Pac-12 Notes – October

October 30th

Colorado/Arizona game time set

When you are no longer a draw, you are not ready for primetime …

The time for the Colorado/Arizona game next weekend has been set. The Buffs’ final road game of the season will kickoff at 11:30 a.m., and will be nationally televised on FX.

The remaining games on the Pac-12 schedule next weekend – Arizona State at USC; UCLA at Washington State; Oregon at Cal; Oregon State at Stanford; and Utah at Washington – will have to wait until next Monday to be scheduled.

One reason to go to the game Saturday, instead of watching the game on TV …

Some are suggesting that the only way to really show the CU administration your dissatisfaction with the current coaching staff is to stay home and not go to the remaining three home games. Hit them with your silence, the argument goes.

Problem is, if you stay home to watch the game on FX, you will get to hear commentary during the game from Eric Crouch.

Yeah, that Eric Crouch. The 2001 Heisman trophy winner from Nebraska. The same Eric Crouch who was on the field for the Cornhuskers for the 62-36 game in 2001.

So, go ahead and stay home … I’m sure Eric Crouch will be very kind to your Buffs in his analyses …

October 29th

Will Oregon succumb to “Colorado Curse”?

Oregon will face USC this weekend in the Coliseum. It is a game Duck fans have circled on their calendar since last November, when the Trojans upset the Ducks, 38-35, in Eugene, to derail Oregon’s national title hopes.

The game has lost some of its notoriety, as USC has already lost two games this season. Still, the Ducks are on upset alert.

Because Marqise Lee went for 345 yards against Arizona?

No, because of the “Colorado Curse”.

Every FBS team which has faced the Buffs this season has lost their next game.

Take a look … Colorado State lost to North Dakota State; Fresno State lost to Tulsa; Washington State lost to Oregon; UCLA lost to Cal; Arizona State lost to Cal; and now USC has lost to Arizona.

Now – perhaps – it’s Oregon’s turn …

Semi-finalist announcements for national awards leave out Buffs

It shouldn’t come as a big surprise, what with Colorado having a 1-7 record, and ranking near the bottom of almost every statistical category, but it still hurts.

Semi-finalists were announced Monday for some major awards, and Buff players did not make the cut.

The list of semi-finalists for the Thorpe Award, given out to the nation’s best defensive back, did not include senior Ray Polk, who has seen action in only three games this season. The Pac-12 still has players from Oregon, USC, and Oregon State in the running.

The semi-finalists for the Chuck Benarik Award, handed out to the nation’s best defensive player, includes Pac-12 representatives from Utah, Arizona State, and Oregon State.

Meanwhile, the semi-finalists for the Maxwell Award, given to the nation’s best player, had five Pac-12 players amongst its 16 semi-finalists. Included on the list were Matt Barkley and Marqise Lee from USC, Kenjon Barner and De’Anthony Thomas from Oregon, and Johnathan Franklin from UCLA.

October 27th

Upsets of USC and Oregon State shakeup polls

Two of the Pac-12’s three top ten teams went down to defeat this past weekend. While Oregon escaped an upset with 14 points before Colorado took an offensive snap, Oregon State and USC did not post victories in their games.

No. 7 Oregon State lost on a last second field goal to Washington, to fall to No. 13. USC, meanwhile, was upset by Arizona, 39-36, falling from No. 10 to No. 18.

Stanford, despite barely surviving at home against Washington State, 24-17, moved up in the rankings, going from No. 19 to No. 15.

Joining the rankings were UCLA, in at No. 24, and Arizona, which came in at No. 25. The Bruins climbed to 6-2 after a 45-43 win over Arizona State, while the Wildcats moved up to a 5-3 record with their upset of USC (the two square off in a game in Los Angeles next Saturday night).

The only other team mentioned in the polls other than Oregon, which remained a solid No. 2 in the AP poll, was Washington, in at No. 33.

Colorado will play No. 15 Stanford this weekend, then head out on the road to face No. 25 Arizona. The final games of the 2012 season will be against No. 33 Washington and then Utah, which won its first conference game of the season, 49-27 over Cal.

Hard to find win No. 2 on that list of four, with Utah in the season finale still probably the best bet …

October 26th

One loss Colorado could inflict upon Oregon … steal its defensive coordinator

From the Oregonian … It might take six turnovers and bad weather, and even then, if the Oregon football team lost to Colorado on Saturday it would go down as the most shocking sports development in the country. But there is one loss that I could see the Ducks having to the Buffaloes.

It’s this: Nick Aliotti.

Oregon’s defensive coordinator is 58. During his career, in order, Aliotti’s been a graduate assistant (Oregon), a running backs coach (Oregon State), an offensive coordinator (Chico State), a linebackers coach (Oregon), a defensive coordinator (Oregon), an NFL special teams coach (Rams), a linebackers coach (UCLA), and finally, Oregon’s defensive coordinator.

What he’s never been?

In charge.

Over the past decade, at different points, I’ve asked Aliotti if he wanted to be a head coach. Some days, he jumps at the thought. Others, he backs away. He interviewed a few times for openings, including a serious run at the Stanford job in 2007, before the Cardinal hired Jim Harbaugh. Now, with the Ducks ranked No. 2, and Aliotti’s defense shining, you figure it’s now or never for Aliotti.

“Always has been that urge to try that thing,” he said on Thursday. “I don’t know anymore. I really don’t. It would have to be the right program only because I’d have to get a job where I could hire assistants I want to be around that would allow me to be a head coach.

“I wouldn’t just take a head-coaching job just to take a job and say I was the head coach.”

Aliotti wants to hire a staff, and pay a staff well enough that he could trust the coaches to recruit on their own. “I wouldn’t want to have to micromanage them,” he said, “which is why that trust is so important.” And in that, you can erase every mid-major college that would love to have someone with the polish, experience and charisma that Aliotti brings. But what’s left are jobs such as the one that feels destined to open in the next 18 months in Colorado, where second-year coach Jon Embree is still talking about starting over.

Embree announced this week that he plans to add six people to his recruiting staff next spring, possibly. He also talked this week about being so far behind a program like Oregon, with only eight seniors, that it’s difficult to compete. He wants help evaluating talent. He wants more resources. And ultimately, it’s a place like Colorado where a loss on Saturday clinches a school-record seven consecutive losing seasons that it hits you — bet Aliotti could win there.

So why hasn’t anyone given Aliotti a chance yet?

I asked major college football administrators that very question in the past two weeks, and the answers were as varied as the blitz schemes Aliotti runs at teams on Saturdays. He’s rough around the edges, some say. He’s become pigeon-holed as a defensive specialist during an offensive era, others maintain. He’s lost in the “success shadow” of Ducks head coach Chip Kelly at Oregon, another offered. But what I didn’t hear from anyone was a single doubt that Aliotti can flat coach.
I like Aliotti. But it’s not why he’s successful. Last week, as he came down from the coaching box and through the tunnel at Sun Devil Stadium after his defnese held Arizona State to 14 points in four quarters, Aliotti bounced along the line of players leaving the field. On his way into the locker room Aliotti hugged them, and bantered with them, and stopped to tell a hobbling defensive back, “You’re not hurt, are ya?!? Naaaaww!” in a way that makes you understand why he’s adored by players.

His players love that he’s a gambler on defense. They love that he goes bananas in film sessions, in practice, and in the coaching box watching them make big plays. He’s one of them. It’s a big part of why they play for him, and why he’s successful.

This is a coach who practices every day against Kelly’s spread-option offense. Aliotti knows how to defend the potent scheme better than anyone in America. You figure the next job opening in the Pac-12 Conference would almost certainly include an Aliotti interview. And as college football moves toward no-huddle, high-tempo, spread-them-and-beat-them philosophy on offense, the guy who shut out Arizona’s Rich Rodriguez this season figures to be in high demand just about anywhere.

Aliotti doesn’t have time to waste. He doesn’t have time to rebuild. He’ll want an office. He’ll want a budget to hire the best assistants. And he won’t take a bad job.
Basically, “WANTED: A college that’s hungry to win.”

The question now isn’t whether Aliotti wants to be a head coach someday. Rather, why wouldn’t someone hire Aliotti at the end of the season? At his age, he has one more big move in him. And while it’s premature to start talking about replacing Embree before he’s even clinched another losing season, it’s evident in a week such as this that Aliotti could make the biggest immediate impact if he only switched sidelines.

October 25th

Oregon may be without leading tackler

Take what you can get …

From the Oregonian … Senior linebacker Kiko Alonso, Oregon’s leading tackler, has not practiced this week while nursing an apparent injury to his left wrist.

It seems unlikely Alonso will be available to play against Colorado on Saturday. With Oregon a 46-point favorite over the Buffaloes, the Ducks should manage without Alonso.

The extent of Alonso’s injury is unclear. He has been spotted with a soft cast or wrap around his left hand this week.

If Alonso is unable to play, sophomore Derrick Malone would likely make his second start of the season at one of the middle linebacker spots. Malone started in place of senior Michael Clay against Washington when Clay sat out with a leg injury.

