POSTED: September 18, 2021

Pac-12 Notes – Minnesota

Pac-12 Notes – Minnesota Week

September 18th – Game Day!

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Pac-12 AD’s (including Rick George) hesitant to support 12-team playoff

From the San Jose Mercury News … A not-so-random sampling of Pac-12 athletic directors reveals concern over swift approval of the College Football Playoff expansion proposal.

At least, there is initial concern.

Ultimately, the Pac-12 might support the move to a 12-team format as early as the 2023 season.

But more information is needed and time is short:

On Sept. 28, the 11 university presidents who oversee the CFP will meet with conference commissioners to determine the next move.

“Until there are solutions to the riddles, I’m not comfortable moving forward,” Utah athletic director Mark Harlan said. “For the conference and for Utah, (expansion) seems better, but there are critical questions.”

Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff is currently touring the campuses and engaging key administrators on a bevy of momentous issues facing college sports, including playoff expansion.

Kliavkoff plans to complete his listening tour before the CFP meeting on Sept. 28.

There are seemingly three tracks:

1. Approve the 12-team proposal for the 2023 season.

2. Approve the 12-team proposal for the 2026 season.

3. Hit the brakes and allow other options — specifically an eight-team model — to be fully vetted by every conference in the Football Bowl Subdivision.

Expansion requires a unanimous vote of the 11 presidents (one from each of the 10 FBS leagues and Notre Dame).

… “I’m not sure 12 is the number I would choose,’’ CU athletic director Rick George said. “It’s too many games. We’re collecting information and at some point, the conference will come out with a decision. But I’m not sure 12 is right.”

The 12-team model appeared inevitable when it first went public in June. But then Texas and Oklahoma left the Big 12 for the SEC, the Pac-12 formed the alliance with the ACC and Big Ten, and the dynamics shifted.

Administrators in many conferences are leery of any steps that would grant more influence to the SEC. But ESPN’s hegemony over the sport’s biggest event is a greater concern.

Continue reading story here


September 17th

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Biggest weekend ever for the Pac-12 Networks: Seven games in 13 hours

From the San Jose Mercury News … It’s the biggest Saturday ever for the Pac-12 Networks, which will broadcast an unprecedented seven games over the course of 13 hours.

The logjam means three games won’t be shown on the national network:

Oregon State (vs. Idaho), Cal (vs. Sacramento State) and Arizona (vs. NAU) will be available only on the relevant regional network and through Pac-12 Now.

It’s hardly ideal, but there are 11 games on Saturday, and only four are on the ESPN and Fox networks. Overlap on the Pac-12 Networks is unavoidable with broadcast windows that stretch to more than three hours.

(The previous record for games on the networks was six, set on multiple occasions.)

…  Washington is trying to avoid its first 0-3 start since the 2008 season, when the Huskies went 0-12 under Tyrone Willingham.

Basically, 2008 is the benchmark for any lows UW might challenge this season, although the winless record outside of league play in ’08 comes with a caveat: The Huskies faced Notre Dame, Oklahoma and BYU.

There were no Montanas or Arkansas States on the schedule.

… Since joining the Pac-12, Utah is undefeated against Mountain West opponents.

What’s more, the Utes haven’t lost two non-conference games in any season since they jumped from the MW in 2011.

They’re currently 1-1 and a tad wobbly entering Saturday’s date at San Diego State.

… Remaining undefeated teams, per Power Five conference:

SEC: 10
Big Ten: 7
Big 12: 6
ACC: 5
Pac-12: 3

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CSU a possible target for AAC expansion? 

From CBS Sports … The American Athletic Conference is settling on a handful of expansion candidates that will likely kick off the next round of realignment at the Group of Five level, multiple sources told CBS Sports. The timing of that next round could be impacted if Texas and Oklahoma attempt to make an early entry into the SEC.

In reaction to the Big 12’s recent raid of Cincinnati, Houston and UCF, the AAC has focused on recruiting a group of schools that includes Air Force, Boise State, Colorado State, San Diego State and UAB, sources tell CBS Sports. UAB, a member of Conference USA, is the only non-Mountain West team on that short list.

That suggests AAC commissioner Mike Aresco could be looking mostly West in search of equal television value for the three prize pieces he lost to the Big 12.

