The best way to measure one conference up against another is to look at non-conference. The 2022 Pac-12 non-conference schedules are all over the place. In what is often considered the weakest of the Power 5, non-conference games can help to establish the Conference of Champions® as a legitimate power.
In this series, we will continue to look at each team’s out-of-conference slate and rank them based on difficulty. There are some teams who have serious gauntlets. Other teams have a cakewalk. Despite its uncertain future, the Pac-12 remains a Power 5 conference…for now.
The Easiest Pac-12 Non-Conference Schedules
UCLA: vs Bowling Green, vs Alabama State (FCS), vs South Alabama
Pac-12 RBs with the best forced missed tackle rate since 2016:
1️⃣ Zack Moss (2019) – 0.38
2️⃣ Zach Charbonnet (2021) – 0.34 pic.twitter.com/ov8srnURDG
— PFF College (@PFF_College) June 28, 2022
The Bruins have the easiest of the Pac-12 non-conference schedules by far. Last year, UCLA won two of its three non-conference games. One of those wins was a surprising upset win vs LSU. Well, surprising at the time, considering LSU limped to a final record of (6-7).
This year, UCLA is poised to improve upon the (8-4) mark it finished with last year. Dorian Thompson-Robinson and Zach Charbonnet return to lead this team through an extremely easy schedule. Bowling Green is going to be better in 2022 with the improvements they’ve made, but they still have a long way to go.
South Alabama was a (5-7) Sun Belt team last year. The Jaguars have only ever won one game against a P5 opponent and this UCLA team looks to be better than Mississippi State was in 2016. This Bruins team has the easiest of the Pac-12 non-conference schedules not only because they face three worse-than-average teams, but also because they get all three at home.
Cal: vs UC-Davis (FCS), vs UNLV, @ Notre Dame
The California Golden Bears have struggled for the past few seasons. They haven’t had a winning record in conference since 2009. Out of conference, Cal’s lone win last year was a 12-point win against Sacramento State (FCS). Given, they lost to Nevada and TCU by five and two points, respectively.
Purdue transfer Jack Plummer looks to lead Cal against one of the easier Pac-12 non-conference schedules. That said, most of the conference has at least one strong program, as Cal has with Notre Dame.
The Irish and new coach Marcus Freeman are CFP hopefuls but have a tough route themselves. UNLV, on the other hand, finished just (2-10) in the Mountain West. Cal barely lost to one of the better MWC teams last year, UNLV shouldn’t be much trouble.
Arizona State: vs North Arizona (FCS), @ Oklahoma State, vs Eastern Michigan
ASU has fewer 2023 football commitments than all other P5 teams and is at least doubled up by all, save Auburn.
More than 50 of those teams have at least 10 commits. Here is a detailed look, including rankings:https://t.co/fTKFm1bq9t pic.twitter.com/mQGbpiFhAO
— SunDevilSource.com (@SunDevilSource) July 21, 2022
The Sun Devils’ program is a bit of a mess at this point. They’ve had a mass exodus via the portal and the program as a whole is falling behind in this NIL era of business. This team is going to look very, very different in 2022 with as many as eight transfers making starts on the offense alone.
Last year, Arizona State won two of its three non-conference games. Not like it’s going to help as they are returning just 58% of their production. Playing at Oklahoma State will be a challenge. The Cowboys very nearly won the Big 12, losing two games (including the Big 12 Title Game) by three points and five points, respectively.
Eastern Michigan, on the other hand, should be a win for ASU. They have been a mid-to-bottom-half MAC team for years.
Washington: vs Kent State, vs Portland State (FCS), vs Michigan State
The Washington Huskies’ offense is going to look a bit different this fall. After winning just one of their non-conference games and losing to an FCS program, Washington could have Indiana transfer quarterback Michael Penix, Jr. leading the way.
At this point in ranking the Pac-12 non-conference schedules, it’s like splitting hairs. Kent State has to replace one of the best quarterbacks the program has had in order to defend its MAC East title. Michigan State has been getting better in each of Mel Tucker’s seasons. Last year, they welcomed a transfer running back and all he did was finish a Heisman Trophy finalist. This year, they are welcoming a pair of studs to tote the rock. Even with those backs, if Sparty doesn’t improve upon that awful, no-good, terrible secondary, the Huskies win running away.
Washington State: vs Idaho (FCS), @ Wisconsin, vs Colorado State
One player I’m excited to watch this fall is Cameron Ward.
Ward transferred to Washington State from Incarnate Word (FCS) after two years.
2021: 384-590, 4,648 yds, 47 TDS (11 300-yd games, 3 400-yd games)
2020: 183-303, 2,260 yds, 24 TDs in SIX GAMES.#WAZZU pic.twitter.com/3AngP9Qk4P
— Drew (@DrewCrabtree12) July 21, 2022
Wazzu won seven games last year but only one of them was out of conference. They lost their two leading passers from 2021 but gained the highly-touted FCS quarterback from Incarnate Word, Cameron Ward. He comes into WSU after tearing it up to the tune of 4,548 yards and 47 touchdowns last year.
The Cougars will have to travel to Madison, Wisconsin in Week 2 for a 3:30 p.m. kick. Last year, Washington State allowed 162 yards per game on the ground. Wisconsin averaged 211 yards per game on the ground. Braelon Allen is a problem and if the Cougars can contain him, they should be alright.
Colorado State only won three games last year in the Mountain West. Even if WSU drops a game to Wisconsin, they can get back on track at home vs the Rams.
Oregon State: vs Boise State, @ Fresno State, vs Montana State (FCS)
Last year, the Beavers had the best season they’ve had since 2013. Chance Nolan is back to back up his 2,677-yard, 19-touchdown season that saw Oregon State win two of its three non-conference games. They also took down USC and Utah, interestingly enough.
Placing Oregon State was difficult because while they are playing two G5 teams and an FCS team, all three are pretty strong. Boise State has a history of strong play; they’ve won at least 10 games in 17 of the past 23 years which puts them on the same level as bluebloods like Ohio State and Oklahoma. Fresno State, on the other hand, won 10 games last year and returns its prolific quarterback.
Montana State (FCS) may play at a lower level but even they have experienced success. The Beavers have the most difficult of the “easiest” Pac-12 non-conference schedules.
Conference of Champions No Longer?
College football is going to look very, very different in five years. Already, USC and UCLA have opted to bolt for the Big Ten. With the two moneymakers gone, the conference has had to go to drastic measures. They failed to secure an alliance with the Big 12 so it’s only a matter of time before programs start to get poached. Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado, and Utah may jump ship to the Big 12.
What’s to happen to the Pac-12?
Mid-American: Easiest; Hardest
Conference-USA: Easiest; Hardest
Mountain West: Easiest; Hardest
Sun Belt: Easiest; Hardest
American Athletic: Easiest; Hardest
Pac-12: Easiest; Hardest
Big 12: Easiest; Hardest
ACC: Easiest; Hardest
SEC: Easiest; Hardest
Big Ten: Easiest; Hardest
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