Sophomore tight end Colt Lyerla has also been limited in practice this week, according to a team source, after Lyerla was hit by a helmet in the leg against Arizona State. Lyerla was still limping after practice on Tuesday.

October 24th

Seventh “access” bowl looking less likely

From ESPN …  A proposed seventh access bowl is becoming less likely and the commissioners of the BCS might stick with their original plan of only having six in the new playoff format, sources told ESPN.

After the commissioners met in Rosemont, Ill., in September, The Associated Press reported that they had discussed the possibility of creating a seventh access bowl. The game would give smaller conferences guaranteed access, pitting the top-ranked champion from the five non-power conferences (Big East, Mountain West, Conference USA, Mid-American and Sun Belt) annually against a team from either the Big 12 or Pac-12.

However, this is becoming more unlikely because of a myriad of concerns and obstacles involved for a seventh access bowl. Among them: The bowl’s lesser worth compared to the other access bowls, the difficulty of selling tickets for an annual bowl featuring a non-power conference team and finding a bowl that wants to host the game that also meets the stadium capacity requirements for an access bowl and the national semifinals, sources said.

The champions of the power conferences (SEC, Big 12, Pac-12, Big Ten and ACC) all have a guaranteed spot in the access — or high-revenue — bowls that will begin after the 2014 regular season, the first year of college football’s new four-team playoff.

“I think everyone has realized the seventh bowl is not on the level with the other contract bowls,” a source said. “The question was, how much can we get for this game? It didn’t sound like it was a lot.”

It’s not. The Rose and Champions bowls will be worth $80 million a year. Sources also told ESPN that the Orange Bowl will be worth $60 million a year, compared to only about $25 million a year for the proposed seventh bowl.

“Three weeks ago it was probably 90-10 (that a seventh bowl game would happen), now I would put it at less than 50 percent,” another source said.

Although the six access bowls have not been “officially” selected, sources said the access bowls will be the existing four BCS bowls — Rose, Fiesta, Sugar and Orange — plus the Cotton and Chick-fil-A. This also works best geographically with the access bowls spread equally across the country: Rose and Fiesta in the west, Sugar and Cotton in the central and Orange and Chick-fil-A in the east.

Of those bowls, three already have “contracted” matchups: Rose (Pac-12 vs. Big Ten); Champions/either Cotton or Sugar (Big 12 vs. SEC) and Orange (ACC vs. Big Ten, SEC or Notre Dame).

That leaves the remaining three access bowls — the Fiesta, Chick-fil-A and either the Cotton or Sugar — to be filled by the playoff’s selection committee with the highest-rated available at-large teams.

If the non-power conferences contingent does not have an automatic berth in a contract bowl, that potentially could make it even more difficult for those teams to secure a spot in one of the six higher-paying bowls.

Without a contract bowl for the non-power conferences, their highest-rated champion possibly would not be guaranteed a spot in an access bowl. Without a contract bowl tie-in, the highest rated non-power team would have to meet whatever ranking requirement (top 15 or 20) that is established by the commissioners for a team to receive an at-large bid to an access bowl.

The ranking requirements for at-large teams to qualify for an access bowl and who will make up the selection committee that will determine the four-team playoff and other access bowl matchups are still unknown.

The original playoff plan had the national semifinals rotating among six access bowls: two playoff games and four other high-revenue bowl games each season. The top four teams determined by a selection committee, regardless of conference affiliation, will play in the semifinals on Jan. 1, and the winners will meet in the championship game at least a week later on the following Monday.

One source best summed up the challenges ahead for the commissioners, who still have a multitude of details to finalize involving the new four-team playoff.

“There are a lot of different things going on right now,” the source said. “There are many twists and turns still ahead.”

Added another source: “Nothing has been finalized, but the complexity of the whole thing is multiplied with trying to figure out if a seventh access bowl is realistic or not.”

CU avoids the Bottom Ten … for another week

Another week, another sweating out the updated Bottom Ten.

The ESPN Bottom Ten is out, and Colorado failed to make the list.

The only BCS Conference team to make the regular list is Kansas, in at No. 7.

Colorado and Colorado State, both at 1-6 on the season, are amongst those teams on the “Waiting List” .

We’ll see what happens next Wednesday …

October 22nd

Oregon/Ohio State agree to home-and-home

From ESPN … Oregon and Ohio State have agreed to a home-and-home series in 2020 and 2021, the schools announced Tuesday.

The first game will be played in Eugene, Ore., on Sept. 12, 2020, with the Ducks coming to Columbus, Ohio, on Sept. 11, 2021. The two teams are currently ranked in the top 10 of the Associated Press poll, and they have combined to play in 13 BCS games.

Oregon and Ohio State have met eight times in history, with the last one coming in the 2010 Rose Bowl. The Buckeyes won that game 26-17 and also beat the Ducks 10-7 in the 1958 Rose Bowl.

Ohio State has made a concerted effort to beef up its future nonconference schedules. Tuesday’s announcement comes on the heels of recent agreements to play home-and-home series with TCU (2018 and 2019) and Texas (2022 and 2023).

… Insert joke here about CU’s play-for-pay game in Columbus in 2011 …

Texas coach no longer enamoured with Texas Longhorn Network

A little levity for those enduring dark days … Remember when Colorado – and the rest of the Big 12 – had to kowtow to King Texas, with Texas wanting its own television network? How Longhorn fans crowed about being so important that they did not need to be a part of a league network? All the money Texas was going to receive from the Texas Longhorn Network which it didn’t want to share?

Read on …

From ESPN … Texas coach Mack Brown once welcomed the Longhorn Network. Now he sounds as though it’s become a headache and a window for opposing coaches to get an unfair peek into his program.

“I didn’t ask for it,” Brown said Monday, noting he’s worried that the six hours a week he spends taping three television shows and the network’s access to the first 30 minutes of daily practice may tip opposing coaches to player injuries, tendencies and schemes.

Brown said he and Baylor coach Art Briles discussed it before Texas (5-2) beat Baylor 56-50 on Saturday.

“It’s in Waco. Baylor sees every practice,” Brown said. “We’re a little overexposed.”

Brown talked about the Longhorn Network for several minutes before a media relations assistant stepped in to limit questions: Brown had to get to a network show taping.

“I’m a soldier,” Brown said. “They tell me to go work with the Longhorn Network, I’ll go do it.”

It’s not the first time Brown has expressed frustration about living with the cameras and crews that come with the school’s 20-year, $300 million partnership with ESPN. But his comments at his weekly news conference were the harshest yet.

Texas and ESPN unveiled the contract for the Longhorn Network in January 2011, promising fans unparalleled reporting with behind-the-scenes coverage of one of the wealthiest and most prominent athletic programs in the country.

The move created a flashpoint of controversy within the Big 12 and was one of the reasons the league nearly split apart. Rivals Texas A&M and Missouri saw the network as creating an unfair recruiting advantage and financial boost that couldn’t be matched.

Texas A&M and Missouri ultimately left the Big 12 for the Southeastern Conference and the split with the Aggies ended one of the longest rivalries in college football.

The network has since struggled to find broad distribution from most major cable and satellite providers. In August, AT&T Inc. agreed to carry the network on its U-verse TV service.

Brown says he knows opposing coaches watch it for any details they can get on the Longhorns. Texas school officials negotiated the network contract and the network’s access to his program without asking his advice.

“We were given a deal that we had no input in,” Brown said.

Brown tapes three shows a week. Practice footage usually includes stretching and some position drills.

The programming tries to avoid unveiling schemes or game plans but opponents can still pick up valuable tidbits, Brown said. A member of the media relations staff watches every day to monitor what may be revealed.

“It’s a true advantage (for opponents). They can watch our attitude, they can watch our coaches,” Brown said.

Brown said he wants to meet with school president Bill Powers, athletic director DeLoss Dodds and network officials after the season to work out changes that he did not detail.

“There has to be some give and take,” Brown said. “It is what it is. It’s part of my job because DeLoss and Bill Powers have told me it is.”

Dodds said school officials talk with the network every week.

“If there are issues we feel are necessary to talk about we will. It’s a great thing for Texas. We are pioneers in this. Mack’s issues will absolutely be addressed by me and Mack and the Longhorn Network,” Dodds said.

ESPN released a statement saying the network was created to serve the school’s passionate fan base.

“A network of this kind has never been done at this level and it continues to evolve,” ESPN said.


October 21st

Colorado/Stanford gametime set

Here’s hoping that the Cardinal are sleep-walking through the first half …

Colorado homecoming game against Stanford next weekend will kickoff at noon (MT), and will be televised nationally on FX. The good news? That means its the equivalent of an 11 a.m. kickoff for the Cardinal, so the Buffs have that going for them, which is nice. The early start time will also allow Buff fans to get home in time to watch the battle between USC and Oregon, set to kickoff at 5:00 p.m. MT.

