While the Pac-12 Conference has yet to announce it will play football games this fall, momentum seems to be heading in that direction.
How prepared the teams will be remains a question, however.
On Wednesday, the Big Ten announced it is returning to competition next month, reversing course from its Aug. 11 announcement to postpone the fall season. The Pac-12 also announced a postponement of the fall season on Aug. 11, pushing competition back to Jan. 1 at the earliest.
Quickly after the Big Ten’s announcement, however, the Pac-12 moved closer to a return, as well. Officials in California and Oregon are on track to allow those teams to practice, and with frequent, rapid-results testing coming to the conference soon, an early return is not only possible but probable at this point.
Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury News reported Thursday that, pending approval from university presidents and local health authorities, the Pac-12 is aiming to open the season Oct. 31.
Even if the teams are allowed to play, getting ready to play could be an issue for some teams.
Pete Thamel of Yahoo Sports reported Thursday that the Pac-12 football working group had a call on Thursday and that most of the schools said they could be ready to play in six weeks or less, starting on Monday.
That timeline would allow games to begin Oct. 31 – a week later than the Big Ten’s target start date and, of course, much later than the ACC, Big 12 and SEC, which are almost all underway. (The ACC and Big 12 started last week and the SEC starts next week).
Meanwhile, Bruce Feldman of The Athletic had a report Thursday that many in the Pac-12 are worried about being ready by November, let alone late October.
Colorado has been practicing – without contact – for the past couple of weeks and even had a practice on Thursday. But, there are Pac-12 schools in California that haven’t had a chance to do much work in their weight rooms. According to Feldman’s report, the UCLA coaching staff still doesn’t have clearance to be in its offices and Oregon hasn’t done any work on the field since August.
According to Wilner’s report, California and Stanford are still waiting for clearance from local health authorities to begin practice.
More than half the Pac-12 is located in California, Oregon and Washington, where air quality is an issue because of the wildfires. That’s another obstacle for those teams.
For the past few weeks, teams in the Big Ten and Pac-12 have been allowed to spend up to five hours per week on the field, without contact. But, not every team has had the opportunity to take advantage of that.
Feldman quoted one Pac-12 head coach anonymously, who said, “I don’t think people know that when the seasons were postponed, the Big Ten and Pac-12 took completely different paths. They kept going like it was still training camp. They kept the same schedule like they were gonna play. We didn’t. Half of our schools couldn’t.”
Given clearance by public health officials, and with daily rapid-results testing on the way, those teams could re-start training soon. But, they’ll need some time to get ready for competition.
Colorado head coach Karl Dorrell hasn’t been available for comment this week, but in May said he thinks a team needs at least six weeks to get ready.
“I think you still need that prep time,” he said. “That’s at the minimum from my standpoint. Six weeks is a good amount of time, but we wouldn’t want anything less than that.”
Whether the Pac-12 plays six, seven or eight games, it will aim for a Dec. 19 championship game, falling in line with the other Power 5 conferences. The College Football Playoff committee is set to announce its final rankings Dec. 20.