Pac-12 Notes – Arizona Week

October 15th

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Oregon survives with fourth-and-goal stop to defeat Cal, 24-17

From The San Jose Mercury News … Its regular-season schedule now at the halfway point, the Cal football team still hasn’t figured out how to win the close one.

On Friday night at Oregon’s Autzen Stadium, the Bears got the ball to the Ducks’ 2-yard line in the final seconds but could not finish the job in a 24-17 loss to the nation’s ninth-ranked team.

“It’s very frustrating, extremely frustrating, there’s no other adjective to use . . . it’s very frustrating,” Cal coach Justin Wilcox said.

The Bears fell to 1-5 overall, 0-3 in the Pac-12 and still are without a road victory over an AP Top-10 team since beating No. 10 Indiana 17-14 in 1969. Cal is 0-34-1 in those settings over the past 52 seasons.

A study in near misses this season, the Bears lost by five points to Nevada in their opener, by two points at TCU a week later, and in overtime at Washington. Against the Huskies, they fumbled the ball at the 1-yard line on the final play with a chance to extend the game.

“We feel like we feel after every loss,” safety Elijah Hicks said. “We’re just a couple plays away from winning. That’s been a recurring theme.”

Cal traveled to Oregon as a 13.5-point underdog against a Ducks team that had won 15 straight home games and hasn’t lost to Cal in Eugene since 2007.

Even so, quarterback Chase Garbers said the Bears all were on the same page about what they could achieve one year after beating the eventual Pac-12 champions 21-17 at Berkeley.

“We thought we were going to win the game this whole week,” he said.

Continue reading story here

The Athletic: CU the third-most difficult job in the Pac-12 

From The Athletic … Only one team can win a national championship each year. But at least a dozen college football programs believe they should be doing just that on an annual basis. That makes jobs like Nebraska, Texas and Tennessee particularly challenging. Does it make those gigs harder than those at low-resource schools? Wouldn’t coaches still take that any day over the likes of UMass or UConn?

The Athletic polled more than 60 people working in college football to find out. Turns out, “hard” is … a hard word to define.

“What makes a good job a good job is commitment, support, tradition, but nothing is more important than access to players,” one Group of 5 head coach said. “There are just some places where you just don’t have it that have been historically good places and it’s just harder to recruit than people think it is.”

A Power 5 athletic director summed up high expectations: “There are places with so much history that are so far away from touching that again. They may never touch it again.” But that doesn’t mean those programs are ready to wave a white flag.

Then there’s the double-edged sword of a place like Alabama.

“I tend to think the jobs with the highest and most unreasonable expectations are the hardest, which means I think a place like Alabama is a really hard job,” one longtime Division I administrator said. “They happen to have someone in it who is doing a fantastic job, but that doesn’t mean it’s not hard.”

Another Group of 5 head coach believes that the two hardest jobs in the country will be Alabama after Nick Saban retires and Clemson after Dabo Swinney leaves: “You want to be the guy after the guy after the guy.”

Other respondents focused on FBS independents, most notably UMass, UConn and New Mexico State. “Independence is great if you are Notre Dame or Army, but if you are anyone else it stinks to go find games,” one Power 5 athletic director said. “You’re stuck at the mercy of other schools.”

Voters were asked to list their toughest five jobs in order of preference. A whopping 19 schools received first-place votes, and the voting for the No. 1 spot was tight.

Top Ten Power Five 

  • Vanderbilt
  • Kansas
  • Nebraska … The Cornhuskers’ tradition is as revered as anyone’s nationally — just ask them — but population shifts and conference realignment have made for a potentially toxic combination.“Great history and fan base,” one Power 5 assistant said. “But it’s a hard area to recruit to. Population, location and the league they are in right now puts them like all the other teams in the Big Ten. When they were in the Big 12, they were the big and physical team in a league full of speed. They had a niche.”The past tends to haunt the Huskers. Several coaches from smaller schools scoffed at the notion of Nebraska being hard, given the program’s resources, but the gap between expectations and reality in Lincoln was clearly at the forefront for many surveyed.“Because of the success they’ve been able to have in the last 30 years, it raised the expectation level,” one Power 5 AD said. “But there aren’t any players in the state.”
  • Texas
  • Washington State … Washington State fits the category of a program that occasionally shows flashes of greatness, creating unrealistic expectations among supporters who wish for more sustained success.“In the middle of nowhere,” a Power 5 assistant said. “Not great facilities. Have to recruit against everyone in the Pac-12 and really have no edge with anything.”Mike Price and Mike Leach both had successful runs, but even at their best, the Cougars still regularly struggled against rival Washington in-state. Price went 3-11 against the Huskies; Leach went 1-7.“If you’ve ever been to Pullman, you would know how special it is,” an agent said. “Recruiting against schools with beaches, warm weather, LA, and deep pockets like Oregon and Washington is a nightmare. The facilities improved dramatically under Bill Moos, but no more help is on the way. You have to run a unique system because you just can’t out-recruit people.”
  • Miami
  • Auburn
  • Tennessee
  • Wake Forest
  • Michigan
  • Other notable Power 5 vote-getters: Alabama (17), South Carolina (13) Syracuse (11), Arizona (8), Rutgers (7), Oregon State (7), Minnesota (7), Texas Tech (7), Colorado (7)

Read full story here

October 14th 

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USA Today releases coaches’ salaries (Karl Dorrell 8th in the Pac-12; 46th nationally)

From the USA Today … USA Today has released its findings on coaches salaries. CU’s Karl Dorrell is 8th in the Pac-12, and 46th nationally, in salary.

The first number is the national ranking, then total pay, then contract year pandemic reduction (so, $160,000 for Dorrell), actual pay for last year, and contract buyout.

So, anyone thinking Karl Dorrell might be gone after this season, check out the last number …

The Pac-12 … 

3David ShawStan.$8,924,683*$8,924,683$0*$8,924,683
12Chip KellyUCLA$5,600,000*$5,600,000$0*$5,600,000$9,000,000
16Kyle WhittinghamUtah$5,200,000*$5,200,000$0*$5,200,000$18,250,000
23Clay HeltonUSC$4,813,832*$4,813,832$0*$4,813,832
26Mario CristobalOregon$4,402,917*$4,600,000$197,083*$15,030,000
38Herm EdwardsASU$3,886,500$3,700,000$3,700,000$11,408,333
43Justin WilcoxCal$3,444,996*$3,600,000$155,004*$3,444,996$16,158,333
46Karl DorrellCU$3,240,000*$3,400,000$160,000*$3,240,000$14,800,000
49Jimmy LakeWash.$3,040,972*$3,100,000$59,028*$3,040,972$10,416,667
51Nick RolovichWSU$3,000,000*$3,000,000$0*$3,000,000$4,300,000
59Jedd FischAriz.$2,683,449*$2,300,000$16,551*$2,283,449$6,695,000
62Jonathan SmithOSU$2,444,000*$2,500,000$56,000*$2,444,000$5,812,500


October 13th

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Pac-12 picks: Colorado’s defense is good enough to win four or five games

From the San Jose Mercury News … The Hotline typically takes a close look at key trends and statistics when evaluating Pac-12 games against the point spread, but not always.