Other Pac-12 games next week:  Washington at Cal (Friday, 7:00 p.m., MT, ESPN2); Washington State at Utah (1:00 p.m., MT, Pac-12 Networks); Oregon at USC (5:00 p.m., MT, Fox); Arizona at UCLA (8:30 p.m, MT, Pac-12 Networks); and Arizona State at Oregon State (8:30 p.m., MT, ESPN or ESPN2).

As for this weekend, if you are not inclined to watch Colorado v. Oregon (1:00 p.m., MT, Pac-12 Networks), the lineup is: UCLA at Arizona State (1:00 p.m. MT, Fox); USC at Arizona (1:30 p.m., MT, ABC); Washington State at Stanford (4:15 p.m., MT, Pac-12 Networks); Cal at Utah (7:45 p.m., MT, Pac-12 Networks); Oregon State at Washington (8:15 p.m., MT, Pac-12 Networks).

October 20th

Three Pac-12 teams in top ten

What do Colorado and West Virginia have in common?

Both have given up over 100 points the past two weeks.

The difference? West Virginia won its first five games, and remains ranked, even after losing to Texas Tech (49-14) and Kansas State (55-14), coming in at No. 25.

In the latest poll, Oregon held firm at No. 2 behind Alabama (which did lose one No. 1 vote to No. 3 Florida). Oregon State, after a 21-7 win in the rain over Utah in Corvallis, moved up to No. 7. Buff beater USC also moved up one spot, joining the top ten at No. 10.

The only other team from the Pac-12 to earn a spot in the top 25 this week was Stanford, up three spots to No. 19 after a 21-3 win over rival Cal.

Arizona, which blitzed Washington, 52-17, is back amongst the others receiving votes, in at No. 34. The Wildcats are tied with UCLA at No. 34, which had the week off. This week the Bruins will take on Arizona State, which gave up 43 points to Oregon in the first ten minutes of their game Thursday night. The Sun Devils will enter the week with some votes in the latest poll, good enough for a tie for 37th.

Pac-12 Networks and DirecTV – no reason for optimism

From the Washington Post … Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott says DirecTV officials “have dug in their heels” and he sees no reason for optimism that the satellite provider will add the new Pac-12 networks to their service.

Scott, speaking at halftime of the Arizona State-Oregon football game Thursday night, says it is frustrating that DirecTV is not accepting the same terms everyone else has.

October 19th

Oregon applies mercy rule to the best defense in the Pac-12

From the Oregonian … Head coach Chip Kelly, sitting in front of media, stubborn, shaking his head while smiling to himself beneath his visor as he denied that the Oregon machine was absolutely humming during an 18-minute stretch in the first half in which his team scored 43 unanswered points.

“I thought we were flat in warm-ups,” Kelly said. Ha!

Aliotti and Kelly may be first and last around here, but neither would say what needs to be said today. So I will. This was a masterpiece by Oregon. The defense was incredible. The offense was electric. At the height of the back-alley whipping, the Ducks defense was taking the ball away and the offense returning it to Arizona State seven points heavier at a pace that turned all of Tempe dizzy.

Some demoralized hometown soul in a mostly quiet and solemn press box at Sun Devils Stadium summed it up beautifully during the second quarter as Arizona State prepared to take a snap. He called out, “Sit!” and then, “Staaaaayyyy!” and then, “Good dog!” as the Ducks turned Arizona State into a whimpering puppy.

During that 43-point desert blizzard, Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota scored three touchdowns: one passing, one running and one receiving. Just before the half, with the clock showing 0:00, the referee turned on his microphone on the public-address system inside the stadium and said that he’d like the scorekeeper to put eight seconds back on the clock.

The scorekeeper accidentally put “8:00” on the clock. The stadium groaned.

What America saw Oregon do here is indisputable. The Ducks offense rushed for 406 yards, playing hard mostly for one half, against a very decent defense. The UO defense picked off four passes, including two from starting quarterback Taylor Kelly, who saw his streak of 102 consecutive passes without an interception snapped. Period. End of discussion. This team can’t be beat when it plays its game.

For very good reasons, Kelly and Aliotti may not want to say how good this team is, but it’s obvious now that this team is on a collision course with Alabama (or whoever) should Oregon simply maintain its workmanlike approach. The country deserves that matchup. The Ducks do, too.

Oregon came so close against Auburn two seasons ago, losing 22-19 on the final play of the Bowl Championship Series title game. Anyone who has been around this program knows how much that loss hurt and understands that Kelly’s program has been monomaniacally climbing back toward another title shot ever since.

When he spoke about “unfinished business” last offseason, didn’t we all understand?

Kelly said of the second half, “We’ve got to do a better job being up 43-7.”

He was nitpicking and joking.

OK. So let’s go with that theme. It’s true, Arizona State dominated the first 49 seconds of the game. Also, the Ducks didn’t score in more than 40 straight minutes to finish the game. Also, Kelly’s white visor didn’t match his black shoes. Beyond that, this thing was Kelly’s “Mona Lisa.”

Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott was in the press box, too. He talked about the possibility of Oregon playing, and beating, a SEC opponent someday for a national championship. He said, “It would be a game changer.”

Also, Scott said of Oregon, “When I heard (Alabama coach) Nick Saban make his comments about fast-paced offenses, I knew then that everybody was paying attention.”

If they aren’t, they’re fools.

Oregon will still have to close out its remaining opponents. And it would be a shame if, say, the Ducks lost their focus and split with USC. But I don’t have any doubts that the Ducks are the best team in the conference — and maybe the country — when they’re humming the way they did in Tempe on Thursday.

“The one thing I love about this team is they don’t flinch,” Kelly said of answering the bell after being down 7-0.

Kelly knows his team is terrific. Aliotti does, too. But they’ve arrived at 7-0 by refusing to pat themselves on the back, and so they won’t  now.

But I asked Kelly, who sees his offense play against his defense every day in practice, what might happen if those two units met on a field someday in front of 58,000 who wanted to see what happened.

“It’s a pain in the (expletive) to play against them in practice,” Kelly said. “We do it every day. Some days we have more three-and-outs than Pedro Martinez in the 1999 All-Star Game.”

Not on this day, though.

The Ducks were brilliant Thursday. So good they put the nation to sleep, one touchdown at a time. It makes you think about a bigger stage, even if nobody else around here will say so.

How bad was it for Arizona State?

Before the Oregon game, Arizona State led the Pac-12 in the following categories: pass defense; total defense; scoring defense; pass efficiency defense; sacks; and tackles for loss. In all seven of these categories, Arizona State was also in the top ten in the nation.

So what did Oregon’s offense put up against Arizona State … in the first quarter?

A total of 33 plays, 12 first downs, and 233 yards of offense.

Oh, and 22 points.

A few minutes – and a few interceptions – into the second quarter, and Oregon had run off a total of 43 points in 20 minutes of play.

If the Ducks had kept going, that would translate into 129 points by game’s end.

The good news for Colorado fans? Apparently, Chip Kelly is willing to apply the mercy rule on over-matched opponents (which, apparently, includes defenses in the top ten nationally). Oregon took its foot off the gas for the final 40 minutes, not scoring again after assuming a 43-7 lead.

The Buffs may hope for similar kindness next weekend – though I wouldn’t look for a CU shutout for the final 40 minutes of the game.

Even the Ducks’ second- and third-stringers will be able to put up points on Colorado … just hopefully not as fast as the first string.

October 18th

USC only had 20 pass attempts v. Washington; O-Line protection suspect

From the Orange County Register… USC was supposed to have the most dynamic passing attack in the nation. With the Heisman Trophy front-runner at quarterback and the top receiver duo in the country, anything less would have been inconceivable.

And yet … the Trojans have been just OK at throwing the football. Heck, they barely threw it at all in last week’s 24-14 victory at Washington, attempting a scant 20 passes and failing to score in the second half for the second time this season.

Theories about USC’s lack of passing pizzazz abound, enough to fill Carrie Mathison’s cork board. They include: Lane Kiffin holding back with tougher opponents to come on the schedule … defenses taking away the big play with their double-deep-safety coverages … Matt Barkley having a secret shoulder injury.

I don’t subscribe to any of them. Because the real reason is this: Kiffin doesn’t trust his offensive line.

For proof, let’s go back to Kiffin’s postgame news conference in Seattle, where he said the following: “The last thing we wanted to do in this environment was have our QB drop back and get hit.”

Not exactly a ringing endorsement of the men protecting the quarterback.

Kiffin reiterated that stance Tuesday, saying: “We didn’t want to go up there and throw the ball 50 times and get our guy hurt.”

Does that sound like a coach who trusts his O-line?

Not that the line is inept or incapable; we’re not about bashing college kids here. The run blocking has been excellent the past three games, and, with the exception of the Stanford meltdown, it’s not as if Barkley has been getting Kevin Kolb-ed every week.

The issue is that the line lacks an accomplished left tackle, the critical position that inspired “The Blind Side.” To find the source of that deficiency, you have to dig much deeper than the current roster.

