One year from now — 51 weeks, actually — the Pac-12 could be back in this very position: With Oregon carrying the banner into enemy territory, taking on a top-five opponent and attempting to bolster the conference’s playoff hopes.
Yep, the Ducks have another mega-super collision scheduled for early in the 2022 season.
On the Saturday of Labor Day weekend, they will face Georgia at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, just 70 miles from the Bulldogs’ campus.
It will be exactly like Saturday’s affair at Ohio State, except in a slightly less partisan atmosphere.
Although one game is on the road and the other at a neutral site, the back-to-back intersectional showdowns are the result of the same approach.
“Several years ago, we created a scheduling philosophy,’’ Oregon athletic director Rob Mullens said.
“We want to play one home-and-home series (against a Power Five opponent), one or two games a year against a team from the Group of Five, or one game against an FCS team.”
The future schedules reflect just that:
— In 2023, the Ducks begin a home-and-home series with Texas Tech; they also play Hawaii (Group of Five) and Portland State (FCS).
— In 2025, the Ducks start a home-and-home series with Oklahoma State; they also play Boise State (Group of Five) and Montana State (FCS).
But the process isn’t always clean.
Every so often, Oregon is unable to schedule Power Five opponents in two-year increments, and a gap forms.
The Ducks fill the void with intersectional duels at neutral sites.
They had an opening in 2011, Mullens said, and filled it with the trip to Arlington to play LSU.
A gap also appeared in 2022, so they scheduled the one-off against Georgia.
It doesn’t hurt that the neutral-site showdowns on national television pay handsomely: The Ducks will receive a $4.5 million paycheck for playing Georgia, according to a 2019 report by Oregonlive.
(The opportunity must be lucrative enough to offset the loss of revenue from giving up a home game.)
“We want to compete at the highest level, it’s a great chance to play in an important recruiting area with a major TV presence, and our student-athletes love the opportunity,” Mullens said.
The Ducks are hardly the only Pac-12 program with regular designs on marquee games.
There are 11 matchups against Power Five opponents this season, including the quadruple-whammy this weekend: Cal visits TCU, Washington heads to Michigan and Colorado faces Texas A&M, in addition to the Ducks’ showdown in Columbus.
In fact, Colorado plays two Power Five opponents in 2021, while Stanford has three.
“Our fans want to see good football,’’ said Colorado athletic director Rick George, whose team faces Minnesota next weekend.
“This will be a good gauge of where we are, but it’s one of the most difficult schedules we’ve had.”
In addition to possible matchups resulting from the alliance with the Big Ten and ACC, the Pac-12 has more than 100 games scheduled against Power Five opponents over the next decade.
Home-and-home series are under contract with Ohio State, Alabama, Georgia, LSU, Auburn, Texas and Florida.
And Wisconsin, Texas A&M, Michigan State, Nebraska and Oklahoma State.
And Baylor, Virginia Tech, Kansas State, Mississippi State and Texas Tech.
“It’s important to have a schedule that keeps the fans interested and enthused,” George said.
Alliance or no alliance, that shouldn’t be a problem.
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