Perhaps the chief justification for the nine-game conference schedule from 2006-2010 was the round robin format crowned a "true" champion. Everybody played everybody.
RIP round robin format.
The advent of the Pac-12 means conference "misses" return. Oh, there will still be a nine-game conference schedule, which means the Pac-12 will come into existence with an automatic six-game hole compared to the other 12-team conferences, which will still play just eight conference games: the SEC, Big Ten and ACC (the Big 12, now a 10-team league, will play nine conference games, too).
But Pac-12 teams will miss two teams in the opposite division annually, and that means a new, unpredictable and unavoidable inequity arises.
For example, Utah will come into the South Division next fall without Oregon or Stanford on its schedule. That means the Utes' welcome to the Pac-12 won't include Andrew Luck or LaMichael James or the only two sure top-10 preseason Pac-12 teams.
Utah fans, allow yourself a little giggle over that one.
We didn't use "misses" as a factor in our way-early Pac-12 power rankings. And that is good, because it now allows us to rank who benefits the most and least from conference misses.
Our unscientific formula is to add together the power ranking of each teams' misses. So, for example, Utah gets a "3" because Oregon is No. 1 and Stanford is No. 2.
Suffice it to say, that's atop or our list.
1. Utah (3: No. 1 Oregon, No. 2 Stanford): There are no guarantees in college football, but this is unquestionably a soft way to land in the Pac-12 South. It probably boosts the Utes at least one spot in the standings.
2.UCLA (7: No. 1 Oregon, No. 6 Washington): The Bruins lost to these two by a combined count of 84-20 in 2010. This should help in a must-win season for Rick Neuheisel.
3. Arizona State (8: No. 2 Stanford, No. 6 Washington): The Sun Devils only lost to Stanford 17-14 this fall, making them one of only two foes who lost to the Cardinal by less than double-digits, and they and won at Husky Stadium, so this isn't that great. But here's a guess Dennis Erickson isn't mourning missing Luck. This is another reason to like ASU in the South.
4. Washington State (9: No. 4 USC, No. 5 Arizona): The Cougars lost to this pair at home last fall by a combined count of 74-23. Considering Oregon and Stanford are divisional foes, this is a pretty good pair to miss for a team that's fighting to get back on track.
5. Stanford (10: No. 3 Arizona State, No. 7 Utah): Stanford-Arizona State as a potential conference championship game? The possibility is made more likely by their not playing in the regular season.
6. Washington (13: No. 3 Arizona State, No. 10 UCLA): The Huskies have lost seven in a row to the Sun Devils, so good miss. Maybe not so much with UCLA.
7. Oregon State (15: No. 4 USC, No. 11 Colorado): If Oregon State were playing the Trojans in Corvallis, where it has won three consecutive games in the series, well, then that would be a bad miss.
8. California (16: No. 5 Arizona, No. 11 Colorado): The Bears play all four of the teams that figure to get preseason top-25 consideration: Oregon, Stanford, Arizona State and USC.
9. Colorado (17: No. 8 California, No. 9 Oregon State): These look like unfortunate misses for the Buffaloes in their first year out of the Big 12, but the Buffaloes did get stomped 52-7 at Cal in 2010.
10. Oregon (17: No. 7 Utah, No. 10 UCLA): If they Ducks go unbeaten in conference play again that will really mean something.
11. Arizona (20: No. 8 California, No. 12 Washington State): Toss in a visit to Oklahoma State, and the Wildcats schedule already features three potential top-10 teams. On the plus side, both Oregon and Stanford come to Tucson.
12. USC (21: No. 9 Oregon State, No. 12 Washington State): Again, there are plenty of USC folks happy to be missing nemesis Oregon State. Trojans must visit Arizona State and Oregon.
Of course, there is an easily discernible problem with this rating system: Me.
While we all can agree that the Pac-10 blog power rankings are super-awesome, they ultimately are meaningless and subject to sudden re-ordering, particularly seven months before the season begins. Oregon State, for one, might be a little low because we are overreacting to running back Jacquizz Rodgers' decision to enter NFL draft.
Still, it would be fair to say today that Utah probably feels a lot better about its conference schedule than Arizona and USC do.