Early PAC-12 Storylines

March 3, 2020 by Dave Congrove

The start of the 2020 season in the PAC-12 will feature 3 head coach debuts, several strong intersectional matchups and a dangerous opening stretch for Stanford.

The PAC-12 has produced 4 different champions over the last five years - quite different from the other Power 5 conferences which has typically seen the same cream rise to the top year-after-year.

Clemson has claimed 5 straight titles in the ACC. Ditto Oklahoma in the Big 12. Ohio State has taken the last 3 in the Big Ten. The SEC has become over the last 3 years with Auburn, Alabama and LSU each winning one title, but 'Bama has still taken 4 of the last 6.

The PAC-12's last 5 champions have been Stanford (2015), Washington (2016), USC (2017), Washington (2018), Oregon (2019).

That doesn't mean the PAC-12 doesn't necessarily have a few schools dominating in football. From 2009-2015, every title was claimed by Stanford (3) or Oregon (4).  USC was either the champ or co-champ for 7 straight years from 2002-2008.

Washington joins Colorado and Washington State as the PAC-12 teams that will be breaking in a new head coach this year.

The timing of the departures and the appointment of each school's replacement could speak volumes as to which of those three schools will suffer the least dramatic impact from the transition.

At Washington, Chris Petersen announced on December 2nd that his last game would be the Las Vegas Bowl and the school immediately handed the reins to Petersen's defensive coordinator of the previous four seasons, Jimmy Lake.

The change was a little more messy at Mississippi State, and a complete disaster at Colorado.

Mike Leach didn't leave until January 9, but the Cougars quickly picked-off Hawaii head coach Nick Rolovich to fill his slot.

Colorado fell victim to Mike Dantonio's very late decision to step down at Michigan State on February 4. Mel Tucker was was plucked from Colorado on February 11, leaving the Buffs to scramble for their new leader. After being turned down by several more-desired candidates, Colorado hired former UCLA head coach Karl Dorrell as Tucker's replacement on February 23.

The Lake era won't have an easy start as the Huskies open at home against Michigan on September 5. It gets easier after that with Sacramento State at home on the 12th and a trip to Utah State on the 19th. Washington ends the month with a bye week.

Rolovich's debut will happen on the road at Utah State on the 5th before the Cougars get their home opener against Houston on the 12th. After Idaho visits on the 19th, Wazzu opens the conference slate with a trip to Oregon State on the 26th.

Colorado has a very dangerous September that leads-off with a visit to rival Colorado State for Dorrell's inaugural game. The Buffaloes then host Fresno State before traveling to Texas A&M and wrapping up the month with a league opener at home against Oregon.

If you're looking for an opening week clash with a ton of marquee value, you don't have to look any further than USC against Alabama in Arlington on September 5. USC is the 9th-winningest team in college football (FBS) while Alabama is tied for 3rd with Texas.

Other solid intersectional matchups in the PAC-12 in September include BYU at Utah and Oregon State at Oklahoma State on the 3rd, TCU at Cal on the 5th, and Ohio State at Oregon on the 12th.

Stanford wastes no time getting into the PAC-12 fire. The Cardinal host USC on the 19th, sandwiched between visits to Arizona on the 12th and UCLA on the 26th. A bye week to begin October is followed by a trek to Notre Dame on the 10th.

A combination of the ESPN channels - ABC, FOX and FS1 - will broadcast 45 games nationally, including the Pac-12 Championship Game. The Pac-12 Networks will offer an additional 35 games to a national audience.