Pac-12 Commissioner Kliavkoff reportedly aiming for eight conference games in Alliance era
A little clarity into the future of Pac-12 football.
After weeks of rampant speculation and uncertainty about how the Pac-12 will change to stay relevant amid conference reshuffling in the SEC, things have magically gotten so much clearer this past week. These days, we don’t even need a crystal ball to divine just a tad into the future of Pac-12 football.
Like a bouncer with an iron grip on our velvet rope to keep the unkempt masses from getting up into the clurb, the conference decided not to pursue expansion at this time and will be holding steady at twelve. However, it looks like Cal Football will be seeing new opponents and it’s all because of our new alliance with the Big Ten and the ACC.
According to Colton Clark of the Spokesman Review, Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff announced that the Pac-12’s goal is to shift from a nine-game in-conference season to eight games.
The Pac-then-10 started playing nine conference games in 2006—and was the only Power Five conference to do so at the time. It has become a contentious subject since as it seems to create imbalance between teams with nine in-conference games (Pac-12, Big Ten, and Big 12) compared to those with eight in-conference games (ACC and SEC)—resulting in a shift in public perception and a tendency for the conferece to cannibalize itself rather than have a strong candidate for postseason play. This goal may help equalize the scheduling disparities between the Alliance members.
But what does it mean for Cal specifically? On the surface, we’ll probably be seeing new match-ups against teams who have yet to experience our brand of crazy while providing opportunities for Bears fans to travel and tailgate.
And what Pac-12 game would we be dropping? Assuming the Pac-12 stays in North and South divisions when this change happens, I would be inclined to assume each team would be losing a cross-division contest—so missing another South foe every year for the Bears.
But the Californian schools currently enjoy (which is subjective) a special agreement in the conference where we will always play each other every year. This arrangement has been controversial among Bears fans. For traditionalists, this is a great deal as it lets us continue to face our traditional in-state rivals. For fans who are more concerned about national perception and win-loss records, this is a tough sell because it guarantees annual games against UCLA and USC (which will always be relatively high-floor schools due to their location and brand to recruits) while resulting in more misses of weak South schools, like during Arizona’s and Colorado’s basement-dwelling days.
Assuming we maintain our current scheduling rules (two divisions, play every team in the division, and play both LA schools), here’s a breakdown of what our schedules may look like in the future:
Home game against Big Ten/ACC team
Road game at Big Ten/ACC team
Non-conference game, possibly against Group of Five team?
Five Pac-12 North games (Washington, WSU, Oregon, OSU, and Stanfurd)
Two LA schools (UCLA and USC)
One non-LA Pac-12 South game (Arizona, ASU, Colorado, or Utah)
Whether or not this increases the difficulty of Cal’s schedule is entirely dependent on how the additional Alliance team compares to our would-be Pac-12 South team—did we schedule Rutgers or Ohio State and was it at the expense of a game against Utah or Arizona? For now, it just might be nice to come down to a uniform number of eight conference games across the NCAA—and for Pac-12 teams to travel across the country to be the victors in our patented upsets, but with non-Pac-12 teams now serving as the victims.