It starts, as everything does in college football, with recruiting. Toward the tail end of his tenure, Pete Carroll and his staff simply did not do an adequate job of stockpiling top-shelf offensive linemen.

The 2008 class included five linemen: three big-time booms (Tyron Smith, Matt Kalil, Khaled Holmes) and two busts (Daniel Campbell, Matt Meyer). The ’09 class had only two linemen: Kevin Graf and John Martinez, who have been solid starters on the right side since the start of last season. The ’10 class – which Kiffin inherited a month before signing day – had only ONE: Giovanni Di Poalo, a seldom-used reserve.

When Kalil entered the NFL draft after last season, Kiffin had only two viable options to replace him at left tackle: Graf and Aundrey Walker, a massive, talented but unrefined blocker who played sparingly as a freshman in 2011.

Kiffin and his staff then made the miscalculation of handing Walker the job less than halfway through spring practice. Without any real competition to spur him, Walker has struggled, his issues ranging from effort to technique to penalties. It’s not surprising, really: Walker came into this year with zero experience, even in high school, at left tackle.

In an ideal world – i.e., USC five years ago – Walker wouldn’t even be playing yet. More than any other position, offensive linemen need time to incubate. Consider: Kalil – the fourth pick in the 2012 draft – didn’t become a starter until his third season. Likewise Holmes, arguably the offense’s MVP this season and a future pro.

But because of the dearth of linemen available, Kiffin felt his best bet was a true sophomore. Heading into the Colorado game this week, Walker is being challenged – by a true freshman, Santa Margarita High’s Max Tuerk.

Kiffin has been trying to restock the cupboard since he took over, but elite tackles have been hard to come by. USC recruited Kyle Murphy of San Clemente and Andrus Peat of Tempe, Ariz., but both chose Stanford.

Perhaps underappreciated at the time because he’s a lineman, Servite’s Kalil might have been a transcendent player. Even with four starters returning, USC’s line hasn’t been the same without him, despite the best efforts of Holmes — the Pippen to Kalil’s Jordan, circa 1994.

So while the offensive line endures growing pains, Kiffin provides the pass protection for Barkley. Running plays. Bubble screens. Smoke routes.

It’s probably the wise course of action. It just isn’t the breathtaking fireworks show everyone camped out to see.

Four players quit Washington State team

From … Washington State’s sports information department confirmed to CF.C. that receiver Blair Bomber, cornerback Spencer Waseem, safety Tyrone Duckett and safety Matt Simmons have left the team.

Following long-standing school practice, WSU did not comment on the reasons for the departures.

As this article was going to press, a source familiar with the situation told CF.C that three of the players left of their own accord, with the other being dismissed or encouraged to leave. The source, who requested anonymity, didn’t disclose the name of the one player who was asked to leave.

All four players were listed in the school’s official pre-game press release for the Cal game this past Saturday.

Three are third-year sophomores, with Waseem a second-year freshman after receiving a medical redshirt for the 2011 season.

Their departures bring to six the number of players who have left the program within the last two weeks, following defensive lineman Lenard Williams and offensive lineman Dan Spitz.

None of the four had played in a game this season, and none was listed on the team’s in-season depth charts. Given WSU’s non-disclosure injury policy, it’s unclear if injuries played a part in that.

Bomber, out of Lynden, missed the entire 2011 season with a knee injury.

Waseem, out of Apopka, Fla., was a “school start” for the 2012 fall camp, meaning he was not one of the 105 players deemed eligible to participate by WSU until rosters expanded with the first day of classes.

Duckett, out of Alameda, Calif., appeared in 11 games in 2011, primarily on special teams, but none this season.

Simmons, out of Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif., appeared in eight games in 2011, mainly on special teams but none this season. He is the son of former WSU defensive back Randal Simmons, a Los Angeles Police Department SWAT team member who was killed in the line of duty in 2008.

With the four no longer with the program, they bring to at least 17 the number of scholarship players who have left the program for various reasons since Mike Leach came on board (such as injury, dismissal, player choice, etc.) The others are Williams, Spitz, Anthony Laurenzi, Jordan Pu’u-Robinson, Ian Knight, Aaron Dunn, Sekope Kaufusi, C.J. Mizell, Louis Bland, Alex Reitnouer, Skylar Stormo, Max Gama and T.J. Poloai.

October 17th

Pac-12 Networks now available online for Dish Network customers

And I’m going to sign up as soon as I can find a damn bill with my account number on it …

From the Pac-12 … The Pac-12 Networks, the seven full-time native HD linear networks dedicated solely to the Pac-12 Conference, are now available to DISH customers on their iPads, Macs and PC’s through the Pac-12 Now TV Everywhere service, it was announced today.

Starting immediately, DISH customers who receive the Pac-12 Networks as part of their subscription can watch all seven networks by authenticating their service on the free Pac-12 Now iPad app or on the Web at In addition to viewing all seven networks, fans can switch between multiple live events and enjoy coverage not available on their regional television network.

Pac-12 Now also allows fan access to an unprecedented amount of video content produced by Pac-12 Networks and member universities, including highlights, feature stories, game recaps, and exclusive Pac-12 Now video content. Pac-12 Now also features an electronic programming guide and gives fans the ability to share what they watch with their social networks.

A linear carriage agreement between Pac-12 Networks and DISH was first announced in September, and with the availability of Pac-12 Now, DISH subscribers join millions of customers of other distributors who can log in to view Pac-12 Networks broadcast channels from anywhere as long as they have an internet connection.

DISH customers who receive the Pac-12 Networks as part of their subscription can authenticate their service by entering their DISH Online ID and Password in the Pac-12 Now app or at DISH customers without an existing DISH Online ID can create one by visiting

Pac-12 Now is the latest and most significant step in Pac-12 Networks’ commitment to building out state-of-the-art technology infrastructure to serve its high-quality content across all platforms. The service will be available on iPhones, Androids and other smartphones in the coming weeks.

CU avoids Bottom Ten … for now

Colorado took over the Number one spot in ESPN’s Bottom Ten after the 69-14 loss to Fresno State, only to leave the Bottom Ten the following week after beating Washington State. Since then, the Buffs have been on the waiting list ever since.

In this week’s Bottom Ten, the Buffs are …. still on the waiting list, along with 1-6 Colorado State.

The Rams, though, have a much better chance at victory No. 2. This weekend, Colorado State faces 1-5 Hawai’i. Thereafter, the Rams face 1-5 Wyoming and 1-6 UNLV. Colorado’s next three opponents, meanwhile, have a combined record of 15-3.

Of the nine members of the Bottom Ten this week (the No. 5 spot is “honorary”, with West Virginia on the list this week), only Kansas, at 1-5, is on the list.

Depending on this week’s results, Colorado could join the Bottom Ten regulars this week … and remain there for the rest of the season.

October 16th

USC treating CU like Alabama

According to a tweet from Arash Markazi, who writes for ESPN LA … “USC is treating Colorado like Alabama this week, going so far as replacing Colorado logos with Alabama logos on the depth chart”.

A fair conclusion – the USC coaches are trying their best to keep the Trojan players from losing focus, which may be hard to do when your team is a 40-point favorite.

So, at least for a week, Colorado is the top team in the nation, not the bottom team in the Pac-12 … which is nice.

October 15th

Colorado: “A sure W and a chance for the USC offense to get its groove back”

From the Orange County Register… Five Observations as to the status of USC heading into its game against Colorado …

1. Conservative Kiffin
Even the Republican Party thought Lane Kiffin‘s game plan was overly conservative. We’ve bagged on Kiffin before for passing too much, but the goal is to be around 50-50. On Saturday, it wasn’t even close — 38 rushing plays and 22 passing plays (including two sacks). Another goal is to score points, and the Trojans didn’t muster any in the second half. I get wanting to protect the lead. I get that defenses are taking away big plays. I get that winning is more important than stats. But you still have Matt Barkley, Robert Woods and Marqise Lee. Shouldn’t the mentality be to attack opponents, rather than worry about what might go wrong? Asked about running so often on third downs — 6 of 12 times — Kiffin said: “The last thing we wanted to do in this environment was have our QB drop back and get hit.” Hardly a ringing endorsement for the offensive line, although the line didn’t exactly prove Kiffin wrong by allowing a sack on fourth-and-5 in the fourth quarter.

2. Penalty problem
Penalties continue to be a major issue for the 2012 Trojans and a key factor in the offense’s inconsistency. The offense was responsible for seven of the 10 penalties Saturday. All of them contributed to unsuccessful drives. Here’s the breakdown: false start (punt), personal foul and holding (end of half), illegal motion and holding (blocked field goal), false start (punt), false start (turned over on downs). It’s hard to convert third downs — USC was 2 of 12 — when you’re constantly “behind the chains.” The last false start, by tight end Xavier Grimble, turned a third-and-1 into a third-and-6. Two plays later, Barkley got sacked. “That’s just focus,” center Khaled Holmes said of the penalties. “These are hostile environments we’re playing in, but there’s no excuse for any of the penalties we had.”