Under certain circumstances, we make a selection with little thought and zero hesitation.

UCLA’s visit to Washington on Saturday afternoon is one of those circumstances.

The Huskies are an easy call, and here’s our 12-word explanation: Second consecutive road game against a home team coming off a bye.

UCLA is playing the second leg of back-to-back roadies and doing so against a host that has had two weeks to prepare.

What’s more, the Bruins are doing it after a night game in Tucson that was in doubt until midway through the fourth quarter. They returned to campus in the wee hours, had a quick turnaround to prepare for UW, then headed back on the road.

Meanwhile, the Huskies have been sitting around Montlake for two full weeks, resting and healing and preparing for the Bruins.

That’s a significant competitive advantage — one the Huskies are acutely familiar with, albeit from the other side.

Cal (+14) at Oregon (Friday)
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. on ESPN
Comment: Both teams had an extra week to prepare, with Oregon coming off the loss at Stanford and needing time to heal and Cal coming off the loss to Washington State and needing time to soul search. The Bears made it interesting in Eugene two years ago and won outright last season. We expect another sound defensive gameplan and are curious to see the Ducks without CJ Verdell. If Cal avoids turnovers, this should be a close, low-scoring affair. Pick: Cal.

Arizona (+6.5) at Colorado
Kickoff: 12:30 p.m. on Pac-12 Networks
Comment: A winless visitor against a one-win host: So ugly it’s beautiful, so bad it’s good, so unwatchable that we cannot wait for kickoff. The line opened at 6.5 and hasn’t budged despite confirmation that Arizona will be without its most promising quarterback, Jordan McCloud. Noted previously on the Hotline but lost in the muck and worth repeating: Colorado’s defense is good enough to win four or five games. We like the Buffs, but we love the Under (47). Pick: Colorado

Five-star special: ASU. The Sun Devils are the best team in the conference right now and only need to win the game outright to cover. We’ll take it.

Bonus pick: Washington. The logistical advantage is too great to ignore, even for that wobbly UW offense.

Straight-up winners: Oregon, Colorado, Washington State, Washington and ASU.

Read full story here

CU/Arizona from the Arizona perspective: “I like Cruz’s take-charge abilities”

From … The Buffaloes enter Saturday’s game at 1-4 overall, 0-2 in Pac-12 play, and are coming off of a Bye Week. The biggest storyline heading into the game is the loss of Arizona Football quarterback Jordan McCloud due to a knee and ankle injury suffered last Saturday night in Tucson against UCLA.

McCloud will miss the rest of the 2021 season. With McCloud out, Freshman Gunner Cruz will get the call  of duty at QB Saturday afternoon.

Cruz’s stats are 48/71 passing for 454 yards, 2 TDs, 2 INTs. Aside from picking up first downs on 4th and 1 situations using his 6-foot-5, 227 stature on QB sneaks, Cruz has struggled running the ball so far in 2021, accumulating -33 yards rushing. He has also struggled to get the ball out of his hands, it’s imperative that he makes faster decisions and gets the ball out quicker.

I like Cruz’s take-charge abilities coming out of the huddle, he’s not shy to get guys lined up at the line of scrimmage.

Head Coach Jedd Fisch and Offensive Coordinator Brennan Carroll should look to simplify an offensive game plan for Cruz who hasn’t started since the San Diego State game on 9/11/2021.

Arizona should rely heavily on the running game in Boulder. I hope the Cats use up to 4 Running Backs and pound the ball up the middle while not forgetting to capture the edge. I’d like to see Arizona give a dose of pulling guards to get out and smash defenders blocking for the running backs on the edge as well as running up the gut.

I’ve been waiting through five games to see Senior Fullback Clay Markoff, 5-foot-10, 240 get a chance in the Red Zone. The Wildcats have been dismal in the Red Zone. I say why not give the stout fullback a shot at pounding it into the end zone.

Keys for Arizona to win the game:

  • A fast start on offense, if the toss is won, get the ball, get Cruz on the field and let him gain more confidence, then sustain long drives and win the time of possession.
  • Offensive Line needs to protect Cruz at all costs and further, it is imperative they get to the second level and block Colorado’s stellar linebackers.
  • Contain Brousard, cannot give up large chunks of yardage to Running Backs, as in what happened in the UCLA game.
  • Coaches should use the fact that Arizona’s last win came against Colorado in Boulder as a motivational tool.
  • Need to be more Disciplined – cannot win if they commit 12 penalties for 81 yards as they did against UCLA. Particularly the Offensive Line has to be more disciplined not jump offsides, this was a problem last Saturday.

I think Arizona breaks the losing streak and gets back in the win column. This game will be a thriller. Arizona 24 Colorado 23.

Read full story here


October 12th

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Pac-12 Coaching Carousel: As many as six teams could be looking for new coaches

From ESPN … The Pac-12 already has one major coaching vacancy in USC, and there could be more shuffling in the league — for several reasons — when the carousel really gets going. As noted above, Oregon’s Cristobal could be targeted for multiple Power 5 openings, as long as his suitors are willing to pay his hefty buyout.

(Who would be the home runs for LSU?

  • Oregon’s Mario Cristobal would be one. Cristobal is one of the nation’s best and most relentless recruiters, and has built a top-10 program aiming for its third consecutive Pac-12 title and its first College Football Playoff appearance since 2014. Although the Ducks should be even better next year, Cristobal could be intrigued by the SEC, where he coached under Saban at Alabama, and a Tier 1 job with no recruiting limitations such as LSU. He wouldn’t be cheap, and his buyout to leave Oregon is $9 million until Jan. 14, 2022. But money isn’t going to stop Woodward and LSU, as any coaching transaction will total in the tens of millions.)

Washington State is the next spot to watch. Head coach Nick Rolovich has until Oct. 18 to comply with a state mandate to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or receive an exemption. Rolovich has said he will comply with the mandate, but he likely will wait until the result of his exemption request — reviews are conducted blindly, meaning the applicant’s name and position are not revealed — before taking any action. If Rolovich’s request is denied and he refuses to get the vaccine even if given a grace period, Washington State would have to terminate him.

An approval of the request would initiate a process where athletic director Pat Chun and others would determine if and how Rolovich could perform his job safely.

Rolovich has put the school and his bosses in a tough situation. He still has internal support, and was a big hit with WSU fans before the pandemic hit. Washington State also is showing improvement on the field with back-to-back Pac-12 wins. But sources say Washington Gov. Jay Inslee is very unhappy with Rolovich’s unwillingness to be vaccinated, especially as the state’s highest-paid public employee.

Arizona State looks like one of the Pac-12’s top teams, and the clear favorite in the South Division halfway through the season. The Sun Devils are experienced, talented and balanced on offense, and opportunistic on defense (eight interceptions). But the program also has an uncertain future with a looming NCAA investigation, which could lead to a lot of problems. Athletic director Ray Anderson made the surprising move to hire Herm Edwards as coach, and, with things going well, would like to continue on this path.

