Beating the Punch

Beating the Punch

Hello Followers.  Hope you’re having a great week.

A few moments ago, my good friend and colleague John Wilner just Tweeted that he is expecting that the 2014 Pac12 Football schedules will be released shortly.  And since that topic was targeted by moi for a post later this week, I thought it timely to fire off a few thoughts about our prospects before the schedule is actually released.

So, if you’d like to read about what conference foes I think we should face early, middle, or late next year, then click on the jumperoo.


Followers, 2013 provided a really interesting glimpse into how a schedule can affect the trajectory of a season.   Take Oregon State as an example.  If you remove the Eastern Washington loss, the Beavs early schedule included a string of very winnable games—so much so that many pundits thought that a 7-0 start was all-but a certainty for the Beavs in 2013.  Of course, the last five games were not favorable for the Beavs.  And so the result was a 4 game losing streak that had some Beaver backers calling for the end of the Mike Riley era.

Beating the Punch

In addition to the Beavs, the fortunes of Washington’s season also rested on how their schedule played out.  After starting 4-0, the Dawgs found themselves squarely in murderer’s row, defined by a three week stretch @Stanford, home against Oregon, and @Arizona State.  The result:  Washington lost all three. And because they did, their overall talent and improvement was masked to the point where people completely lost sight of what a marvelous job Sark and Wilcox had done re-building (and re-making) that program.

Beating the Punch.

And frankly, the schedule lined up pretty well for us in some respects.  For instance, we got SC early while Kiffin was killing SC’s psyche like Ken Bone is killing ours in hoops. We were also granted a pretty nice ending to the season in the form of three winnable games (@Arizona, Utah, @Washington) that followed much needed bye weeks.

So, as we look to the release of the 2014 schedule, I am hoping for a modified version of Oregon State’s 2013 slate.  The reason:  Because our secondary is going to be so vulnerable early, my thought is that it is generally better to get winnable games in early, therefore allowing our secondary time to season a bit.  My other thought:  Our offense MIGHT be championship caliber.  So, if the season goes well early, we might be in a position to make some noise against the better teams later in the season.

With all that said, here is my “dream” schedule (no bye weeks are included because time is oh-so-short). Keep in mind that all of our non-conference games are supposed to precede our conference slate this year.  (Rutgers in Seattle, @Nevada, Portland State).

Beating the Punch

1.       USC.   So, I said that I wanted to start out with some cream-puffs, right?  Well, ya, we do.  At the same time, USC is currently facing a whole bunch of defections to the NFL.  And while I fully expect Justin Wilcox to have that D firing early, we saw from our game with Auburn that even when you have 4 and 5 star talent, it sometimes takes some time to gel. Add into the mix that SC will run the pro-style offense that causes us the least amount of defensive problems and you have a best recipe for a two game win-streak against Troy.  And yes, the game would also be in a sold-out Martin Stadium

2.       @Utah.  Again probably a tricky game given how good the Utes are in Salt Lake.  But with their third offensive coordinator in three years coupled with a host of uncertainty at quarterback, we seem well poised to engage in a 51-48 shoot-out a la the Utes and Beavs in 2013.

Beating the Punch

Its FUN! to be 1-11!!!!

3.       CAL.  In the event that SC and Utah don’t yield a W, then a soft landing is in order.  My thought is that CAL will be improved in 2014.  The key will be facing them before their defense can afford to buy a vowel.  Playing them early is almost akin to chalk…

4.       @Oregon State.   You can pencil this game in right now as the swing game of the year for us.  To be sure, Mannion will give our young secondary all that they can handle.  At the same time, one has to think that if you’re going to play the Beavs, the best thing would be to as healthy as possible.  I also wouldn’t mind seeing this game follow an early bye.

Beating the Punch

5.       Arizona.  With uncertainty at quarterback, running back, and attrition on the offensive line, I happen to think that the Mildcats are going to be hard-pressed to outscore us at home.  At this point, we’ve gotta hope that we’re already bowl eligible at 6-2 or darn near it at 5-3 following this game.  Cuz here come the big dogs.

Beating the Punch

6.       Oregon.  Playing Oregon this late (late October, early November is great for a couple of reasons.  First, if the game follows Arizona, we would have already schemed for them a bit a week earlier.  Second, it gives our secondary LOTS of time to develop.  Third, if our season is magical—playing this game late gives us the best chance at a GameDay type atmosphere.  It might also be REALLY cold!

7.       @Stanford.  You know when I’d like to play Stanford?  The week after they play Notre Dame. Given all the losses they have on Defense, I thought about the merits of playing them early.  But after thinking about our needs to mature on Defense, I thought it better if we could find ourselves sandwiched around some big games for them. So, playing in South Bend the week prior would be REALLY great.  It would also be nice if they were playing UCLA or Oregon the week after us.  I can dream, right?

8.       @Arizona State.   Seems like a game that we can put right into the loss column.  That said, if we’re going to compete in this game—its gotta be in a shoot-out.  Plus, our team already has an idea that tripping down to sunny AZ in November isn’t bad when you’re a pass happy offense.

Beating the Punch

Let me stop talking before I get too far behind myself.

9.       Washington.   The only scheduling issue around this game is who we’re going to play before the pups.  And while a good case can be made that its better to not risk a two game losing streak, the bottom line is that I think we SHOULD beat Washington at home.  And I think that that prospect is buttressed by playing a high level team the week prior.    But that’s just me.

Okay that’s all the time I’ve got for now.  I’ll be back later this week after the official release of the 2014 schedules.

All for now. Go Cougs!

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