3. Defense > offense
We expected USC’s defense to be improved this season. But who would have thought it would outperform the offense? You have to like the way the defense is attacking and making plays. Five sacks and four takeaways will win you a lot of football games. Dion Bailey had an interception and a forced fumble, winning the game within the game against childhood friend Keith Price. Freshman defensive tackle Leonard Williams was all over the place; he even surprised teammate Hayes Pullard by jumping on his back as they trotted off the field. I initially thought Williams forced Price’s first fumble, only to see on the replay that it was Jawanza Starling. That didn’t stop Starling from crediting his teammate. “I was already on the quarterback,” Starling said of the turning-point play. “Leonard came and jarred the ball loose …” No, Jawanza. You did. “It was both of us,” he said. How’s that for unselfishness?

4. Shaw vs. Harris
Kiffin had no choice but to lift cornerback Torin Harris after a hard hit left Harris with a concussion (according to a teammate). Kiffin turned to Josh Shaw, and Shaw looked as if he’d been there — or at least deserved to be there — all along. I’m with you guys when it comes to Harris: I just don’t see what Kiffin sees. Yes, Harris has an NFL body. But so do a lot of guys. It’s about making plays, and Harris has come up short in that department, even early last season, when Kiffin claims Harris was playing as well as Nickell Robey. (Another interpretation of that: Robey wasn’t playing very well at the time.) It’s time for Kiffin to admit he was wrong, give the job to Shaw for a couple of weeks and see what happens.

5. Half-full or half-empty?
So we’re halfway through this season, and little of it has gone according to form. Who could have envisioned the offense being shut out in two second halves? Who could have foreseen USC being outscored, 43-14, in the third quarter? (“That falls on the coaches,” Kiffin said. “We need to do a better job adjusting.”) The Trojans’ 5-1 record is exactly where I had them at this point; I just never expected the offense to have this many issues. Colorado is a nice way to start off the second half — a sure W and a chance for the offense to get its groove back. But danger looms the following week at Arizona. The Wildcats have an explosive offense, they play a version of the spread and the game just so happens to fall one week before the showdown with Oregon. That game won’t mean anything if USC doesn’t take care of business in Tucson.

Colorado/Oregon game to kickoff at 1:00 p.m. MT next Saturday

The Colorado/Oregon gametime has been set. The kickoff is set for noon Pacific Time, and will be televised on the Pac-12 Networks.

The downsides … first, it will cut down on the tailgate time in Eugene, and I was looking forward to spending some time on campus … second, I paid $30 a  head for the pre-game party – not much excitement in wolfing down a pre-game meal at 10 a.m. … finally (and worst), the CU/Oregon score will be on the ESPN scroll ALL DAY …. Yuck!!!

October 14th

Oregon State up to 8th in latest AP poll

Oregon, idle as it prepares for a Thursday night showdown against Arizona State Thursday night, remained at No. 2 in the latest poll, while Oregon State, 42-24 winners over BYU, moved from 10th to 8th.

USC, 24-14 victors over Washington, remained at No. 11, with one team (West Virginia, which fell from No. 5 to No. 17 after a surprising 49-14 loss to Texas Tech) falling below the Trojans, but with one other team, Oklahoma (after a 63-21 mauling of Texas) rising above them.

Stanford, which lost to Notre Dame, 20-13 in overtime, on a controversial finish, fell from 17th to 22nd. Arizona State, which had its way with Colorado in the second half last Thursday night, finished just outside of the poll, at 26th (as if the Sun Devils needed additional incentive for its game against Oregon this Thursday).

Washington (tied for 31st) and Arizona (tied for 37th) were the only other Pac-12 teams which received votes in the lastest poll.

This will make you fell better department … Nebraska, which fell out of the polls last week after being embarrassed by Ohio State, 63-38, last weekend, remained out of the polls this week. Meanwhile, former Nebraska head coach Frank Solich has led the Ohio Bobcats into the national poll, coming in this week at No. 25. Solich posted a 58-19 record in six years in Lincoln, but was summarily dismissed nonetheless after a 9-3 regular season record in 2003.

October 12th

Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott in Boulder for CU/ASU game

It was nice to have Larry Scott, the Pac-12 commissioner, on hand to hand out the Pac-12 men’s basketball championship rings Thursday night.  If nothing else, it will help to remin him it wasn’t a mistake to have CU join the league.

Now, as to CU facilities upgrades …

From the Daily Camera Colorado is one of several Pac-12 schools in some stage athletic facility upgrades and conference commissioner Larry Scott is pleased with what the Buffs are doing.

“They’ve shared with me some of their desire for facility development here and I’m encouraged by what I hear,” Scott said Thursday night when he met with media members during halftime of the Colorado-Arizona State football game. “They have ambitious plans. They seem like they are realistic over time.”

Scott said member schools currently have about $1 billion worth of upgrade projects either in the works or about to be completed.

CU is looking at making enhancements to Folsom Field, building a new practice facility, remodeling Balch Fieldhouse and possibly adding new suites and another level of seating at Folsom Field.

CU is currently conducting a feasibility study with donors to find out how much money the school could raise to pay for those upgrades. It is estimated that the completion of all of its proposed upgrades would cost about $220 million.

“I certainly applaud the leadership of Colorado in thinking big in terms of what the future master plan needs to look like here and starting the process now to put it in place,” Scott said.

Scott said the Pac-12 is not requiring CU to make any enhancements to facilities, but that the work being done around the conference could be a driving force for CU.

“There’s no mandate that comes from the conference,” Scott said. “I know Colorado joined the conference because they think they can do very well, can be very competitive and are going to want to stay at par with their peer schools in the conference. I think (there is) some peer pressure there. I think that’s what motivates the school; it’s not pressure coming from us.”

October 11th

USC selling Pac-12 Championship Game tickets

Colorado is 1-1 in Pac-12 play, and no one is talking “A bowl is the goal” anymore.

USC is 2-1 in Pac-12 play, and is already selling tickets to the Pac-12 championship game.

USC appears to be selling Pac-12 Championship Game tickets to season-ticket holders in case the Trojans host the game at the Los Angeles Coliseum, according to an advertisement posted on reddit. A glance at the schedule shows that USC has played all of three Pac-12 games, and doesn’t lead its division. USC is 2-1 in conference games, a half game behind 2-0 Arizona State.

There’s planning ahead and then there’s presumption that borders on arrogance, and we’re not sure which side of the line USC is on here. Fans of other Pac-12 teams will likely have an opinion on that.

While some forward thinking by USC’s ticket department is far different than something like Lane Kiffin guaranteeing his team will host the title game as the top seed in the Pac-12, it still seems a bit premature (obviously if the Trojans do not play in the Pac-12 title game or have to travel to somewhere like Eugene for that game, then money will be refunded).

It’ll be really interesting how much attention the sales pitch gets if Washington beats USC this week, right before those tickets go on sale to the general public on Oct. 19.

October 10th

Mike Leach – WSU seniors “empty corpses”

From ESPN … Mike Leach evidently is not impressed by the leadership qualities of Washington State’s seniors.

Unhappy with the Cougars’ 2-4 start, Leach ripped some of his seniors for their lack of veteran leadership during a recent news conference, comparing them to “empty corpses” and “zombies.”

“Some of (the seniors) have been great, and some of them have been very poor,” Leach said Monday. “Some of them have had kind of this zombielike, go through the motions, everything is like how it’s always been, that’s how it’ll always be.

“Some of them quite honestly have an empty-corpse quality. That’s not pleasant to say or pleasant to think about, but that’s a fact.”

Leach, known as an offensive guru during his 10-year tenure at Texax Tech, is in his first year at Washington State after inheriting a program that has not had a winning season since 2003. The Cougars went 9-40 over the past four years under Paul Wulff.

The Cougars have lost their past three games and generated just 227 yards of total offense in Saturday’s 19-6 loss to Oregon State.

Leach questioned the focus of his team and said some players need to “embrace adversity.”

“We just need focused people. Rather than have fragmented focus, right now we’re a team that if we face any adversity, we get discouraged,” he said. “If you don’t embrace adversity, you’re never going to improve.

“We’ve got to be a team that embraces adversity, and right now we’re a team that if it’s not easy, we want to flinch and flounder. We’ve got to change that. Part of it is changing the way we think and part of it is we haven’t really had the strength from our senior class we should get there. So we turn to our younger guys to develop them, and they’re a ways off.”

October 9th

Quotes from Arizona State head coach Todd Graham’s press conference

From …

On what he saw from J.J. Holliday (a wide receiver who has been playing some at cornerback) in practice Monday…

“One of the things that is concerning is just lack of depth at that cornerback position and really [we are] just trying to look for some guys to help us on third down, help us in depth. I don’t know, I will look at the film, but I think he can run well and has some potential there.”