Boise State and UAB have been discussed most prominently among the five expansion candidates. Inclusion of any or all of the four aforementioned Mountain West candidates could destabilize that league to the point the that the AAC would remain the clear top conference in the Group of Five.

It is believed the AAC will expand by at least four teams to get to 12 members. It only had 11 prior to the departures of Cincinnati, Houston and UCF, which will occur in 2023.

UAB lies in a college football hot bed (Birmingham, Alabama) with a new field (Protective Stadium, Oct. 2 vs. Liberty). The AAC is selling Boise State based on the potential to be the league’s most powerful program, one that could chase a playoff spot each year based on the structure of the proposed 12-team playoff.

The AAC has earned five of the seven automatic New Year’s Six bowl berths in the College Football Playoff’s seven-year history.

What’s emerging is a tug-of-war for the best brand names available at the Group of Five level. Presented with the possibility that an expanded AAC could monopolize a Group of Five playoff berth in ongoing realignment, Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson stood firm.

“I would just say that same argument could be made if [those teams] remain in the Mountain West Conference,” he said.

Continue reading story here


September 16th

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WSU coach hopes rain will help Cougars upset USC

From 247 SportsTHE FORECAST SATURDAY calls for steady rain throughout the Washington State vs. USC tilt on Saturday (12:30 p.m., PT, TV: Fox), and that’s just fine with Nick Rolovich. WSU’s head football man said the Cougar players are familiar with playing in the elements, particularly the older guys.

“I tend to disagree,” Rolovich said when a question was posed about bad weather during the game. “I think it’s always great conditions playing football in this stadium. But yes, there’s a possibility of rain. We’ve gotta work the wet ball drill, we’ve gotta keep — but that’s something that whether you coach or play here you know you’re going to deal with the elements at some point.

“I think the guys who have been here before me – players – are conditioned very well in understanding that. And it’s great having their perspective in learning the new guys kinda that reality of playing at this school.”

LAST YEAR’S TEAM headed into USC perhaps not believing they could compete with the Trojans, Rolovich said. You didn’t get the sense he felt the same this week. USC is coming in after firing head coach Clay Helton on Monday, with Donte Williams the interim head coach.

“It’s a little bit of an interesting piece to the puzzle for this game. But it still comes down to us being ready to play,” Rolovich said of the change for the Trojans.

Rolovich said he didn’t expect “wholesale changes” from the USC offense or defense with the coaching move. He did say the Cougs need to be ready for an inspired team playing their first game for a new head man.

“You set yourself up for failure if you don’t plan on them coming out with great energy (and) a renewed sense of purpose maybe … you have to plan on it in my opinion,” said Rolovich.

Who didn’t see this coming? SEC schools accused of poaching recruits with NIL deals

From the USA Today … TCU head coach Gary Patterson says he wants the business leaders around the Fort Worth, Texas area and the school’s supporters to get on board with the new name, image and likeness rule that has taken over college sports.

Patterson points to what other schools are doing to snag recruits, like in-state counterparts Texas and Texas A&M paying players for interviews and doing it through team websites.

Patterson goes on to say that schools are targeting one of his freshman that’s currently on the roster. Patterson did not name the player.

“There’s five SEC schools calling him and telling him, ‘Here’s what we’ll give you if you come here and not stay at TCU,’” Patterson said to the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram. “At the end of the day, that’s just real life. If we don’t do anything about it, within a year we lose him.“The rules have changed. There is no wrong anymore.”

TCU has partnered with Opendorse, which helps educate athletes through the murky waters of NIL. TCU also is partnering with the university’s business school.

“We planted the trees. Now we have to water ‘em,” Patterson said. “I hear, ‘Well, I don’t want to get dirty. It feels dirty. I don’t know the rules.’ Let me just say, you guys know me, I’m just going to tell the truth — the bottom line to it is I can lose 25-30 guys on scholarships by January.

Eric Bieniemy asked about USC job: “I am where my feet are”

From ESPN … Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy would not say whether he would have an interest in the vacant head-coaching position at USC.

“I am where my feet are,” Bieniemy said Thursday as the Chiefs continued their preparation for Sunday night’s game at the Baltimore Ravens. “When it’s all said and done, I am focused on the task at hand. I’m not worried about anything, where my name is being mentioned. My job right now is to make sure that we’re preparing for this weekend’s opponent.

