Ranking 2022 Non-Convention Program

The most fascinating and challenging aspects of the Pac-12 non-convention program in 2022 are one and the same.

With 11 games against Power Five opponents, including Georgia and Florida, the conference has ample opportunities for repeated displays of collective power… or weakness.

It won’t take long for the narrative to emerge: The Bulldogs and Gators appear as the season openers, followed by Oklahoma State, Mississippi State and Wisconsin on Week Two.

Next season there are only two matchups with BYU, but a slew against the Mountain West’s top-tier teams.

Oh, and the Pac-12 tangles with Notre Dame three times.

Please note: Our rankings prioritize the overall strength of the three opponents, rather than just high-profile matchups on a given schedule. The toughest non-convention events are devoid of cupcakes.

(Links to previous articles on the 2022 Pac-12 season are below.)

1. Colorado
Line up: vs. TCU (September 2), in the Air Force (September 10), in Minnesota (September 17)
Comment: A fairly easy call for No. 1 considering that CU’s most winnable game is (take your pick) at home against a Big 12 opponent or on the road against a Mountain West team that won 10 games last season. In other words, 0-3 is a typical probability.

2. Oregon
Line up: vs. Georgia (September 3 in Atlanta), vs. Eastern Washington (September 10), vs. BEU (September 17)
Comment: The Ducks once again carry the Pac-12 banner in Mississippi with a near-neutral site duel against the defending National Champs (and coach Dan Lanning’s previous employer).

3. Utah
Line up: In Florida (September 3), versus Southern Utah (September 10), versus San Diego State (September 17)
Comment: The Utes made their first regular-season appearance at the national level since their 2015 win over Michigan. (By the way, Florida visits Rice-Eclays in 2023.) We considered moving Utah to the No. 2 position, but Georgia stands as a bigger challenger than the Gators.

4. Arizona
Line up: State of San Diego (September 3), versus State of Mississippi (September 10), versus State of North Dakota (September 17)
Comment: Another injured lineup. And yes, that includes NDSU, which won the 2021 FCS national title and produced Carson Wentz and Trey Lance. In case you’re wondering: Mike Leach’s starting quarterback last season, Will Rogers, is expected to return for MSU in the fall.

5. Stanford
Line up: Vs Colgate (September 3), Notre Dame (Oct 15), Vs BYU (Nov 26)
Comment: A good case can be made for this program as one of the three hardest. But Stanford visits Notre Dame every other year and shouldn’t have the same problems with the weather that Utah would face at The Swamp. Also, Colgate is not a North Dakota state. The opener will mark Stanford’s first game against an FCS rival since the 2018 season (UC Davis), which is highly commendable – and utterly insane.

6. Arizona State
Line up: vs. NAU (September 1), at Oklahoma State (September 10), vs. Eastern Michigan (September 17)
Comment: In degree of difficulty, ASU’s trip to the state of Oklahoma is just below Oregon’s date with Georgia—it’s as challenging as playing Notre Dame or Florida on the road. (The Cowboys won 12 games last season and returned quarterback Spencer Sanders.) And Eastern Michigan is no cupcake.

7. USC
Line up: vs. Rice (September 3), vs. Fresno State (September 17), vs. Notre Dame (November 26)
Comment: For Coliseum intrigue, we’ll take Jeff Tedford, Jake Hainer and the Bulldogs on a biennial date with Notre Dame. But both games are first-order challenges for the Trojans, who have LSU in 2024 (in Las Vegas) and then a home and home series with Mr. Lane Monte Kiffin and Ole Miss in the middle of the decade.

8. Washington State
Line up: vs. Idaho (September 3), in Wisconsin (September 10), vs. State of Colorado (September 17)
Comment: WSU is facing a Power Five rival in the regular season for the first time since 2015 (Rutgers), and it’s a decidedly A-level affair. The Badgers won nine games last season and should be ranked in the top 25 at kickoff. Colorado State is starting under coach Jay Norwell, who jumped from Nevada.

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