On if he has ever had to move this many guys from one side of the ball to the other…

“No, it’s the thinnest we have ever been. We basically have three corners. After that, we have a couple of guys that are trying to work; it’s just been very, very thin on the back end, the safety end and at corner. James (Morrison) will still be in the depth as a backup running back; he will probably work more with the offense tomorrow. We are really just trying to see if he could help us as a third-down pass rusher because we basically have three guys in that position. We are just very thin.”

On the pros and cons of having a schedule with nationally televised games… 

“I think one of the biggest challenges on those, just from a student standpoint especially when you go on the road, [is that] you have to miss two days of school and obviously get back really late Friday morning so it makes it difficult. Academically it’s a challenge but obviously it’s national exposure. The kids are always excited about that. Our fans are excited about it. I’d rather not play them back-to-back because I think it makes it a little bit more difficult having two mid-week games. I’d rather have one and then get on a regular schedule; I kind of like staying on the Saturday schedule but we are excited to have the opportunity to play on national television. There are pros and cons to it but I don’t make those decisions. I’m just excited to be playing Colorado.”

On match-ups for Colorado…

“I think the biggest thing is knowing that they have a bunch of guys back that have been hurt. They’re going to be at full-strength. They’re going to be at home. I like their quarterback. He’s the guy we spent a lot of time on and I think he’s a very smooth operator. He gives them an opportunity. They have a very solid receiving core. The key is going to be stopping the run. They have some linemen back that are going to help them up front. The key for us is not giving up cheap ones and playing great defense. Going on the road, the first thing I talked about was the North Carolina State game. You’re going into someone else’s place. You have to be the most passionate and disciplined team on the field. No one is just going to lie down for you. Obviously, we know the key is our preparation and what we’re doing. I think offensively, the key is to be able to establish a running game. We’ve spent a lot of time this week on that third quarter and second half. I think we’ve done a good job with how we’ve started and how we’ve finished ball games, but we’ve for some reason stumped our toe a little bit in the third quarter. They (Colorado) have quality personnel just like every other team in the Pac-12. We’ve focused on the match-ups that we have but more than anything, we’ve focused on the fundamentals of us getting better and us making sure we’re executing our plan. That’s 100 percent ball security and zero penalties. We do that and play physical ball, we’ll be fine.”

On getting off to a fast start against Colorado after a bye-week…

“We just talked about the things we have to do to win games. I think the key is the passion for which you take the field. Every team is going to be their best at home, so when you go in there, as a team, there has to be a great focus, a great mental focus about what you are doing and I think we did that at Cal. I think this is a young football team and we learned a little bit from our first time out. There was a time in that game at Cal when they had a good team and they would come roaring back and we were going to make or break right there and so we held on defense and took a drive down and scored. I was very proud of how our guys responded, but we are going to have to have the same sort of thing this week. We are going to have to be better than we were at Cal. Those are the kind of things we talked about. We have really pushed hard. We have really coached them hard for the past week and half. You have to be prepared to go and make sure we don’t turn the football over or don’t have stupid penalties because those are the things that give the crowd momentum.”

On the proximity of the Oregon game and what has been done in order to ensure focus about Colorado…

“Never mention Oregon to them. You have to be mature to be successful and to win and I know it sounds crazy but we are very single-mindedly focused. They understand that. I reflect on their experiences and talk with them about their experiences and saying that okay I understand. I have said this earlier in the year that coming back from adversity is hard; I think handling success is harder. I think you have to stay hungry, you have stay focused on what you are doing, you have to stay motivated on the opponent that is right in front of you, so those are the things we have talked about. I haven’t gotten any sense that our guys are overlooking Colorado and that they are just trying to get better every day. I think when we play together as a team we have a pretty good football team. That is the hardest thing about my job is keeping 18 to 20 year olds focused on something.”

Octobert 8th

Oregon State quarterback to have knee surgery

Oregon State, one of the feel-good stories of college football this season, has suffered a major blow.

From the Oregonian … Oregon State quarterback Sean Mannion will have knee surgery and is out indefinitely, coach Mike Riley said Monday.

Mannion suffered the injury to his left knee on a handoff during Saturday’s 19-6 home victory against Washington State, though Mannion did not leave the game because of the injury.

Mannion wore a brace at practice on Monday but left to meet with a doctor and did not talk to reporters.

From the Corvallis Gazette-Times … “At first we are bummed out because Sean is a great player and a great leader, but Cody Vaz is a great quarterback,” running back Storm Woods said. “I don’t think we’ll miss a beat. We’ll get ready this week and be ready for BYU.”

Riley remained upbeat about his team’s chances this week and the rest of the season when he made the announcement. He believes the offense will not change with Vaz.

“We are going to win the game with Cody,” Riley said. “Cody is a good quarterback. He has been preparing for this for a long time. He’ll be good and we’ll be ready to go.”

Vaz is in his fourth season with the Beavers, so he knows the system and has looked good in practice. Riley touted him as a second starting-level quarterback in training camp.

However, Vaz has not played in a game since his redshirt freshman season in 2010. He completed 6 of 17 passes for 48 yards in five relief appearances.

“I’m not rattled at all,” receiver Markus Wheaton said. “It hurts losing Sean but we have confidence in Cody. He has a real strong arm, just like Sean. He’s ready to play and he’s confident in himself.”

Pac-12 and DirecTV not talking

From Jon Wilner at the San Jose Mercury News… A few days ago, I emailed DirecTV’s public relations director and asked to speak to a company official about the status of the negotiations. (This was not my first such request.)

Instead of an interview, I got a statement. (This was not DTV’s first such statement.)

Here it is:

“DIRECTV wants to make Pac-12 Network available to the fans who want it. To do that, Pac 12 either needs to agree to a price to make it affordable for all of our customers, as we’ve offered and done with dozens of other sports networks, or allow Pac 12 fans to buy the network separately or purchase individual games on demand. Unfortunately, Pac 12 has refused all of these options. Regardless, we stand ready to agree to add the network if they propose a deal that’s fair.”

As noted previously, DTV executives aren’t dumb. When not carrying the Pac12Nets gets to be bad business — as they define bad business — then they’ll agree to a carriage deal.

Until then: impasse.

(Obviously, the Pac12Nets broadcast of the Cal-USC game changed absolutely nothing.)

*** But it seems to me that DTV might have a PR problem on its hands in a few weeks, courtesy of the Lakers.

When the NBA season begins at the end of the month, Time Warner Cable’s new SportsNet channel will broadcast all Lakers games that aren’t national telecasts.

TWC is in the process of negotiating with providers interested in airing the SportsNet channel.

The group includes DirecTV, which is based in El Segundo and reportedly has 1.7 million customers in Los Angeles and the surrounding area.

TWC is reportedly charging $3.95 per subscriber, per month for the Lakers channel (and its Spanish-language twin, Deportes).

Which means any provider that shows the Lakers channel will probably charge $3.95 subscriber, per month.

Which means that DTV might end up charging $3.95 (approx) per sub for the Lakers while claiming the Pac12Nets, at less than $1 per sub, are too expensive — that they aren’t “affordable for all of our customers.”

Charlie Weis already done with seniors?

Colorado and Kansas are both 1-4. New Kansas head coach Charlie Weis, though, is already done with 2012, and is moving on to 2013 …

From the Kansas City Star… One day after suffering another beating at the hands of a rival, KU coach Charlie Weis used Sunday to continue to build toward the future. And in this case, Weis specifically had next year in mind.

“I took everyone that’s gonna be on the team next year and they practiced,” Weis said on Sunday night. “And anyone who’s not gonna be on the team next year, after we were done with their film session, they ran and lifted.”

It’s a question that every coach must ponder. How do you coach for today while planning for tomorrow? But the Jayhawks’ 1-4 start, including a 56-16 loss to Kansas State on Saturday, puts a little more spotlight on the Jayhawks’ future. In short: How does Kansas dig out of its extended, program-wide slump?

“You have to do two things here,” Weis said. “You have to develop your current squad, but you also have to develop your future squad. What happens is, if you practice everyone who played all the reps in the game yesterday, then you’re never developing anyone else at the same time.”

Weis was clear that he would be doing similar things if the Jayhawks were 4-1. He also said he laid out the plan to the entire team, including the seniors who didn’t take part in Sunday’s practice.

If the Jayhawks were a .500 program, Weis explained, the goal would be to become a perennial winner. If they were a perennial winner, the goal would be a championship. But KU is still far from that, so the plan begins with small steps toward winning games.

“You have to understand,” Weis said, “the steps that you have to take to get there.”

Okay …

October 7th

Two Pac-12 teams leave the Top 25

“Shakeup Saturday” proved to be just that, as, for the first time since 2008, three top five teams lost on the same weekend. Gone from the Top 5 of the latest polls are No. 3 Florida State (17-16 upset losers to North Carolina State), No. 4 LSU (which lost to new No. 4 Florida), and No. 5 Georgia (which was thumped by new No. 3 South Carolina).

The Seminoles (down to No. 12), Tigers (down to No. 9) and Bulldogs (down to No. 14).