“If USC reached out to me right now, my answer would be ‘I am preparing for this team to play against the Baltimore Ravens.’ That’s how I roll … My job is to make sure that we’re ready to play a complete, sound, 60-minute football game so that we can come out and win the game.”

USC fired coach Clay Helton on Monday, two days after a 42-28 home defeat to Stanford. Donte Williams was named the Trojans’ interim coach.

League sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter earlier this week they believe Bieniemy will emerge as a candidate for the USC job. Bieniemy, who went to high school in the Los Angeles area, told confidantes in the past that USC is one of the only college jobs that might interest him, Schefter reported.

Bieniemy interviewed for several NFL head-coaching positions in recent seasons but has yet to receive a job offer.

On Wednesday, Jaguars coach Urban Meyer responded to speculation the USC job might interest him by saying there was “no chance” he’d leave Jacksonville to coach the Trojans.

USC AD Mike Bohn on why he tabbed the CB coach as interim head coach

From … USC athletic director Mike Bohn addressed the media following the Trojans’ Tuesday practice. Bohn spoke about his decision to fire Clay Helton, and why he chose Williams as the temporary successor for the remainder of the 2021 season.

“I just don’t think we had that same sense of belief that with all the resources and the commitment that we put together that we could really aspire to those national championship aspirations that we talk about all the time,” Bohn said of Clay Helton’s firing. “It just felt like the right time. There’s a sense of knowing when to play things a certain way and just having that gut feeling. I think that we have the right one.”

Typically, when a head coach gets fired you often see the offensive or defensive coordinator setup as interim head coach. However, Bohn believes Williams was the best fit because of his strong recruiting ties and leadership capabilities.

“Donte is a relationship guy. I really believe that our talented coordinators need to coordinate, and do a great job so that they can focus on the important roles that they have,” said Bohn. “Donte has recruited a number of these players, and some of the other players that he recruited from other institutions where he was and came to USC, so he knows them, he knows their families, he has great relationships with them,” Bohn said.

“He is a leader. We wanted our coordinators to coordinate and go a great job, and we really wanted to ensure that our special teams coordinator can lock in on that so we are fundamentally sound and prepared for good solid football.”

Despite making a drastic change, Bohn still has high aspirations for the remainder of USC’s 2021 season.

“Our expectation is that we are going to go out and play with a ‘Fight On’ mentality every single day,” said Bohn. “We still expect to compete for a championship.”


September 15th

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Oregon loses star linebacker for the season 

From CBS Sports … No. 4 Oregon linebacker Justin Flowe will likely miss the rest of the regular season with a lower body injury, according to The Athletic‘s Bruce Feldman. Flowe, the No. 6 recruit in the class of 2020, stepped into a starting role for Oregon in 2021 and excelled in his lone performance. The Chino, California, product recorded 14 tackles, a tackle for loss and a forced fumble in a 31-24 Week 1 win over Fresno State. However, Flowe was ruled out of Oregon’s 35-28 upset over No. 9 Ohio State with the injury.

To make matters worse, Feldman also reports that senior Dru Mathis – the projected replacement for Flowe at weakside linebacker – will also miss an extended period of time with an unidentified injury. That will likely slide true freshman Keith Brown into the starting MIKE role. Oregon coach Mario Cristobal said that Brown also suffered an injury against Ohio State, though it isn’t expected to be a concern.

Fellow linebacker Jackson LaDuke will also be out for a while. Cristobal noted on Monday that star defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux is “day-to-day” recovering from the ankle injury he sustained in Week 1.

Flowe’s injury is just the latest setback for the second-highest rated recruit in program history. The freshman played just one game in 2020 before suffering a season-ending meniscus injury.

Wilner back to being bullish on Pac-12: Predicts 10-0 non-conference weekend (Plus WSU over USC)

From the San Jose Mercury News … Week Three in the Pac-12 brings a fascinating conference duel in Pullman, where a coach-less team meets a vax-less coach, two matchups against Power Five opponents and the first look at UCLA since its triumph over LSU a fortnight ago.

But the most interesting game of all features the team we know the least about.

That mystery factor is exactly why Arizona State’s trip to Brigham Young on Saturday night (ESPN) is so compelling.