But the school might not have a choice. Coaches say ASU has backed off on the recruiting trail since the NCAA investigation. This season could have a last-hurrah feel to it for Edwards, 67. Arizona State also would have no shortage of intriguing candidates if it makes a change: Napier, SMU’s Sonny Dykes, Nevada’s Jay Norvell, BYU’s Kalani Sitake, San Jose State’s Brent Brennan and coordinators such as Georgia’s Lanning, who spent the 2012 and 2013 seasons on Arizona State’s staff as a very young assistant.

Washington isn’t a hot spot now, but is worth monitoring if things don’t start improving. The team is 2-3 and ranks 90th nationally in scoring. Jimmy Lake made sense as Chris Petersen’s successor, but the problems on offense are real and Pac-12 coaches see a decline in recruiting and overall roster talent. Washington hasn’t really been the same on offense since coordinator Jonathan Smith left for the top job at Oregon State.

Utah also could be an interesting situation if Kyle Whittingham, 61, is getting closer to retirement. The Utes have had a really tough year, as two players (Ty Jordan and Aaron Lowe) have died in shooting incidents. Whittingham has led Utah since 2005 and has been on staff since 1994.

Read full story here

USC coaching search: James Franklin, Luke Fickell, then who?

From … As the USC head coaching search continues, we are left with an uncomfortable and inconvenient reality: Coaches aren’t going to publicly disclose that they are interested in the job anytime soon.

This is the key reminder about a coaching search which begins in mid-September after a Week 2 firing: Coaches aren’t going to sabotage their own teams by making public comments about another job. Leaks, reports, rumors, and whispers are highly unlikely to emerge until late November at the earliest.

USC Athletic Director Mike Bohn is certainly working the back channels and having conversations with people who are connected to these candidates, but actual negotiations are probably limited for the time being. What Bohn can achieve is constrained by surrounding circumstances. He and his team can gather a lot of information and study the marketplace, but he certainly can’t hold a job interview with any current coach.

If Bohn has engaged in advanced talks or negotiations with any candidate, it would have to be someone not currently coaching. This obviously would point to Chris Petersen or Bob Stoops, but nothing has emerged there. Given that I am on record as saying Petersen and Stoops are almost certain to not want a return to coaching, it’s very unlikely that advanced talks with a candidate have occurred at this point.

It would be very surprising if Bohn hires someone who is not currently a head coach.

With this point firmly in mind, we turn back to the big board: It’s very likely James Franklin and Luke Fickell jockeying for the top spot. They’re very close. Who’s No. 1 and No. 2? I’m not sure, and moreover, I don’t think it matters that much right now.

It is, however, interesting to note the changes of both Penn State’s and Cincinnati’s seasons. Penn State not only lost at Iowa; it suffered several key injuries, including Sean Clifford at quarterback. If PSU had been the Big Ten favorite before the weekend, it isn’t anymore. That doesn’t mean Franklin has fallen in the pecking order, but it gives him AND Mike Bohn new things to think about as the two men consider their own next moves. That’s the new plot point in the coaching search.

Fickell and Cincinnati are chugging along. Cincinnati got great news from the Penn State loss and the BYU loss to Boise State. The Bearcats’ chances of making the College Football Playoff are growing.

As we told you on last week’s Trojans: Wired podcast, making the playoff carries a two-pronged reality for Fickell and Franklin in relationship to USC.

Continue reading story here


October 11th

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Jordan McCloud out for the season; Gunner Cruz will start for Arizona against Buffs

From 247 Sports … As expected, sources have confirmed to that quarterback Jordan McCloud is out for the season with multiple leg injuries sustained in the loss to UCLA on Saturday.

Arizona head coach Jedd Fisch will announce the news during his weekly Monday press conference, but McCloud sustained a major knee and leg injury early in the third quarter when he was rolled on and tackled by a UCLA defender.

“I thought he was playing outstanding,” Fisch said. “I thought he was playing as good as he could have played. He threw the ball away when nobody was open, he scrambled when there was places to scramble. The two zone read plays we called, he converted on both of those. He made great decisions with the football, he was very accurate. It’s really a shame that happens.”

When McCloud was injured, it took an emotional toll on the Wildcats.

“Emotionally, it hurts,” Fisch said. “It was a first and ten and I think the score was 24-16 when it happened. We had the ball and just got a 15-yard pass interference penalty. We were calling a shot down the field to Boobie and they played man coverage.

“Wound up taking a sack and with that a fumble and losing your quarterback and having to put the defense back on the field. That’s a tough one. We’re trying to answer the bell and we had two first downs in a row.”

As Arizona gets ready to face Colorado, the Wildcats will prepare for Gunner Cruz to take over at quarterback.

“As I will tell them tomorrow morning or tomorrow afternoon when I see them, Gunner won the quarterback job coming out of camp,” Fisch said. “Gunner started against BYU and completed 75 percent of his passes and threw for a lot of yards and moved the ball really well. I would expect him to continue to do that.

“I would hope that he learned from these last couple of weeks of watching in the same way Jordan did. With that, I am hopeful we can do a good job of getting him ready to play these next seven games and going to Boulder and playing really well.”


October 10th 

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Pac-12 lines: CU opens as a six-point favorite over Arizona


Pac-12 lines for Week Seven: 

  • California at No. 9 Oregon … Oregon is a 14.0-point favorite (Friday, 8:30 p.m., MT, ESPN)
  • Arizona at Colorado … Colorado is a 6.0-point favorite (Saturday, 1:30 p.m., MT, Pac-12 Networks)
  • Stanford at Washington State … It’s a pick ’em game (Saturday, 5:30 p.m., MT, ESPNU)
  • UCLA at Washington … UCLA is a 1.0-point favorite on the road (Saturday, 6:30 p.m., MT, Fox)
  • No. 18 Arizona State at Utah … ASU is a 2.0-point favorite on the road (Saturday, 8:00 p.m., MT, ESPN)
  • Idle … Oregon State and USC

Arizona will bring 17-game losing streak to Boulder after 34-16 loss to UCLA 

From ESPN … Brittain Brown burst up the middle, lost his footing and planted his hand in the ground to keep his balance. Barely breaking stride, he kept going for a 48-yard touchdown.

Disappointing he had lost a fumble earlier in the game, Brown scored the back-breaking touchdown that sealed UCLA’s victory.

Brown ran for 146 yards and scored a touchdown in the fourth quarter, Dorian Thompson-Robinson accounted for three touchdowns and UCLA extended Arizona’s school-record losing streak to 17 games with a 34-16 victory Saturday night.

“Coming off the bad play thatI had,I was feeling some type of way about that,” said Brown, who fumbled in the third quarter. “I knew onceI got the ball,I was going to punch it whatever play coach called.”

