bye to prep for the game. It's also kind of unfair for Cal to play 12 straight weeks so USC can play Notre Dame.
BYU would be happy to solve this problem for Cal and the rest of the Pac-12.
One very easy solution would be for BYU to play the logical opposite of the team Notre Dame is playing:
So, when Notre Dame is playing USC, you'd have:
And when Notre Dame is playing Stanford, you'd have:
Now, maybe Cal wouldn't be excited about the idea. There's a couple other ways it could work. BYU and Utah could play in November, and Colorado would alternate playing USC and Cal. That gets a little more complicated, since, for example, UCLA-Colorado is a divisional game, Cal-Colorado is not.
There's a lot of ways it could work, but from a league level, I promise it's easier to figure out how to schedule 14 teams play in one week than it is to schedule games for 13 teams.
Of course, the big problem with all this may that scheduling quality games in November would help BYU out, and that may not be something the Pac-12 wants to do, even if it helps them solve their problem. For some reason, the "no games after September" rule is that important to someone. If anyone wants to ask exactly why the rule is so important for everyone else, I'd love to know.
So, Pac-12 ... you have three options:
- Force Cal, Stanford, USC, or UCLA to keep having byes the week before championship week
- Move Notre Dame's end-of-year games to weeks where byes are less problematic
- Let BYU balance out your schedule
What'll it be?