For months, the Sun Devils have been a trendy pick to win the South (guilty!) and the object of severe criticism for potentially deplorable recruiting violations (also guilty!).

But with two weekends come and gone in the 2021 season, we have no idea if they’re worthy of the division title or likely to be derailed by the ongoing NCAA investigation.

The Sun Devils haven’t won the division title in eight years or the conference championship in 25.

By the close of business Saturday night, we’ll have a better sense for their ceiling … or their floor.

No line (FCS opponents): Oregon State, Cal, Oregon and Arizona

Colorado -2 vs. Minnesota 
Kickoff: 10 a.m. on Pac-12 Networks
Comment: Minnesota’s defense isn’t nearly as stout as Texas A&M’s, but the offense will be far more potent. Does CU have the means to score 20+ points against an opponent not named Northern Colorado? Only if the passing game awakens. The task would be much easier with advantageous field position, which means Nate Landman and Co. need to force a few turnovers. Pick: Colorado

USC -8.5 at Washington State
Kickoff: 12:30 p.m. on FOX
Comment: How will the Trojans react to the dismissal of Clay Helton and the elevation of assistant Donte Williams to the role of interim coach? We expect a spirited performance, at least at the outset, but the flaws are likely to persist, in particular the hit-and-miss running game and the lack of discipline. The Cougars have a bevy of playmakers and could win the game outright if they protect the ball. Their blueprint for victory: Stay within range until the fourth quarter, then pounce on a USC mistake. Pick: Washington State

Utah -7.5 at San Diego State
Kickoff: 4 p.m. on CBS Sports Network
Comment: The Utes were wobbly against BYU in worrisome places — namely, quarterback efficiency and run defense — and they now face an opponent built to take advantage. (SDSU tailback Greg Bell is one of the best in the western half of the FBS.) The placement of the game for Utah, after the Holy War and before the conference opener, also gives us pause. And that extra half-point? It’s too tempting. Pick: San Diego State.

Straight-up winners: Colorado, Washington State, Washington, Utah, Stanford, ASU and UCLA

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For Minnesota, CU only third non-conference road trip in five years

From the Minneapolis Star-Tribune … He’s had his team practice on its outdoor field. He’s held training camp drills in the indoor facility. He’s held dress rehearsals at Huntington Bank Stadium. And he’s even had his team bivouac 15 miles southeast to the Vikings compound in Eagan.

P.J. Fleck wanted to keep his Gophers football players on their toes during training camp, providing challenges as simple as a change of venue to get them prepared for the new experiences that await during the season.

The coach’s plan will be put to the test this week as the Gophers prepare for their first road game of the season, at Colorado on Saturday. They’ll be making only their third nonconference road trip in Fleck’s five seasons at Minnesota, and the trek to Boulder includes a pivotal game that will help define the Gophers season.

“We do everything we can to educate them and prepare them for travel,” Fleck said Monday. “You just can’t pick them up in the offseason and take a flight to Colorado and come home. You move things around, you practice in different areas and different environments. You constantly keep them a little bit uncomfortable and not have them just get set in their settings because the settings are going to change.”

The setting for Saturday will be a beauty — Folsom Field with the Rocky Mountains in the background. It’s a popular destination for Gophers fans, with the university selling out its allotment of 3,000 tickets and requesting more from Colorado officials.

The game’s intrigue ramped up a notch over the weekend when Colorado led then-No. 5 Texas A&M late in the fourth quarter before falling 10-7 to the Aggies in Denver. The Buffaloes and Gophers each carry 1-1 records into Minnesota’s first game against a Pac-12 Conference team since a 48-14 drubbing of Oregon State in Corvallis in 2017. If the Gophers could beat Colorado and Bowling Green, their Homecoming opponent on Sept. 25, a 3-1 mark when resuming Big Ten play on Oct. 2 at Purdue would look a whole lot better for the Gophers than 2-2.

Fleck expects a stiff challenge from Colorado, which went 4-2 in 2020, including a loss to Texas in the Alamo Bowl.

“They’re really good. Very physical on defense, really good tacklers,” Fleck said. “Their linebacking corps is really talented. They love to play football, you can tell.”