UCLA (4-2, 2-1 Pac-12) relied on its ground game early as Thompson-Robinson struggled to find the mark and Brown sealed the victory with a 48-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter.

Thompson-Robinson was limited to 82 yards passing, but ran for two scores and threw for another. Zach Charbonnet rounded up UCLA’s strong night on the ground with 117 yards.

“We did what we had to,” UCLA coach Chip Kelly said. “We finished them off.”

Arizona (0-5, 0-2) struggled in the red zone after moving the ball well against the Bruins and lost quarterback Jordan McCloud to a right leg injury in the fourth quarter.

The Wildcats scored one touchdown in six trips across midfield — three in the red zone — and McCloud was in tears as he was helped off the field after getting twisted up in a sack.

“Emotionally, it hurts,” Arizona coach Jedd Fisch said. “I think there was a little bit of a deflation there.”

Coming off a 42-23 loss to Arizona State the Bruins went to the ground early against Arizona.

UCLA had 165 yards rushing by halftime and Thompson-Robinson had a hand in two touchdowns. He threw a 3-yard TD pass to Chris Dulcich in the first quarter and scored a 2-yard run in the second to put UCLA up 14-6.

Thompson-Robinson started to hit a few passes in the second half, setting up a 4-yard keeper that put UCLA up 24-16. Brown put the game out of reach by bursting up the middle for his 48-yard score.

“That was our plan all along,” Thompson-Robinson said.

The Wildcats have shown signs that their losing streak might come to an end soon and were coming off a bye week.

They had the Bruins on their heels early with their up-tempo offense, marching down the field throughout the first half.

Finishing drives continued to be a problem.

The Wildcats, 124th nationally in red-zone efficiency, had to settle for two field goals after reaching UCLA’s 9- and 20-yard lines. A third drive ended at UCLA’s 28 on a failed fourth-and-1.

Continue reading story here

USC loses to Utah in LA for the first time since 1916

From the Los Angeles Times … USC’s pattern of inconsistency continued Saturday with a 42-26 loss to Utah the Coliseum.

The Trojans have yet to win consecutive games this season and two weeks after a loss to Oregon State that ended a 61-year drought for the Beavers, USC sank to another low, losing to Utah in the Coliseum for the first time ever.

Utah hadn’t beaten USC in Los Angeles since 1916 before the Coliseum was built. This year also marked Oregon State’s first win over USC in L.A. since 1960.

USC quarterback Kedon Slovis finished 33-of-53 passing for 401 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. Utah’s Cameron Rising had 306 passing yards and three passing touchdowns, along with a rushing touchdown.

USC’s Drake London finished one catch shy of the school record. The junior had 16 catches for 162 yards and one touchdown. He was held to just five receptions in the second half.

Continue reading story here


October 9th

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Washington State upsets Oregon State

From ESPN … Jayden de Laura threw for 399 yards and three touchdowns as Washington State beat Oregon State 31-24 on Saturday.

Travell Harris caught eight passes for 147 yards for the Cougars (3-3, 2-2 Pac-12), who beat Oregon State for the eighth consecutive time.

B.J. Baylor rushed for 145 yards and Deshaun Fenwick added 127 yards and a pair of touchdowns for Oregon State (4-2, 2-1 Pac-12), which saw its four-game winning streak broken.

De Laura completed 32 of 46 passes and was intercepted once. The Washington State defense also forced Oregon State to turn the ball over on downs during its last possession of the game.

“He’s grown the trust of everyone in this program,” Washington State coach Nick Rolovich said of de Laura. “He makes everything around him better.”

“I thought he played tremendous,” Rolovich added.

Washington State depended on its pass attack in the second half, after trailing 10-3 at halftime.

“We needed more out of our pass game because the numbers were on our side,” Rolovich said. “We did a really nice job on the second half on third down conversions.”

The Cougars iced the game with touchdowns on four straight possessions in the second half, which Rolovich said will be a confidence boost for a team that has had trouble scoring this season.

“That’s the fruits of the labor for the work they put in,” Rolovich said of the scoring burst. “We’re getting better.”

Continue reading story here

Arizona State takes care of business against Stanford, 28-10

From ESPN … Jack Jones stepped in front of the receiver, caught the ball and held it out with one hand. Just before he hit the ground, the Arizona State defensive back caught a glimpse of Deandre Pierce and tossed it to his teammate for a spectacular touchdown.

The Sun Devils’ run game was just as impressive.

Pierce scored a 27-yard touchdown on a lateral off Jones’ interception and No. 22 Arizona State rode its explosive run game to a 28-10 win over Stanford on Friday night.

“When you run for 200-plus, you’re going to win a lot of games,” Arizona State coach Herm Edwards said. “It was fun to watch the runners run.”

Especially like this.

The Sun Devils (5-1, 3-0 Pac-12) exploited one of the nation’s worst run defenses, racking up 255 yards and three touchdowns on the ground. Jayden Daniels provided the balance, throwing for 175 yards and running for 76 more, including a 51-yard touchdown.

Their defense gave up some big plays in the passing game, but kept the Cardinal out of the end zone in the second half and created three turnovers — none more exciting than the interception and lateral.

“When I got it, I knew it was me and the receiver on an island,” Jones said. “I turned around a ‘Dre was there. Luckily he caught the ball.”

Stanford (3-3, 2-2) had no answer for Arizona State’s run game and became one dimensional offensively after falling behind, limited to 9 yards rushing on 20 carries.

Tanner McKee threw for 356 yards and a touchdown, but had his first three interceptions of the season, including Pierce’s back-breaking TD in the third quarter.

“We got into position multiple times and stalled,” Stanford coach David Shaw said. “The defense gave the offense opportunities in the second half and the offense didn’t take advantage.”

Continue reading story here


October 7th

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Oregon loses leading running back for the remainder of the season

From CBS Sports … Oregon coach Mario Cristobal announced Thursday that star running back CJ Verdell will miss the rest of the season with an apparent lower-leg injury he suffered in the third quarter of Oregon’s 31-24 overtime loss to Stanford in Week 5. Cristobal said after the game that it seemed like “a pretty significant injury,” but did not disclose its exact nature.

Verdell, a fifth-year junior, leads the No. 8 Ducks in rushing with 397 yards and five touchdowns with a pair of receiving touchdowns to boot. His absence should mean an even greater role for fellow veteran back Travis Dye, who has 382 yards rushing on 60 carries with three touchdowns. Behind Verdell and Dye is little proven depth, however, since no other running back has carried the ball more than six times this season.

The Ducks are off this week before hosting California on Oct. 15. Despite the loss to Stanford, Oregon is still in prime position to reach the Pac-12 Championship Game while staying in the mix for a College Football Playoff bid if it can run the table.

Compensating for the loss of Verdell adds a layer of complication to that mission, however. The three players listed behind Verdell and Dye on the depth chart at running back are redshirt freshman Trey Benson, and true freshmen Byron Cardwell and Seven McGee. That trio has combined for just 13 carries this season.

