Scheduling quirks abound in Pac-12
It's Week One for the college football season. So that means Utah must be playing a Thursday night game.
The Utes have opened the season on a Thursday night since 2009 — before the school joined the Pac-12 conference. This season they'll host North Dakota.
Those Thursday starts help showcase the Utes on television, in this season's case on the Pac-12 Network. It also gives Utah fans the chance to make other plans for the long Labor Day weekend.
Utah has requested a Thursday game each season with the understanding it may not always be granted.
The Utes also have two Friday night games this season. The Pac-12 is among the conferences that schedule games on Fridays, with nine games involving league teams set for this season — not including the conference championship.
"We've got schedules that accommodate the short weeks, the long weeks, every possible conceivable time we can play, we've done that," coach Kyle Whittingham said, discussing how scheduling quirks impact the team.
There are a number of other calendar twists in the Pac-12 this season:
BYE BYE BYE: The fourth-ranked Trojans have no off week this season. None . So there's no chance for a team that many say has a good shot of making the playoffs to rest and recharge.
What does work in USC's favor is the start of the season: The Trojans have three straight at home, starting Saturday with Western Michigan. Then they'll host No. 14 Stanford and No. 23 Texas.
"We learned from last year how important it is to start fast. You can do all you want in October and November, and we've been really good, but if you don't start fast, it's hard to get where you want to be. It's going to be critical for us to open up those three ballgames and be hitting on all three cylinders," coach Clay Helton said.
WEEK ZERO: Oregon State's game against Colorado State last weekend was originally scheduled for Sept 23. But it was moved up to Week Zero to accommodate Colorado State, which wanted to open the season in the team's new stadium.
It was the earliest start in Oregon State history and it was not kind to the Beavers, who fell 58-27 to the Rams.
Coach Gary Andersen said he thinks the schedule overall works out in Oregon State's favor because the Beavers will get a bye before facing No. 8 Washington and USC in consecutive weeks.
"For this team, where the byes lie for us, I think it's a positive. It makes it a week longer season, but hopefully that week will help us," Andersen said.
Oregon State will face another team this weekend that got off to an early start, the Portland State Vikings, who are coming off a 20-6 loss at BYU.
PAC-12 AGAINST COLORADO STATE, PART 2: It's Colorado's turn. The Buffs open the season with the Rocky Mountain Showdown against their in-state rivals at the home of the NFL's Denver Broncos. It's also one of those Friday night games.
"There's not a lot of games on that night. That makes it special for our players. Playing in Broncos stadium, the kids love playing in the pro stadium. It's a unique atmosphere. I think there were almost 70,000 last year (69,850). I think there should be over 70,000 this year. So it will be loud and exciting," Buffs coach Mike MacIntyre said.
MORE WEEK ZERO: Stanford started the season in a dramatic way, traveling all the way to Australia to play Rice and coming home with a 62-7 victory. Last season it was Cal that got the goodwill trip to Sydney, where they beat Hawaii.
It was Stanford's second game outside the United States: in 1986 the Cardinal beat Arizona in Tokyo.
Coach David Shaw said the players had a blast on the trip — despite the long plane ride.
"I think it would be great for this tradition to continue, whether it's just our conference or maybe other conferences, but hopefully more teams are open for it," Shaw said.
The Cardinal now get a week off before visiting USC on Sept. 9.
HOME GAMES GALORE: The Washington State Cougars have five straight home games to open the season, then only two more the rest of the way.
The Cougars will face Montana State, Boise State, Oregon State, Nevada and USC in succession at Martin Stadium. The two other home games will be Oct. 21 against Colorado and Nov. 4 against Stanford.
"I think it's great for the folks out here, you know, to really get in the habit of getting to games, so we're excited about that," coach Mike Leach said when asked about the schedule. "I'll know more about what I think about it at the end of the season."
COLLEGE FOOTBALL SUNDAY? The UCLA Bruins will kick off their season Sunday at the Rose Bowl against Texas A&M.