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The Pac-12 Network's schedule is its biggest failure

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The Pac-12's refusal to put good games on its network has been the biggest reason for the network's lack of success.

Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

The SEC Network opens its football coverage this year on Thursday with a Texas A&M-South Carolina game that everyone will be watching. The Pac-12 Network kicks off its football schedule Thursday night, too, though you probably haven't heard about that heavyweight matchup of ... Utah and Idaho State.

Granted, this isn't an entirely fair apples-to-apples comparison. This will be the SEC Network's first game, and the network undoubtedly wanted to start with a bang, while the Pac-12 Network is entering its third season. However, the contrast shows why the Pac-12 Network has been somewhat of a failure since launching, while the SEC Network has the chance to thrive.

We took a look at the tape among the three major conference networks when the SEC Network launched and noted the Pac-12's tendency to put terrible games on its network as part of the reason for the almost 50 million-subscriber disparity between both networks:

Why should providers or subscribers pay for a network that doesn't show anything interesting? Why should you drop DirecTV for not having the Pac-12 Networks when you can watch all the games you care about elsewhere, then just watch USC beat down Cal at the local bar?

It's also the reason that DirecTV will go yet another season without carrying the Pac-12 Network, even though it carries the Big Ten Network and signed on for the SEC Network's inaugural year.

The way DirecTV sees it, the best football games the Pac-12 offers are already available to its customers. That's because the conference lets ESPN and Fox cherry-pick the top games each week, often just six or 12 days before kickoff. [...]

"Even though it is unwilling to invest its best games into its own channel, the conference has still established a high price for Pac-12 Networks and refuses to compromise," DirecTV spokesman Thomas Tyrer said.

Of the Pac-12 Network's five games on the league's opening weekend, all of them feature a Pac-12 team against an FCS team. Only five of the the network's 13 scheduled games through the first three weeks feature a Pac-12 team against another FBS team, while none of those scheduled matchups feature a Pac-12 team against a Power Five team, despite 30 percent of the league's non-conference games coming against Power Five opponents.

Part of this is due to the Pac-12's deals with ESPN and Fox Sports. Those networks get the first pick of games as a result of their huge deals with the conference, meaning the Pac-12 has traded building its network for national exposure. There's a balance that can be achieved, as the Big Ten has proven — albeit, with only ESPN to worry about, and not Fox Sports — and the SEC will need to prove.

The ship may have sailed on the Pac-12 Network improving its viability under the current contracts, but it's something to keep in mind during the next set of negotiations. Does the Pac-12 really want its network to be a success? If so, it's going to have to find some wiggle room with ESPN and Fox Sports. If it doesn't, then the network is going to continue to lag behind the other major conference networks.