The bye week should help the Oregon staff get a read on the competition for reps behind Dye and help the locker room process the loss of a team leader. Verdell played a heroic role in Oregon’s upset victory at then-No. 3 Ohio State on Sept. 11, rushing for 161 yards and two touchdowns while catching another. It was just the latest big moment of a storied career for the former three-star prospect.

Continue reading story here

Cal coach Justin Wilcox on 1-4 start: “Fans are upset and frustrated. I don’t blame them”

Note … Cal, like CU, is 1-4, with the only win coming over a Big Sky Conference team. The Bears have a bye this week, then play Oregon on the road before hosting Colorado on October 23rd. If the Buffs can’t beat Arizona on October 16th, that game may be between two 1-5 teams trying to avoid the label as the worst team in the Pac-12 … 

From Sports Illustrated … Cal coach Justin Wilcox knows the frustration fans are feeling after the team’s unexpected start to the season. He feels it, too.

“When you’re not winning, fans are upset and frustrated. I don’t blame them,” Wilcox said. “They want to win, too.

“I expect that (response) and that’s part of the role that I’m in. So I can appreciate the fact that they’re upset and frustrated. Our role is to win games so fans and people can be proud of the product on the field.”

On the heels of a 21-6 loss to Washington State — the Bears’ poorest performance of the season — Wilcox said he and his coaches and the players take “ownership” of the results.

Asked if he every responds directly to fans who have reached out to him, Wilcox said, “The best response is winning games. That’s the ultimate we can do for our fans, winning games.”

Cal is still seeking its first win this season over an FBS opponent, having beaten only Sacramento State, which plays at the FCS level.

“It’s not the start that any of us wanted nor expected,” he said. “The game Saturday was nothing we expected based on our week of practice. Ultimately, it’s performance on game day.”

Wilcox noted that in past season the Bears won “our share” of close games. “We have yet to do that this year,” he acknowledged. “We understand, all of us, that it’s a results-oriented game that we’re in. It’s winning and losing.”

In fact, Cal is 1-5 the past two seasons — and 0-3 this fall — in games settled by eight points or fewer. In 2018 and ’19, the Bears were 8-5 in those scenarios.

The approach in practice this week, when the Bears have a bye before their game at Oregon on Friday, Oct. 15, is getting healthy and making individual improvement. That adds up to team performance, Wilcox said.

“It is frustrating . . . it’s extremely frustrating,” he said. “And the players are frustrated. I can’t sit here and tell you they’re not. However, in moments like this you’ve got to find out what you’re about as an individual, what you’re about as a team.

“They came out and practiced (Monday), like they always have. So we’ve just got to help them improve and then we’ve got to take responsibility on game day . . . and perform better.”


October 6th

… Foe Pause … 

Oregon State provides a template: “Football is like an aircraft carrier. It takes time to turn the thing”

From the San Jose Mercury News … Oregon State athletic director Scott Barnes had a checklist as he embarked on a coaching search in the late fall of 2017. It included many of the standard boxes (integrity, leadership capacity, communication skills) and several boxes specific to the OSU football program.

“We wanted stability, somebody we knew would dig their heels in and build it back up,” Barnes said earlier this week. “Because we were at rock bottom.”

Barnes also wanted a head coach who valued roster balance and would make use of both transfers (for immediate help) and high school prospects (foundation pieces). And he needed someone who knew the formula for success at Oregon State. “Someone with a conviction for this place,” Barnes explained. “That’s the engine that revs the machine.”

Jonathan Smith has done exactly that in his three-plus seasons at his alma mater, turning the floundering program into a contender. After back-to-back victories over traditional tormentors USC and Washington, the Beavers (4-1/2-0) are alone in first place in the North.

“Football is like an aircraft carrier,” Barnes said. “It takes time to turn the thing, particularly with where we were.”

But the decision to hire Smith did more than set the stage for Oregon State’s transformation. It altered the balance of power in the division by weakening a competitor.

Smith spent four years as Washington’s quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator before taking charge in Corvallis. The Huskies have yet to adequately replace him.

Continue reading story here

Two Pac-12 teams in ESPN Bottom Ten (but not CU)

From ESPN … Here at Bottom 10 Headquarters, located in a secret Batcave behind the trophy cabinet where Baylor displays its 1961 Gotham Bowl trophy, we are, as you well know, all about intellectualism. Especially when it comes to the forces that pull, push and govern the way that everything and everyone travels through the universe.

We have always been particularly fascinated by the irresistible force paradox, or as it is referred to in other circles, the immovable object paradox. The question posed by philosophers and scientists alike is incredibly simple and incredibly complicated all at once. What happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object?

They are both indestructible, yet two different entities. The conflict surrounding their conflict is based on an incompatible premise. How can an unstoppable force and an immovable object exist simultaneously? What would happen should the two collide?

It is two trains colliding on the same track at the same speed. It is twin planets hurtling toward each other on an intersecting orbit. It’s Thor’s hammer being swung into the center of Captain America’s vibranium shield.

And it is UConn visiting UMass, this Saturday at 3:30 ET.

With apologies to Christopher Nolan, “The Han Feizi” and Steve Harvey, here’s the 2021 Week 5 rankings.

3. By The Time I Get To Arizona (0-4)

We don’t want to get too far ahead of ourselves, but just in case the Earth doesn’t explode like Alderaan at the end of the UConn-UMass game, and assuming Arizona loses to UCLA on Saturday night, then the following weekend will bring us the P(ac12)illow Fight of Week 7, when the Wildcats travel to face Bottom 10 wait lister, the Colora-duh Muffaloes.

5. Ore-gone Ducks (4-1)

The coveted fifth spot is dressed in gaudy yellow and green, after Oregon fell on the road to Stanford. The Cardinal certainly didn’t win due to any homefield advantage. Judging by the thousands of empty seats, the undergrads elected to not sit still in a stadium when they could instead be in a Silicon Valley lab devising an algorithm that might help the Pac-12 one day get an undefeated team into October.

Waiting List: FSU Semi-No’s, the team that just lost to the FSU Semi-No’s (Sibericuse), US(not C)F, Tulame, Tulsa Folden Hurricane, The Yew, Warshington State, Western Kentucky Shrilltoppers, FI(not A)U, Old Duh-minions, Ohio Not State, Southern Missed, North Texas Armadillos, Colora-duh Muffaloes, Colora-duh State, Cow Berkley, Georgia State Not Southern, COVID-19.

Read full story here


October 5th

… Foe Pause … 

NCAA approves signing limits waiver to account for transfers (up to seven more signees from Class of 2022)

From The Athletic … The NCAA’s Division I Council voted Tuesday to approve a one-year waiver that will allow college football programs to increase the 2022 signing class limit by up to seven additional spots. The decision will officially take effect at the conclusion of Wednesday’s council meeting.

The waiver was initially proposed to help coaches with roster management months after the NCAA passed the one-time transfer rule, which allows all athletes to transfer once and play right away without penalty. That, coupled with the implementation of the transfer portal in 2018, has made it easier than ever for players to move freely around the sport. Coaches have asked for guardrails and relief to try to restock their rosters and have some semblance of control.