In the Pac-12, Oregon remained No. 2, while Oregon State moved into the Top ten. USC is 11th and Stanford is 17th.

Last week, the Pac-12 had six ranked teams, but No. 23 Washington lost to the Ducks 52-21 and No. 25 UCLA was upset by California 43-17.

Arizona State, which plays host to Oregon on Oct. 18, and Washington both received votes, tying for 31st. Arizona also received votes.

South Carolina moved up to No. 3 behind the Ducks, ahead of No. 4 Florida. Those SEC East rivals play on Oct. 20th.

West Virginia is No. 5, Kansas State No. 6 and Notre Dame is No. 7. Kansas State visits West Virginia on Oct. 20, which looks like an excellent day for college football.

Stanford visits Notre Dame on Saturday. The Fighting Irish are at USC on Nov. 24.

October 6th

Pac-12 Saturday a day of contrasts

Pick your poison … Pac-12: A conference of explosive offenses … or decent defenses?

No. 18 Stanford rallied to take down Arizona in overtime, 54-48, in a game which each team gained 617 yards of total offense.

Meanwhile, up in Corvallis, No. 14 Oregon State held Washington State to 227 yards of total offense in a 19-6 victory.


From ESPN … Josh Nunes bailed out Stanford’s defense for a change and started to erase doubts about whether he’s the right man to replace Andrew Luck after all.

Nunes threw for a career-high 360 yards and two touchdowns and ran for three more scores, rallying No. 18 Stanford from a two-touchdown deficit to stun Arizona 54-48 in overtime Saturday.

Chase Thomas intercepted a tipped pass by Matt Scott in the extra period and Stephan Taylor ran for a 21-yard touchdown two plays later to end a week of second-guessing Nunes with a wild celebration in the Cardinal (4-1, 2-1 Pac-12) side of the north end zone.

“This is the kind of game that we needed,” Stanford coach David Shaw said. “We needed to fight. We needed to battle. We needed to be into it in the fourth quarter. We needed to be down. We needed to fight back, just to test our character. We believe that we have that kind of character to be able to fight back even when we’re down, but it’s great when you get tested and respond to that challenge.”

Maybe for nobody more than Nunes.

The offense failed to find the end zone in a 17-13 loss at Washington last week. Nunes underthrew several passes or misfired completely, and critics began to mount enough for Shaw to open his weekly news conference defending his new quarterback and boldly calling any question about a change “asinine.”

Nunes followed his coach’s words with his most solid game of the season. He completed 21 of 34 passes, scrambled for first downs and — most importantly — offset Scott’s record-setting performance.

Scott completed 45 of 69 passes — both school records — for 491 yards and three touchdowns until Henry Anderson tipped his final pass in overtime that Thomas intercepted. Arizona (3-3, 0-3) amassed 617 total yards — same as Stanford — but lost for the third straight game and is still winless in conference play.

“It’s depressing not to win, but that’s football,” Scott said.

Oregon State/Washington State

Jordan Poyer had three interceptions, Sean Mannion passed for 270 yards and No. 14 Oregon State survived a shaky start with a 19-6 win over Washington State on Saturday.

Markus Wheaton had 95 yards receiving and a touchdown but it was the Beavers defense which kept the Cougars at arm’s length on the day when Mannion, who threw three interceptions, was more down than up.

Oregon State (4-0, 3-0 Pac-12) has surpassed its win total from all of 2011, but many in the school-record crowd of 46,579 were left shaking their heads at penalties and turnovers as the offense sputtered. Mannion completed 25-of-42 passes and was sacked three times.

The Beavers are 4-0 for the first time since 2002.

Jeff Tuel was 11 of 17 for 126 yards after replacing Connor Halliday, who threw three interceptions in just over one half of action. However, Tuel’s telegraphed pass that led to Poyer’s interception ended the threat for Washington State. Marquess Wilson had four catches for 54 yards to lead the Cougars (2-4, 0-3). Halliday was 9-for-20 passing.

Turnovers kept the Cougars from gaining a foothold as they continue to implement new coach Mike Leach’s pass-happy offense. Oregon State kept both Halliday and Tuel on the run, forcing four interceptions and a fumble. Defensive end Scott Crichton was in the backfield all game, tallying three sacks.

October 5th

Utah has its moments against USC

If you only count the first three minutes and the last minute of the game, Utah dominated USC, out-scoring the Trojans, 21-0.

But the other 56 minutes … 38-7, USC.

After giving up two turnovers and two quick touchdowns to the Utes, Matt Barkley led the Trojans to 28 straight points, passing for 303 yards and three touchdowns in a 38-28 victory.

“That was a real low point to give the other team 14 points to start the game, but our team bounced back,” said Barkley, who finished 23-of-30. “We didn’t let that ruin our night.”

Instead the Trojans ruined one of the biggest games in Utah history — it was USC’s first trip to Salt Lake City in 95 years.

“We wanted to come out fast and we did that,” said Utah wide receiver Kenneth Scott, who caught an 11-yard touchdown pass from Jon Hays and had a 44-yarder nullified by penalty in the second quarter. “Now we just have to finish.”

That the Trojans (4-1, 2-1) showed they know how to do, scoring twice in a span of less than 3 minutes in the fourth quarter to turn a 3-point game into another victory.

Leading 24-21, Barkley tossed an 83-yard TD pass to Marqise Lee to bump USC’s lead to 10 points. Less than 3 minutes later, cornerback Nickell Robey intercepted a pass by Hays and returned it 38 yards for a touchdown.

“The D-line disrupted the play,” Robey said of a pass Hays overthrew. “I read it. I just broke on the ball and stepped in and caught it.”

Game over.

From the Salt Lake City Tribune

With so much on the table at Rice-Eccles Stadium on Thursday night against USC, the Utah Utes responded by holding their position for a while and, then … teetering in their chairs, tipping forward, slamming their foreheads on the tabletop and slumping to the floor.

It was not a moment of glory.

It might have been. It could have been. It would have been. Except it shouldn’t have been. And, as it turned out, it wasn’t. In sincere reflection — let’s be real here — it likely never was going to be.

Matt Barkley’s 83-yard touchdown heave early in the fourth quarter settled that business, giving the Trojans a 10-point lead. Nickell Robey’s pick-six a couple of minutes later, shut the deal down. A late meaningless Ute score narrowed the final numbers on the board: USC 38, Utah 28.

Of all the things at stake, though, glory was only on the game’s outer edge.

Utah was looking here for other gains, for simple self-esteem, for a good reason to feel good about itself again, for something, anything, that would give a boost to a seriously sagging season. What it got was a mixed bag, a decent effort … until the end, a sloppy effort throughout, and, ultimately, more reason to doubt.

And that was kind of … sobering.

Watching the action unfold the way it did was like watching a humble-but-hungry-and-hopeful kid open his one birthday gift and get drilled in the face by a snake nut can. It’s all fun and games until he has the bejeebers scared out of him and his heart crushed.

Same with the Utes.

They unscrewed the can with great anticipation, all right, and out popped the coiled, classic practical joke.

October 4th

USC/Utah … what to watch for

USC enters Thursday night’s game against Utah in an interesting position, coming off a bye week but facing a so-called “trap game” before moving on to what could be a really intriguing game against Washington on Oct. 13.

We take a look at 10 things to watch, from ESPN’s Ted Miller …

The bye effect. As is customary in the Pac-12 preceding Thursday night games, both USC and Utah had byes last week and did not play. This game, then, would appear to provide an easy answer to this question: Which coach, Lane Kiffin or Kyle Whittingham, does a better job of keeping his players focused? The Trojans got smacked by Oregon coming off their bye in 2010 but recorded a nice win over Cal after their week off last year.

USC’s commitment to the run. So, is USC really committed to running the ball, like it did against Cal last week, or are the Trojans just trying to pretend like they are to give their passing game more room? The fact that Kiffin mentioned the newfound emphasis at every opportunity over the last 10 days would indicate the latter, but Utah’s going to have to at least pay some respect to Silas Redd and Curtis McNeal.

Robert Woods’ productivity. Everyone around the team downplayed it over the bye week, but the fact that Robert Woods’ numbers are down so significantly is an issue the Trojans are confused about. Look for Kiffin to try to get the ball to the junior receiver as much as possible this week, and maybe even stretch it out so he’s not catching the ball near the line of scrimmage every single time.

Breslin’s defender. Maybe the most exciting head-to-head matchup in the game will be at right tackle/left end, where USC surprise star Morgan Breslin will rush the passer against Utah true freshman Jeremiah Poutasi. Poutasi’s a nice young player — Oregon was on him throughout the recruiting process — but Breslin has proved to be a wily vet in the Trojans’ four games this season.

The Star. He’s big, and he’s going to trouble the Trojans. Utah’s Star Lotulelei is an impressive space-eater. What is USC going to do to defend him? Good question. Whoever the center is, he’s going to need help more snaps than not.

