Notes on Cal’s 2012 schedule: “The Big Game is in October?!”

The Cal football team will battle Stanford in October during the 2012 campaign.
Taryn Erhardt/Senior Staff
The Cal football team will battle Stanford in October during the 2012 campaign.

The Pac-12 wrapped up its inaugural season only two days ago, but its not too early to start looking forward to next fall. The conference finalized its 2012 schedule earlier today, and here’s what’s in store for Cal as it returns to the newly renovated Memorial Stadium:

Sat, Sept. 1 — Nevada
Sat, Sept. 8 — Southern Utah
Sat, Sept. 15 — Ohio State
Sat, Sept. 22 — USC
Sat, Sept. 29  —Arizona State
Sat, Oct. 6 — UCLA^
Sat, Oct. 13 — Washington State
Sat, Oct. 20 — Stanford
Sat, Oct. 27 — Utah
Fri, Nov. 2 — Washington
Sat, Nov. 10 — Oregon
Sat, Nov. 17 — Oregon State
^Homecoming
Home games (in bold) at Memorial Stadium

Some quick notes and thoughts:

— No bye weeks. Coupled with back-to-back road trips to Ohio State and USC, this is an absolutely brutal schedule. Urban Meyer should have the Buckeyes looking dangerous even early in the season, and Lane Kiffin could loosen the offense for Matt Barkley the way David Shaw did for Andrew Luck this past season.

Another note: Cal fans may not like to admit it, but USC does not consider their match-up a rivalry game. The Bears haven’t knocked off the Trojans since 2003 and have rarely played them close since. Don’t expect this to change in 2012. USC should be in the running for the national title, and Barkley for the Heisman.

Junior defensive back Josh Hill, by the way, doesn’t give a flying you-know-what about no schedules:

— The Big Game is in October, which is obviously much earlier than it is traditionally played. This change will understandably upset Old Blues and other purists, but was a byproduct of the conference’s expansion to 12 members. Because the Pac-12 Championship must be played in the last week of November or the first week of December, scheduling scenarios were severely limited.

Conference athletic directors voted on two different schedules; the losing plan, which Stanford and Cal lobbied for, had the Big Game scheduled on Nov. 17.

“I am very disappointed that these challenges have resulted in the moving of our rivalry game with Stanford — one of the longest standing traditions in all of college football — away from its proper place and time in the rhythm of the football season,” said athletic director Sandy Barbour in a statement. “I believe that college football is unique, in large part, because of traditions like the Big Game, and we believe that those traditions should be carefully protected.”

She added that she believes the 2012 scenario to be an exception rather than the norm.

— If there’s a soft spot, it’s in the middle. Arizona State fell apart to end 2011 and fired Dennis Erickson. UCLA bumbled its way to a bowl game and fired Rick Neuheisel. Washington State, though, could be on the up-and-up with former Texas Tech coach Mike Leach installing what should be an explosive aerial offense.