“We believe schools should have temporary flexibility to help address possible roster depletion due to transfers,” said Penn State athletic director Sandy Barbour, the chair of the Division I Football Oversight Committee. “This one-year waiver enables schools to properly utilize their scholarship limitations.”

Current NCAA rules allow programs to sign up to 25 players in a new football signing class — termed “initial counters” — which includes high school players and transfers. Each FBS program also has a maximum of 85 total scholarship players. This means a coach could lose players to graduation and the transfer portal and then sign 25 initial counters but still be below the 85-scholarship player maximum.

This waiver will allow those programs to replace up to seven departing transfers above the 25-player limit. Schools will only be allowed to replace players who enter the portal after either the end of the institution’s fall term or Dec. 15, 2021, whichever is earlier, a source told The Athletic. Schools will only be allowed to replace players who are academically eligible at their new school.

Continue reading story here

CU up (down?) to No. 14 in CBS Sports Bottom 25

From CBS Sports … What an incredible weekend for The Bottom 25 last weekend was, and what an incredible season we have going. Last week we talked about the parity at the bottom of the rankings and how we were already down to seven winless teams. Well, now we’ve got only four left as three of our winless teams won, including our No. 1 team, Ohio.

That’s become a common theme as well. It’s the third straight week that the No. 1 team in The Bottom 25 won their game the following week. The only team to be ranked No. 1 and lose was Colorado State in the first week of the rankings, and even though the Rams lost to Vanderbilt afterward, they dropped to No. 4 the following week. That means no team has remained at No. 1 and — spoiler alert! — there’s an excellent chance this week’s No. 1 team won’t be No. 1 next week either.

So who is that team? And who are the other 24 to make up The Bottom 25? Let’s find out together.

No. 24 – Cal … Cal is one of those teams that isn’t very good but probably isn’t as bad as the record suggests. Their lone win was a 42-30 win over Sacramento State, but their 15-point loss to Washington State this weekend more than doubled their largest margin of defeat this season. The Bears are on a bye this week, but it’s a road game against Oregon after that. (Not Ranked)

No. 14 – Colorado … Colorado’s best game of the season so far might’ve been a 10-7 loss to Texas A&M, in which the Aggies lost their starting QB to injury, and the Buffs offense couldn’t do anything. After falling to USC 37-14 this week, Colorado’s lost four straight and has been outscored 112-34 in the process. They’re off this weekend but have what could be a pivotal game against No. 11 Arizona when they return to action. (23)

No. 11 – Arizona … Will Arizona live to regret taking last weekend off when so many winless teams were able to get on the board? Only time will tell, but first, the Wildcats should worry about UCLA on Saturday. (13)

Read full story here


The Athletic: Pac-12 Hot Seat list has three names (but no Karl Dorrell, yet)

From The Athletic … In the first month of the college football season, there have already been three FBS head coaching changesUConnGeorgia Southern and — the big one — USC.

Plenty more are likely to open, and the hot seat chatter never dies down. But how hot are some of those coaching seats? We called industry sources, from coaches to agents to insiders, to take the temperature on some programs that folks inside the college football world are watching closely as it relates to the coaching carousel.

Herm Edwards, Arizona State: Inside ASU, Edwards appears to have a ton of support. On the field, he hasn’t done better than his predecessor Todd Graham, although he is a lot more likable, and that certainly counts for something. Edwards is 21-14 and just two games above .500 in Pac-12 play. That in itself doesn’t merit a spot on the hot seat, but he is in charge of a program mired in an NCAA investigation that, as The Athletic has reported, is messy for him and his bosses in the athletic department. Temperature check: Warm.

Nick Rolovich, Washington State: When he was hired to replace Mike Leach, it seemed like a very shrewd move by the Cougars. He was a creative offensive coach with a keen eye for talent and felt a little like Leach 2.0, but there’s been so much off-field drama with him since coming to Pullman, not all of it related to COVID/vaccination issues, that has become a big mess for the school. Just how much all this has done to damage his relationship with his bosses there is unclear, but we hear it’s not good, and his 3-6 record isn’t going to make things any easier. Temperature check: Hot.

Chip Kelly, UCLA: It’s been a slow build with three losing seasons. This year started with a bang with a big win over LSU after he overhauled a roster with only a scholarship number in the mid-50s in his first spring and just seven offensive linemen. There was a lot of enthusiasm for Bruin football in September, but a loss to Fresno State and then another home loss to Arizona State doused some of that. One factor that could work against him is the athletic director in charge at UCLA now, Martin Jarmond, isn’t the guy who hired him. The Bruins are 3-2 and only have two opponents of their remaining seven that have winning records. Getting to 8-4 looks very manageable. Temperature check: Kinda warm.

Read full story here


October 4th

… Foe Pause … 

Sports Illustrated “Love on The Rocks”: Coaches at Cal & Colorado

From Sports Illustrated … At one point in the not-too-distant past, these 10 coaches were the most popular men on campus—if not the whole town, or even the state. They’re not going to get fired—well, maybe not—but the romance is gone. What will it take to bring it back?

Third category: the Pac-12 guy whose team cannot score.

Justin Wilcox, California. The good old days: He was 7–6 and 8–5 in 2018 and ’19, Cal’s first consecutive winning seasons since ’08–09. The latter season was capped by a Redbox Bowl victory over Illinois, the Golden Bears’ first bowl win over a Power 5 opponent since ’08.

Now: Cal has lost seven of its last nine, going 1–3 last year and starting this one 1–4. After three close losses this season, the Golden Bears bottomed out in a 21–6 home defeat against not-very-good Washington State on Saturday.

The big problem: Cal’s offenses have never been very potent under Wilcox, and there is no sign of that changing here in Year 5. After scoring on their first drive against Wazzu, the Bears had 11 straight empty possessions. Chase Garbers has played a lot of football in four seasons at Cal without developing into a high-efficiency quarterback, but he’s not getting a lot of help from the running game, either.

What will bring back the love: Wilcox upset Oregon last year for Cal’s only win. Doing it again in Eugene on Oct. 15 would certainly help.

Karl Dorrell, Colorado. The good old days: Dorrell began his tenure in Boulder with four straight victories last season, including upsets of UCLA and Stanford.

Now: Colorado hasn’t beaten an FBS opponent since that 2020 start. The Buffaloes are 1–4 this season, scoring a total of 34 points in four straight defeats.

The big problem: The quarterback position has fallen apart under Dorrell. Last year he made do with converted safety Sam Noyer at that position, but he transferred to Oregon State (one of many QB transfers out of the program in recent years). This year’s starter, J.T. Shrout, injured a knee in August and was lost for the season. That left the position in the hands of freshman Brendon Lewis, and it hasn’t been pretty. Colorado is 126th nationally in pass efficiency and 127th in passing yards per game.

What will bring back the love: After an open date, Colorado hosts winless Arizona. If the Buffs don’t win that one, the only answer is ski season.

