Hello Followers. Hope you're having a great week.
As for me, well, I'm gearing up for one of my only real responsibilities on this here blog: Our commissioned ballot for Pac-12 media day.
With media day now fast approaching on July 26, all of us "official voters" are required to mail our ballots into the league office by the first part of next week. So, today, I thought it wise to give you a sneak peak into my feeble calculus.
Of course, where us Cougars are concerned, the main question pertains to whether or not we have any chance of making it out of the cellar this year. So, if you want to know how I think the Pac-10 North "Battle for the Basement" shakes out this year, then click on the ole jumperoo.
Followers, back in the ole days of the Pac-10, sorting out the bottom half of the conference was pretty straightforward. After all, everybody played everybody, so the only real "trick" of the trade was to look at the ratio of home games to away games, the # of bye weeks, and the general "order"/'pace" to the schedule to figure it all out.
But now, the addition of two new teams into the conference really muddies the water. While teams still differ with respect to the ratio of home and away games they play (some teams are 4-5 home, others 5-4 home), now each team also varies with respect to which teams they play during the year. On top of that, in the Pac-12 South, we have two new teams that most of us haven't seen before, we have a traditional power that is saddled in probation land, and as a consequence of both of those factors, have a division race that is about as wide open as we will probably see pre-season for several years to come.
So, with all that in mind, I thought that I'd try to break down the schedules of the four teams that I think have a bonafide shot to finish anywhere from third to sixth in the Pac-12 North. And as part of that break down, I have divided each potential cellar dwellar's schedule into four primary categories. These categories are:
1) Schedule against the Top Teams in the South
(My top 3 teams in the South--in no particular order--Utah, USC, Arizona State; Arizona is reall close here but they're my fourth place team)
2) Schedule against the Bottom Teams in the South
(UCLA and Colorado)
3) Schedule against the Top Teams in the North
4) Schedule against the Bottom Teams in the North
(CAL, OSU, UW, and WSU)
So, lets take a look, shall we:
Games vs. Top South: USC, @ASU, UTAH
Games vs. Bottom South: @UCLA
Games vs. Top North: @Oregon, @Stanford
Games vs. Bottom North: @UW, OSU, WSU
Reaction: AS you can see, CAL's schedule is not easy. They play all three top teams in the South, play only one of the South bottom feeders, and are on the road against the two giants of the North. That tough schedule is balanced only by the fact that they have two of the three potential North cellar dwellars at home.
Games vs. Top South: @ASU, @UTAH
Games vs. Bottom South: UCLA
Games vs. Top North: @Oregon, Stanford
Games vs. Bottom North: @WSU (neutral), @CAL, UW
Reaction: Tough one for the Beavs. Two road games against the top of the South and two of the three games against the potential north cellar dwellars are on the road. Good news for the Beavs: They always seem to beat CAL, UCLA is at home, and they would seem to have a good chance to beat the UW at home. They also might have a fighting chance to play with Stanford at home.
Games vs. Top South: @Utah, @USC
Games vs. Bottom South: Colorado
Games vs. Top North: @Stanford, Oregon
Games vs. Bottom North: CAL, WSU, @OSU
Reaction: Not an easy slate of games for the 2011-2012 version of the Defeateds. I don't like their chances against the top of the South, they'll beat Colorado at home, they'll lose @ Stanford--although I think they'll give Oregon a heckuva game this year. And then you have the games against the bottom of the North. Two of three at home--with one being against a potentially shaky CAL team earliy in the Pac-12 season when they're running game is MUCH better than CAL's.
Games vs. Top South: ASU, Utah
Games vs. Bottom South: @Colorado, @UCLA
Games vs. Top North: Stanford, @Oregon
Games vs, Bottom North: OSU (Neutral), @CAL, @UW
Reaction: In favor of our Cougs--both games against the top South teams are at home, in November (Utah could be shaky by then, ASU never plays well in Pullman late). We also stand as the only Pac-12 North bottom feeder that plays BOTH of the bottom feeder schools from the other division. Working against us: One could argue that we have ZERO home games against the bottom feeders of the North. So, for us to get to the 3 to 4 conference wins that would get us out of the cellar and near bowl eligibility--all of our confererence wins may need to come from road games. That's a real toughy.
Conclusion Until Next Week:
Looking at this breakdown, it seems pretty clear to me that CAL has the toughest road to stay out of the basement. Three games against (my) top three teams in the South with both Pac-12 North powerhouses on the road. What that means for me is that CAL needs to be nearly perfect in the rest of their games against UCLA and the three potential Pac-12 North doormats. With a new quarterback in tow, that seems like a tough road.
Beyond CAL, I think a case can be made for all teams to finish third or sixth--although I think that our schedule is pretty dubious simply because most of our "winnable" games are on the road. While our performance in Corvallis--and to a certain extent Los Angeles--last year provide some optimism that this group of Cougars can pull a few road games out of the bag, we'll need to be true Road Warriors if we want to reach our goal of becoming bowl eligible.
All for now. Go Cougs.