The Hotline mailbag publishes weekly. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org and include ‘mailbag’ in the subject line. Or hit me on Twitter: @WilnerHotline.
Please note: Some questions have been edited for clarity and brevity.
Some of the departing Pac-12 schools have games scheduled against teams that will soon be conference opponents. Will the newly-created openings for non-conference dates be filled by matchups against former Pac-12 teams? Are certain teams likely to avoid each other in the future? — @DOUGINTUCSON
I’m not sure Cal is eager to schedule UCLA anytime soon, and relations in the Pacific Northwest are a bit rocky. But generally speaking, the Hotline hasn’t detected a level of animosity that would preclude Pac-12 football programs from scheduling home-and-home series with each other.
As we see it, three issues will govern non-conference strategy:
— The impact on College Football Playoff access, which won’t be clear until the selection process is finalized for the CFP contract cycle that begins in the 2026 season.
— The desire to play non-conference road games as close to campus as possible given the long trips so many schools must make within league play.
— The need for a regular presence in California generally, and Southern California specifically, because the state will remain the primary recruiting ground for most schools in the western third of the country.
Washington and Oregon will have conference games in Southern California and face pressure to continue their annual dates with Washington State and Oregon State.
Cal and Stanford could be leery of flight time. As the only members of the ACC’s western wing, they will have massive travel commitments.
In our view, the Four Corners schools carry the greatest amount of schedule intrigue.
The Arizona schools and Utah, in particular, will be eager to play in Los Angeles.
Arizona State is essentially booked through the rest of the decade and doesn’t have any home-and-home series scheduled with current Big 12 teams, according to FBschedules.com. So the Sun Devils could be limited in their options to play the California schools.
Arizona has four dates with programs that will become conference opponents starting next fall: Kansas State in 2024-25 and Brigham Young in 2026-27.
Colorado’s situation is identical, with four games on the books: Houston in 2025-26 and Kansas State in 2027-28.
There’s no guarantee the Big 12 will decide to turn those matchups into league games; they might remain on the schedule as non-conference matchups, thus limiting Arizona’s ability to schedule the California schools.
Utah’s situation is more complicated — and potentially more advantageous.
The Utes are scheduled to play Baylor next season and Houston in 2026-27, and they have six games against arch-rival BYU — a total of nine dates that could be turned into conference affairs.
Would Utah prefer a few home-and-home series against USC or UCLA, or even San Diego State? Probably. But it’s not that simple. Everyone is wary of schedule overload.
Many high-level football programs follow the A-B-C model in which a balanced non-conference schedule features a Power Five opponent, a Group of Five opponent and an FCS opponent.
The Utes went A-A-C this season …read more
Source:: The Mercury News – Entertainment