Read full story here

Oregon falls to No. 8 in latest AP poll; Clemson out (and, yes, it matters)

From CBS Sports … The AP Top 25 has a new look after a wave of upsets shuffled both the top and bottom of the poll. After easily dismantling Wisconsin in a 38-17 decision, No. 9 Michigan jumped into the top 10 for the first time since November 2019. No. 10 BYU also entered the top group thanks to a 34-20 win over Utah State to reach the 5-0 plateau for a second year in a row.

At the top, No. 1 Alabama and No. 2 Georgia once again captured every first-place vote to maintain their stranglehold with Georgia adding a handful of first-place votes. No. 3 Iowa and No. 4 Penn State took advantage of Oregon’s loss to Stanford to jump into the College Football Playoff picture. No. 5 Cincinnati jumped No. 6 Oklahoma after a marquee victory over Notre Dame on the road. No. 8 Oregon and No. 7 Ohio State both remain in the top 10 as the highest-ranked one-loss teams in the country.

Thanks to nine top 25 upsets, the bottom looks much different than last week. No. 21 Texas and No. 22 Arizona State reentered the poll after wins over TCU and UCLA, respectively. Undefeated Kentucky jumped up to No. 16 after beating Florida in Lexington for the first time since 1986. No. 12 Oklahoma State and No. 19 Wake Forest took advantage of the chaos to rise.

Other new additions to the poll include Group of Five programs No. 24 SMU, and No. 25 San Diego State. Despite beating Boston College, Clemson fell out of the AP Top 25 for the first time since November 2014.

… Clemson falling out of the poll matters to CU faithful. Why? Because CU’s streak of consecutive poll appearances (143 between 1989-97) is the 9th-longest streak in NCAA history. Clemson’s run was at 104 consecutive weeks – still a few years away from CU’s total, but who would have thought a month ago Clemson would be unranked by October?

In case you are wondering, the next longest current streak, not counting Alabama, which is at 219 and counting (No. 2 all-time, still well behind Nebraska’s run of 348 consecutive weeks), belongs to Georgia, at 72 weeks … 

This week’s Associated Press poll: 

  1. Alabama (53)
  2. Georgia (9)
  3. Iowa
  4. Penn State
  5. Cincinnati
  6. Oklahoma
  7. Ohio State
  8. Oregon
  9. Michigan
  10. BYU
  11. Michigan State
  12. Oklahoma State
  13. Arkansas
  14. Notre Dame
  15. Coastal Carolina
  16. Kentucky
  17. Ole Miss
  18. Auburn
  19. Wake Forest
  20. Florida
  21. Texas
  22. Arizona State
  23. NC State
  24. SMU
  25. San Diego State

Others receiving votes: Clemson 96, Texas A&M 41, Oregon State 27, Baylor 24, Mississippi State 18, Virginia Tech 13, Stanford 11, UTSA 10, Pittsburgh 6, Fresno State 5, Texas Tech 4, Western Michigan 3, Appalachian State 2, Kansas State 2, Boston College 1, UCLA 1

Schools dropped out: No. 15 Texas A&M, No. 18 Fresno State, No. 20 UCLA, No. 21 Baylor, No. 25 Clemson

Only three Pac-12 teams have (an outside) shot at a College Football Playoff berth

From the San Jose Mercury News … Oregon’s loss at Stanford didn’t eliminate the Ducks from the playoff race, but it wiped out their margin for error with two long months remaining.

Since the day the Ducks beat Ohio State, the Hotline has argued that a 12-1 record that included the Pac-12 title would be enough to get Oregon into the playoff.

To that end, nothing has changed — the Ducks can still finish 12-1. Only now they need to run the table.

Essentially, the conference has two paths to serious playoff contention:

— Either Oregon or Oregon State must win out and beat the South representative in the conference title game

— Arizona State must win out and beat the North representative in the conference title game.

Those are the only two options for the Pac-12 to produce a one-loss champion, which history suggests is required for a CFP berth. (No two-loss team has made the cut, and we’re skeptical that the first will come from the Pac-12.)

The cannibalism that accompanies conference play illuminates the impact of all those early-season losses to Power Five and Group of Five opponents.

Number of teams with zero losses:

Big Ten: four
SEC: three
Big 12: two
ACC: one
Pac-12: zero

Number of teams with fewer than two losses:

Big Ten: six
SEC: six
ACC: five
Big 12: five
Pac-12: three

Again, it makes for riveting theatre each weekend but does nothing for the Pac-12’s playoff prospects.

While many fans are more interested in the former, the teams and conference office care deeply about the latter because of its impact on reputation, ratings and recruiting.

Continue reading story here


October 3rd 

… Foe Pause … 

Oregon State atop the Pac-12 North after win over Washington

From … The 2021 Oregon State football team had already snapped multiple droughts through the first month of the season, and entering Saturday’s matchup against Washington, there was another streak on the line: the Beavers’ nine-game losing skid in the series with the Huskies.

Cross that one off the list, too. Oregon State beat the Dawgs on a 24-yard game-winning field goal by Everett Hayes as time expired inside Reser Stadium. The final score: 27-24 Oregon State.

“We’ve got a bunch of confidence in him,” head coach Jonathan Smith said of Hayes after the biggest conversion of his career.

Smith had so much confidence in Hayes, in fact, that he instructed quarterback Chance Nolan to kneel down in the center of the field and set up the attempt even after the kicker had missed a 39-yard try earlier in the game.

“I missed one earlier in the day,” said Hayes, “so I really wanted to make up for that one, to be honest.”

The field goal locked up the Beavers’ fourth consecutive win on the season, giving the team its first 2-0 start to conference play in eight years. Consequently, Oregon State now finds itself in sole possession of first place in the Pac-12 North.

Saturday also provided the squad’s grittiest win of the four so far. The Beavers had to overcome adversity, and it struck early in the contest as Washington marched down the field on its opening possession, putting seven points on the board with a 44-yard touchdown pass from Dylan Morris to Terrell Bynum.

The Beavers struggled to answer for nearly a full quarter, but the game’s momentum flipped on one play: a fumble by Washington running back Cameron Davis, recovered by Oregon State defensive back Rejzohn Wright just eleven yards from the goal line.

Jack Colletto pushed in for a three-yard touchdown run three plays later, and BJ Baylor ran for a five-yard score on the Beavers’ next possession to put the orange and black up by seven.

“The turnover inside their own territory, giving our offense an extremely short field, that’s huge,” said defensive back Jaydon Grant, who was credited for forcing the fumble. “That’s a momentum booster.”

Continue reading story here

Oregon loses control of its own destiny in playoff race (and that shouldn’t come as any surprise)

From USA Today … And then there were none.

No more Pac-12 unbeatens. No more opportunity for Oregon to control its destiny for the College Football Playoff.

Though it was an upset, it shouldn’t have been a surprise. But it shouldn’t have ended like this as the No. 3 Ducks mostly lost their game 31-24 in overtime on Saturday at Stanford by themselves. They had control late after a slow start. Leading by seven, they drove into Cardinal territory and were in position to run out the clock with two minutes left.

