The 2012 Pac-12 Schedule came out this week and it gave us a small glimpse of the future of Pac-12 football schedules. Cal and Stanford were the most perturbed parties as their rivalry game ended up being moved to October.
As we know, FOX and ESPN are now shared rightsholders of the Pac-12 for 44 football games with the Pac-12 Networks picking up the remainder of the games. The Pac-12 Networks have maintained that they will have premium football content some weeks during the season and pick ahead of FOX and ESPN.
To me, I would want my top ten football games to remain on over the air television. We know that FOX will have eight football games and ABC will have two. I think most of those ten games will be picked on a weekly basis. I believe the networks will look to pick the following games before the season starts:
10/6 Washington at Oregon
10/13 USC at Washington
11/3 Oregon at USC
11/24 Notre Dame at USC
Of those I could see USC-Washington ending up on ESPN in the early evening. The other three I could see on FOX. I would have put USC-Washington on ABC, but the network has the NASCAR Sprint Car race from Charlotte that evening. The goal of the new Pac-12 contract is to get games shown nationally and placing that game on ABC at 3:30 PM ET with at least a Big Ten game and possibly an ACC and/or Big 12 game doesn't reach the national distribution that the conference wants.
Eight primetime regular season games have also been set aside. I believe nearly all will air on ESPN or ESPN2, at least all of the Thursday games plus the November 2nd Friday game. The number of games that could air on ESPN Networks on Black Friday depend on their college basketball workload as the networks air games from the tournaments they own in Orlando & Anaheim plus the NIT Tip-Off. It also depends on whether they elect to televise any NBA games that day. The eight games set aside are
Thursday 9/27 Stanford at Washington
Thursday 10/4 USC at Utah
Thursday 10/11 Arizona St. at Colorado
Thursday 10/18 Oregon at Arizona St.
Friday 11/2 Washington at California
Friday 11/23 Arizona St. at Arizona
Friday 11/23 Washington at Washington St.
Friday 11/23 Utah at Colorado
Let's say that the Pac-12 Networks pick up the Apple Cup and that the other two Black Friday games are on ESPN or ESPN2. Couple that with the USC at Washington game, ESPN would have 14 remaining selections for Saturdays. A few could air on ESPNU (up to four) with the other ESPN/ESPN2 eight likely in the late evening (~10 PM ET). I could see the early season OOC games being heavily weighted into the Pac-12 Networks list of games.
Note that there are some new parameters around the Pac-12 television selection order too.