Holmes? About the center — starter Khaled Holmes went down at the end of the Cal game with an aggravation of his ankle injury. He missed a game last time he got hurt, but the Trojans didn’t have a bye that time.

A sold-out crowd? The last time USC faced a packed house of 45,000 fans on a Thursday night? You guessed it: Sept. 2008 against Oregon State. Sure, the crowd will be roughly half of what the Trojans turned out for their season opener, but if USC’s last two games at Reser Stadium are any indication, small crowds in small spaces can get quite loud.

Salt Lake and cold weather. It’s the first time the Trojans are playing Utah in Salt Lake in 95 years. Luckily for them, though, they’re used to the cold weather, with recent cold-weather games at Colorado and Notre Dame to call upon. Game-time temperatures are expected to hover around 50 degrees on Thursday.

Middle of the stat pack. USC is fifth in the conference in scoring offense and sixth in total offense, third in scoring defense and fifth in total defense. Their other numbers hover around the 3rd-6th range, too — in other words, not terrible, but not what you want if you’re USC.

Third down woes. USC is 15-of-50 on third-down conversion attempts this season, numbers that put them 11th in the Pac-12.

October 2nd

CU part of Pac-12 history (in a good way)

This week, six teams from the Pac-12 are ranked in the AP poll: No. 2 Oregon; No. 13 USC; No. 14 Oregon State; No. 18 Stanford; No. 23 Washington; and No. 25 UCLA.

Only four other times since the polls went to 25 teams has the Pac-12 had six teams ranked in the poll. On two of those four occasions, Colorado represented the sixth “Pac-12” team in the rankings.

On September 17, 1989, Colorado was ranked 8th in the nation, with Washington, USC, Washington State, Oregon, Arizona and UCLA also ranked.

On September 6, 1998, Colorado was ranked 16th in the nation, with Washington, Arizona State, Arizona, USC, and Oregon also in the poll.

The only other two times in which the Pac-12 has had six teams in a poll were on September 15th and September 30th, 2002.

USC to take on Utah on Thursday night

First appearance for USC in Salt Lake City since Nov. 17, 1917 when it defeated Utah 51-0. . . Since 1955, USC is 54-16-1 following byes. Utah is 27-8-1 (22-2-1 at home) in October games played after a bye. . . With the USC game already sold out, the Utes have sold out 15-straight gaes in Rice-Eccles Stadium.

Junior WR Robert Woods is tied for fourth on USC’s career receiving list with 201 receptions. The top three are Dwayne Jarrett (216), Keary Colbert (207), and Kareem Kelly (204).

If USC scores at Utah, it will tie the school record for most consecutive games without being shut out. USC has not been shut out in its past 185 games, 1 shy of the school record of 186 set from 1967 to 1983 (14 wins and 1 loss later vacated due to NCAA penalty). USC’s last shutout loss was in 1997 at Washington, 27-0. Interestingly, if USC scores this week at Utah, the opportunity for that record-breaking 187th game would be next week at Washington. (Colorado’s record for consecutive games scoring is 242, set between a home 7-0 loss to No. 1 Oklahoma in 1988, and an inexplicable road loss to Missouri in 2008 in which Dan Hawkins passed on field goal attempts several times, even though the game was out of hand).

Utah’s defense ranks fourth in the league in total defense (329.5 yards per game). Utah is ranked fourth in the Pac-12 and 27th in the nation in rushing defense (111.25). Senior P Sean Sellwood ranks second nationally with a 47.8 yard average.

Dating back to last season, Utah is 9-0 when senior RB John White rushes for 100 yards. USC is !fth in the Pac-12 against the run (117.0).

October 1st

CSU President gives green light to new stadium … sort of

From the Denver Post

Colorado State University President Tony Frank said Monday he will support the construction of a new on-campus football stadium — but he won’t recommend to the school’s Board of Governors that the project begins until at least half of the estimated $250 million cost is raised through private funding.

“Before I would take any financing package to the Board of Governors for their consideration, I’d have to be extremely confident that the combination of philanthropy and financing against committed stadium revenues would cover the cost of the stadium,” Frank said in a statement. “At this point, the clearest path that I can envision is $125 million of philanthropic funds supported by stadium revenue commitments able to service $125 million of debt.”

Frank will meet with the Board of Governors on Thursday and recommend that the university begin fundraising for the new on-campus stadium and continue to the next phase of planning . The new facility is targeted for a location on the south side of campus near Lake and Whitcomb streets.

The new stadium is expected to bring in between $6.35 and $18.31 million in its first year of operations, according to projections by university-hired Conventions, Sports and Leisure International. The consulting firm has said the financial projections are “achievable” while many say projections are “optimistic” and exaggerated.

Frank said in his announcement that if the university has not identified a viable financing plan for the new stadium within two years, it will have to suspend the efforts and instead make investments in the existing Hughes Stadium to ensure it remains a viable option for Colorado State football.

September 30th

Pac-12 up to six ranked teams

Just what the struggling Buffs needed to hear … half of the Pac-12 is ranked in the latest poll.

Oregon held onto its spot at No. 2 after struggling for a half against Washington State before prevailing, 51-26. Idle USC remained at No. 13, followed closely at No. 14 by Oregon State, 38-35 victors on the road against Arizona.

Stanford, which lost 17-14 to Washington on Thursday night, fell from 8th to 18th, while the Huskies joined the poll at No. 23.

The other Pac-12 team re-joining the polls after a week’s absence was UCLA. The Bruins’ 42-14 victory over Colorado was enough to put UCLA back in the poll, at No. 25.

Here is a link to the entire poll.

September 28th

Scott confirms discussions concerning 7th BCS bowl game

From ESPN … Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott confirmed Thursday night the conference is in preliminary talks with the Big 12 about creating a seventh bowl game that would match a representative from one of the two conferences against the best team from a group of five conferences, including the Big East.

Scott spoke at halftime of Washington’s game against No. 8 Stanford. He said the talks with the Big 12 are in the infant stages and started after all the conference commissioners met last week in Chicago.

“There is an ongoing concern some of the conferences have had about AQ, non-AQ, access and those types of issues, and in that conversation there was a consensus that we could all imagine a seventh bowl game so there is more access points going forward for all conferences than existed in the past,” Scott said. “In my view, given that there is so much positive about the new system going forward about having a playoff and neutral site championship game it would be a real shame if all that progress and all that success is clouded by continued discussions about access and have and have-nots. I hope with all the progress we’re making, I’m certainly in favor of creating more access points and making that conversation something of the past.”

A person with direct knowledge of the plan for the four-team playoff in 2014 told The Associated Press on Wednesday that either a Pac-12 or a Big 12 team likely will be the opponent for the top-rated champion from the Big East, Mountain West, Conference USA, Sun Belt and Mid-American Conference.

The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the conferences did not want to make the plan public.

The proposal has the Pac-12 sending either its champion or a replacement team to the game in years when the Rose Bowl hosts a national semifinal. In years the Rose Bowl is a traditional Big Ten-Pac-12 matchup, the Big 12 would send one of its top teams to the game.

The deal with the Big 12 and Pac-12 would be similar to the one the Orange Bowl is working on with the Big Ten and the Southeastern Conference. That deal, which has not been completed, would match a team from either of those conferences or Notre Dame against the Atlantic Coast Conference champ or a another ACC team.

“There is discussion going on around the seventh bowl, the Big 12 and I have had about the possibility but we’ve also discussed other possibilities as well,” Scott said. “The reports I saw made it seem a little bit further along and a little more concrete than I would describe it as. It was a fresh conversation coming out of Chicago last week. I wouldn’t describe it as far along as I read but I’m happy to confirm that it is a conversation that it’s being had.”

The original playoff plan had the national semifinals rotating among six bowl sites, giving the new system two playoff games and four other high-revenue bowl games each season. The top four teams determined by a selection committee, regardless of conference affiliation, will play in the semifinals. The winners meet in a championship game about a week later.

The spots in those other four games would be for other highly ranked teams, but those slots have quickly started filling up as the major conferences began making deals.

The Rose Bowl, as has been tradition, will always match the Pac-12 and Big Ten when it does not host a semifinal. The new marquee bowl being created by the Big 12 and the SEC — site to be determined — will be also part of the system, so those two spots are filled. The Orange Bowl’s deals took two more spots out of play.

That led to concerns about limited access to the high-revenue games for the other five conferences.

The rebuilding Big East, which currently has automatic-qualifying status to the Bowl Championship Series, has been trying to gain a more secure spot in the new postseason system.

The person with direct knowledge of the plan said new Big East commissioner Mike Aresco spearheaded the push for the addition of a seventh game to be added to the system, and presented a plan for the highest-rated champion from the other five conferences to be assured a spot in the game.

Sun Belt commissioner Karl Benson told the AP last week there was enough support for a seventh game among the commissioners to make it happen.

Allowing the Pac-12 and Big 12 to share the spot opposite the best of the rest in a bowl would give the game stability and likely increase the value of its television rights, as compared to having the opponent be left undetermined.

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