Pac-12 early-season schedule features one game on streaming, another on Sunday and two Big Noon appearances

(AP Photo/Ralph Freso, File)

The Pac-12 and its media partners on Wednesday released the kickoff times for the early-season games and any weeknight matchups throughout the fall.

The final season of the conference’s 12-year broadcast contract with ESPN and Fox follows a familiar script, with the two partners showing 45 games and the Pac-12 Networks airing 35.

With three months until kickoff, here’s our instant reaction to the schedule release …

— Colorado will open the Deion Sanders era with back-to-back appearances on FOX’s Big Noon Saturday — first at TCU, then home against Nebraska.

Sanders already has generated enough brand awareness for the football program (and the university in general) to justify his Year One salary ($5.5 million), but the caliber of opponents matters, too.

CU’s administration has been fully committed to scheduling high-level opponents, which creates a difficult climb to bowl eligibility but provides the type of matchups media partners covet.

— As expected, Utah’s season opener against Florida is set for Thursday, Aug. 31 — a tweak that will give the Utes extra time to prepare for their difficult Week Two assignment at Baylor.

— Oregon State’s season opener, at San Jose State, will be played on the Sunday of Labor Day weekend (12:30 p.m. on CBS).

With no NFL games scheduled, the broadcast window should provide OSU with significant exposure and give the Pac-12 a chance to gauge whether games should be slotted for that Sunday in the future.

— Week Two offers the greatest audience potential of the early season with five games on broadcast television, including the conference opener: Stanford at USC in the West Coast primetime window on FOX.

The teams met under the same circumstances two years ago, and Stanford’s blowout victory led to USC firing coach Clay Helton two days later.

— As usual, the Pac-12 Networks will show a heavy load of early-season matchups. Oregon will make two appearances on the networks, in Week One (against Portland State) and Week Three (Hawaii), which could work in the Ducks’ favor later in the season.

Each team’s appearance minimum on the Pac-12 Networks correlates to the number of non-conference home games it plays. The Ducks have two non-conference dates in Autzen Stadium, meaning they will have satisfied their Pac-12 Networks requirement before conference play begins.

— The greatest concentration of non-conference games on the Pac-12 Networks comes in Week Three, with seven broadcasts. Because of overlapping kickoffs, especially in the afternoon windows, several games will be shown only on the relevant regional network.

— One of the Pac-12’s most significant non-conference games will be shown exclusively on a streaming platform: Washington’s trip to Michigan State on Sept. 16 is slotted for Peacock, the streaming platform owned by NBC.

The move seemingly limits the exposure for Huskies quarterback Michael Penix, a potential Heisman Trophy candidate. But the Pac-12 was not involved in the decision.

The 2023 season marks the first year of the Big Ten’s new media contract with NBC, which is committed to showing games exclusively on Peacock.

The Huskies caught one break with the assignment: Kickoff is 2 p.m. Pacific, so they won’t have to combat disruption to their body clocks.

— There are four conference games on Friday nights, with two on FS1, one on ESPN and the fourth scheduled for broadcast television: The Oregon-Oregon State showdown on Black Friday.

Kickoff is 5:30 p.m., well after the conclusion of the NFL’s first Black Friday game (Dolphins at Jets) at 12 p.m.

— The start times for games in Week Four and beyond will be announced during the season, either six or 12 days in advance of kickoff.

— Dates for many of the 2023 bowl games were released on Wednesday, as well. The Pac-12’s postseason lineup includes the following:

Dec. 16: L.A. Bowl (vs. Mountain West)
Dec. 16: Independence Bowl (vs. Big 12)
Dec. 23: Las Vegas Bowl (vs. Big Ten)
Dec. 28: Alamo Bowl (vs. Big 12)
Dec. 29: Sun Bowl (vs. ACC)

Note: The Rose Bowl will host a College Football Playoff semifinal on Jan. 1.

— The Holiday Bowl did not announce the details of its 2023 game but made news nonetheless.

It has reportedly filed a lawsuit against the Pac-12 and the University of California Board of Regents stemming from the cancellation of UCLA’s appearance in the 2021 game.

The Bruins backed out of the matchup against N.C. State a few hours prior to kickoff following a spate of positive COVID tests that left them with a depleted defensive line.

The bowl is seeking at least $3 million in damages, according to the L.A. Times.

The Pac-12 issued the following statement in response to the lawsuit:

“Despite the Pac-12’s good faith efforts to find an amicable and fair resolution, the Holiday Bowl filed a lawsuit this week seeking to leverage for its own financial gain the global COVID-19 pandemic which led to the cancellation of the 2021 Holiday Bowl.

“The Holiday Bowl is now also refusing to pay the fees it owes the Pac-12 for our member institution’s participation in the 2022 Holiday Bowl, in clear breach of our agreement.

“The Pac-12 plans to vigorously defend against the lawsuit, which is wholly without merit, and to seek the monies owed by the Holiday Bowl under our agreement.”

*** Send suggestions, comments and tips (confidentiality guaranteed) to or call 408-920-5716

*** Follow me on Twitter: @WilnerHotline

*** Pac-12 Hotline is not endorsed or sponsored by the Pac-12 Conference, and the views expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the views of the Conference.