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September 14th

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Let the speculation begin: Long list of candidates to replace Clay Helton

From CBS Sports … Clay Helton is gone and there is one obvious candidate to replace him. Luke Fickell was the best hire of athletic director Mike Bohn’s career. That was at Cincinnati. Now Bohn has a chance to bring Fickell to USC at the height of his career.

At age 48, Fickell has won 37 games in four years-plus with the Bearcats. They played Georgia to its knees in the Sugar Bowl earlier this year before a narrow loss. Fickell has elevated the program to the point it was desirable enough to be invited to the Big 12.

He also offers discipline that Helton’s program seemed to lack. Only once since Helton arrived have the Trojans finished above 101st in average penalties per game. That’s what drove fans crazy. Well, that and erratic performances like the one Saturday against Stanford. The week before the Cardinal were ineffectual offensively against Kansas State.

Fickell is obvious, but it doesn’t mean it will happen. Urban Meyer was available a couple of years ago, but USC president Carol Folt did not show interest.

Here are the top candidates.

Luke Fickell, Cincinnati coach: Fickell has to be the No. 1 candidate considering Bohn hired him at Cincinnati in December 2016. Fickell has almost single-handedly put the Bearcats on the map and into the Big 12. Without that excellence, Cincinnati would still be a place that hired Tommy Tuberville. Ryan Day isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. That’s Fickell’s alma mater. USC is the next best fit at this point.

Bob Stoops, former Oklahoma coach: The thought has always been that Stoops would only return — if he ever does — at a place already set up to win. That’s why the ex-Sooners coach was thought to covet a place like Notre Dame, USC or Florida if they ever came open. The longer Stoops doesn’t take his name out of the running, the more he is interested. Maybe the only reason Stoops isn’t first is because he’s out of coaching and currently working as a TV analyst.

Matt Campbell, Iowa State coach: Perhaps the No. 1 developmental coach in the country. Think what he could do with the talent USC attracts. Campbell has turned down significant NFL interest. Insiders say he’d be interested Notre Dame and Ohio State. USC is certainly in that orbit.

James Franklin, Penn State coach: Another coach whose name comes up for every significant opening. It was Franklin’s Penn State squad that lost a bitter 2017 Rose Bowl to USC. Franklin plays in arguably the second-toughest division in the sport, the Big Ten East.

Mario Cristobal, Oregon coach: The question is why Oregon AD Rob Mullens hasn’t extended Cristobal already after the Ohio State win. Cristobal will get that extension but could add a few hundred thousand dollars using interest from USC as leverage.

Chris Petersen, former Boise State coach: I’m told Petersen wants back in, bad. Petersen’s came up prominently in the past when USC coaches were on the hot seat. Like Stoops, he’s currently biding his time as a TV analyst.

Kyle Whittingham, Utah coach: The disciplinarian USC needs. Before Stanford began smacking people in the mouth, Utah was the most physical team in the Pac-12. Whittingham continually overachieves at a place that is challenged by geography and resources.

Urban Meyer, Jacksonville Jaguars coach: Meyer is leading an NFL team with the No. 1 overall pick in Trevor Lawrence. So, why would he leave after one season? Well, simply put, the NFL is not for everyone. CBS Sports insider Jason LaCanfora reported Monday that there are already problems within the Jaguars organization: “The inability to adjust to the pro game. … Belittling coaches. Treating every setback as if it’s the end of the world. Morale was so low going into that [Week 1] game, and there has not been cohesion among that staff, particularly between the college guys and the pro guys.”

CBS Bottom 25: Arizona joins the list; CSU “falls” to No. 4

From CBS Sports … Florida State is not what anybody would consider a Bottom 25 mainstay. That’s a designation for programs like UTEP, which has won two Bottom 25 titles. Another difference between Florida State and UTEP is that UTEP isn’t ranked in the Bottom 25 this week. Florida State cannot make that claim.

So while the Seminoles are not a mainstay here, they’ve spent far too many weeks hanging out here in recent seasons. I thought they could avoid the Bottom 25 this season after seeing how well they played in Week 1 against Notre Dame when they nearly pulled off the surprising upset. Instead, it was Florida State on the wrong end of an upset as Jacksonville State — a team that lost 31-0 to UAB to open the season — beat the ‘Noles 20-17.