Instead, a pair of false-start penalties allowed Stanford to get the ball back with an opportunity to tie. Two more penalties – both personal fouls – aided the Cardinal as they drove into scoring territory. The a holding penalty on a fourth-down incompletion extended the game by one play, and Stanford scored to force overtime. The rest in overtime was history.

Gone is all the positive momentum for Oregon after its 4-0 start that included a memorable win at Ohio State and a narrow victory against Fresno State. September’s success gave hope to the Pac-12 that this could be the year to finally get back in the playoff for the first time since 2017.

However, there were obvious holes that became apparent in the victories. Oregon’s defense allowed 612 yards in that defeat of the Buckeyes. Anthony Brown played well at quarterback, but the offense still lacked consistency and big plays in the passing game.

In a home game last week against winless Arizona, a team a national title contender should handle easily, the Ducks only led by five in the fourth quarter before some late scores led to a flattering final score.

Some of those issues again appeared against Stanford as the defense couldn’t get that needed stop late in regulation or in overtime. Forced to pass on the team’s final possession, Brown was unable to get a needed first down.

… A manageable schedule in the rest of the regular season awaits. No team remaining are ranked in the USA TODAY Sports AFCA Coaches Poll, though a possible meeting against No. 25 Arizona State could come in the Pac-12 title game.  .

That’s a long way off, however. The first step is being prepared for California in the next game. The Ducks paying attention to anything else at this point is wasted energy.

Continue reading story here

Does Cincinnati’s win over Notre Dame make Luke Fickell top candidate for USC head coaching position? 

From … There is no question that Cincinnati Bearcats head coach Luke Fickell has improved his value in the coaching marketplace. That much is clear after Cincinnati won at Notre Dame on Saturday.

Beating Notre Dame in South Bend is a pretty good way to make oneself an attractive candidate at USC. We can also be confident in saying that.

It’s also obvious that if Fickell can lead Cincinnati to the College Football Playoff, making the Bearcats the first Group of Five program to make the college football version of the final four, his stock will go through the roof.

All of that is clear.

The rest of the story is very, very complicated. USC fans — who have some interest in the Pac-12 being good (though not necessarily if they aren’t the centerpiece of the conversation) — could face a fascinating dilemma at the end of the 2021 regular season.

I won’t say this is likely, but it certainly is possible.

Hold onto your seat belts, folks:

Cincinnati and Oregon are the last two teams in position for a playoff berth, with Alabama, Georgia, and Oklahoma in the hunt after Penn State and Ohio State both lose.

Heading into conference championship weekend, it’s Bearcats or Ducks, Luke Fickell or the Pac-12, for the final playoff spot.

Which is in USC’s best interest?

This SEEMS like an easy question: Duh! Root for Fickell to get the job done so that it’s easier for USC to not only hire him, but derive the benefits of his rising popularity in all the obvious ways. Root for Fickell to defeat Mario Cristobal and Oregon so that the Ducks don’t gain momentum.

To be sure, that’s an entirely valid and reasonable view.

HOWEVER: It might not be that simple.

Continue reading story here


22 Replies to “Pac-12 Notes – Arizona Week”

  1. I’ve been day dreaming lately about what ifs with CU football. Definitely more so than thinking too much about this season. Sigh.

    I am curious about others thoughts regarding one particular “what if” scenario. Let’s say Kliavkoff earns every penny of his salary and bonuses and gets a new media deal that is in line roughly with the current SEC money ($45.5 mill per school). Would still be behind the Big 10, but would also be a huge jump from the current ~$34 million that Pac12 schools get. How do you see that changing CUs fortunes? Would it be any easier (we’re assuming that the other leagues will get better deals once their contracts are up), at least in the first couple of years for CU to lure top tier OC/DC etc. to Boulder? Or will it just up the overall asking price for all coaches and CU will still be relatively behind other Power 5 schools?
    Or do you think the next contract will be even better than ~$45 mill per school? I think it all comes down less to the actual amount vs the relative amount compared to the other leagues.

    1. That needs to be a minimum in your “what if” and you are right, its the cash in this deal. Maybe a shorter deal to get in sync with the other conferences time wise.


  2. In today’s news conference, Coach clearly had the “dear in the headlights” look about him…. if I was in VN and he briefed my on my night ambush…I’d shudder about what was really going on. …. he’s driving the team deep into the bunker. Not a good omen…….

  3. As the line in Star Wars goes: “I’ve got a bad feeling about this.” CU makes heroes out of backup QBs and is making subtle changes to address catastrophic issues. Is the same movie playing again?

    1. I hope “subtle changes” is more for UofA’s staf and planning than true. We’ll see on Saturday. But, it’s not like KD is going to spell out any or all of the changes before a game.

      If they win the next two then we’ll just have to then take it week to week. Without a complete turn around with more wins than losses over the last seven games I expect KD will do as he did with the DC and replace Chev. I love the guy and he’s a great asset to the team in the right position, but I fear he’s been promoted beyond his abilities.

  4. Is it just me or is facing an Arizona backup QB a bit unsettling? I seem to remember a guy named Kahlil Tate that put up historical numbers as a AZ backup.

    1. Yeah Cruz started the first 2 games incl. the opener loss to NAU, so there should be film to study of him. Question is has their offense improved around him? And will their defense look like all-stars vs. the Buffs?

      1. May not need defense. Buffs advance the ball at the blistering pace of a yard or three a minute.

        I sure hope they step that up a little.

        Go Buffs

  5. WTF A&M beating Alabama has to be one of the most shocking upsets I’ve seen in a long time. The backup QB who couldn’t move the ball on CU put up 45 or whatever against bama?


    1. It was his first start I believe and by game’s end he was in the groove and the winning factor. Like most other teams and players he improved with experience.

  6. Ok so at least this week it looks like ASU is legit after they manhandled Stanford. At least on paper, the ASU v Stanford game stats look not too different from the ASU v CU game stats. Read into that what you want (ok sure a week off and I’m wearing my optimistic goggles again…).

    Did anyone watch the Beavs v Cougs game? Pretty entertaining fourth quarter. Pac12 is crazy. Both teams have talented young QBs.

  7. For some reason always liked Wilcox at Cal, seemed like an intelligent coach with class. A lot of similar personality traits with HCKD, except the D vs. O experience. His quotes from that story sound incredibly similar.

  8. Lift weights!! Get bigger stronger faster!! Going in reverse.. Not buying all the Stanford trainer BS.. We are little again and weak…Spending a lot of time on our backs D or going negative O.. Simple math..

  9. The sooner you start turning, the sooner you get there even if it is a long journey. So far, all I have heard are words and no evidence of decisions or actions.

    1. Well it may take a while to turn an aircraft carrier it still has 65 plus aircraft which can attack and cause destruction. Make it happen Buffs.

  10. All of this is interesting reading.

    As Vince Lombardi said:


    Buffs where are you?

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