Now the ‘Noles are here again, and there’s a familiar feeling in the pits of so many stomachs. But Florida State fans can take solace in the fact that, at least early in the season, the Bottom 25 rankings are extremely volatile. We had nine new teams in the rankings last week while others escaped despite losing. That’s how strange things can get here while the sample sizes are so small, but it adds to the fun. So, if your school is here, smile, enjoy it, and cross your fingers really hard. Maybe they’ll be out soon.

No. 20 – Arizona … I felt there was a strong chance Arizona would be the worst team in the Pac-12 this season and nothing has changed this opinion through two weeks. The Wildcats followed up a 24-16 loss to BYU with a 38-14 loss to San Diego State. Losing to those two teams is nothing to be ashamed of, but it’s not as if the Pac-12 will offer easier opponents. The good news is Northern Arizona provides a good shot for a victory this week. (NR)

No. 4 – Colorado State … The Rams lost to Vanderbilt last week, but still fell three spots in the rankings because they played reasonably well. Now, the Rams have to hit the road to take on the same Toledo team that nearly knocked off Notre Dame on Saturday. (1)

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September 13th

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Mike Bohn pulls the trigger: Clay Helton out as coach at USC

… Have to admit, my first thought was that I had hoped USC would wait three more weeks, so a loss to CU would be the last straw … 

Press release from USC Football … USC Director of Athletics Mike Bohn today announced that the university is making a change in leadership of the football program and parting ways with head coach Clay Helton.

Bohn and Helton addressed the program together during the regularly scheduled team meeting this afternoon. Bohn made it clear that USC’s leadership believes in the highly talented group of student-athletes on the team and is committed to building a program that consistently competes at the highest level.

The move ends Helton’s tenure as USC’s head football coach, where he led the Trojans to a 46-24 overall record. Helton, who also twice served as interim head coach, guided USC to its only two New Year’s Six bowl games in the past decade. Under his direction, the football program won the 2017 Rose Bowl, the Pac-12 conference title in 2017, three Pac-12 South division titles, and earned a visit to the Cotton Bowl in 2017. He also secured three top-seven recruiting classes.

“Clay is one of the finest human beings I have met in this industry, and he has been a tremendous role model and mentor to our young men,” Bohn said. “We appreciate his many years of service to our university and wish him nothing but the very best. Consistent with our values as an institution, he deserves the utmost respect from the Trojan Family during this transition.”

Over the last two off-seasons, the athletics department has added significant resources to help the football program contend for championships. “The added resources carried significantly increased expectations for our team’s performance, and it is already evident that, despite the enhancements, those expectations would not be met without a change in leadership,” Bohn said.

USC first fielded a football team in 1888, and over the decades the Trojans have won 11 national titles, 34 bowl games and 39 conference championships and produced 169 All-American first teamers, six Heisman Trophy winners and 520 NFL players.

“Our university and its leadership are committed to winning national championships and restoring USC football to glory,” Bohn said. “I accept the enormous responsibility I have to our current and former players and the entire Trojan Family to live up to our incredible heritage.”

Associate Head Coach Donte Williams will serve as interim head coach for the remainder of the season. With ten games still remaining in the regular season, Bohn expressed full confidence in Williams’ leadership and excitement about the meaningful opportunities for the team moving forward.

“This season is just getting started and we have the opportunity to really do something special with this team and this program,” Bohn said. “Donte is an experienced and well-respected coach who is renowned for his ability to develop relationships with student-athletes, and I appreciate his willingness to take on this challenge. We still have control of our own destiny in the Pac-12 Conference, a tremendously talented group of student-athletes, and complete faith in the phenomenal assistant coaches and outstanding support staff in the John McKay Center.”

Bohn also announced that USC will quickly launch a national search for the next head coach.

“We will actively and patiently pursue a coach who will deliver on the championship aspirations and expectations we all share for our football program. With our storied history, our talented roster, and the major investments we’ve made in the infrastructure of our football organization, I’m optimistic that we are better positioned right now than we have been at any other time in the past decade to recruit the best and right leader for USC.”

Bohn asked the USC community to “step up its support of our players, unify as the Trojan Family, and help show every potential coaching candidate and recruit that this is the greatest program in the country. Let’s do what we do best and Fight On!”

Pac-12 betting lines: CU has gone from an underdog to a favorite

… The Pac-12 is currently 11-11 in non-conference games. The last time the Pac-12 had a sub .500 overall record in non-conference games? Well, never. Fortunately for the conference, there are no fewer than five layup games against FCS schools this weekend to help the conference pad its stats. After Week Three, the only remaining non-conference games will be games USC and Stanford have scheduled against Notre Dame … 


  • Minnesota at Colorado … 11:00 a.m., MT, Pac-12 Networks … CU listed as a 1.0-point favorite (opened as a 2.0-point underdog)
  • Idaho at Oregon State … 1:30 p.m., MT. … no line
  • USC at Washington State … 1:30 p.m., MT, Fox … USC listed as an 8.5-point favorite
  • Sacramento State at Cal … 2:00 p.m., MT. … no line
  • Arkansas State at Washington … 2:15 p.m., MT, Pac-12 Networks … no line
  • Utah at San Diego State … 5:00 p.m., MT, CBSSN … Utah listed as a 7.5-point favorite
  • Stony Brook at No. 4 Oregon … 5:30 p.m., MT, Pac-12 Networks … no line
  • Stanford at Vanderbilt … 6:00 p.m., ESPNU … Stanford listed as an 11.0-point favorite
  • Northern Arizona at Arizona … 8:00 p.m., MT, Pac-12 Networks … no line
  • No. 19 Arizona State at No. 23 BYU … 8:15 p.m., MT, ESPN … Arizona State listed as a 2.5-point favorite
  • Fresno State at No. 19 UCLA … 8:45 p.m., MT, Pac-12 Networks … UCLA listed as an 11.0-point favorite

Kindred Spirits: Minnesota faithful concerned about a lack of a passing attack

From the Minneapolis Star-Tribune … The Gophers passed for zero yards in the second half Saturday. Their defense tried to one-up that feat by giving up 23 points after halftime.

The scoreboard at the final horn showed the Gophers won 31-26 over Miami (Ohio), but the script is not one to be duplicated for future use.

“I’m never going to be mad after a win,” P.J. Fleck said.

Nor should he be, though concern feels like an appropriate response after this one.

The offense basically abandoned the passing game after a few drops early in the second half. A lull in execution, emotion and play-calling left a nagging feeling after an impressive first half.

The Gophers found a spark after their comfortable lead vanished, which was an encouraging response, but putting themselves in that position exposed some things that need to be figured out before the Big Ten schedule resumes.

Namely, what is the offense going to look like without Mohamed Ibrahim? Trey Potts had a strong debut in the leading role with 178 yards rushing but treating the passing game as an afterthought won’t cut it against better competition.

Fleck gave a revealing answer when asked about his receiving corps afterward.

“We have to continue to build ourselves mentally and build that mental toughness,” he said.

The passing game showed flashes in the second quarter. Dylan Wright and Daniel Jackson caught touchdown passes after running slick routes.

Wright, the Texas A&M transfer, produced another “whoa” catch when he tight-roped the sideline for a 31-yard gain. He also drew two pass interference penalties on a touchdown drive as Miami’s cornerbacks resorted to grabbing him to prevent big plays.

Armed with an 18-point lead, the Gophers provided the equivalent of a UFO sighting to start the second half. Coordinator Mike Sanford called three consecutive passing plays — one drop, one incompletion and one sack.

The most predictable play call in the history of organized football followed on first down of the next possession. A run by Potts, followed by six consecutive running plays.

Wright dropped a third-down pass to stall that drive after he stumbled coming out of his break. Next drive, Wright had a pass bounce off his hands again while being sandwich on a hard collision that knocked him out of the game. Fleck didn’t reveal much about his injury status after the game.

Fleck and Sanford put the passing game on ice at that point though. They had seen enough and went run, run, run, run, run, run to milk the clock.

“The big thing is they’re going to learn from what just happened,” Fleck said. “It’s better to learn after a win.”

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September 12th

… Foe Pause … 

AP rankings: Oregon into top five; USC and Utah drop out

… And, inexplicably, Arizona continues to receive votes (with a 14-game losing streak) … 

From ESPN … Oregon and Iowa were the big movers in The Associated Press college football poll after road wins over top-10 opponents.

The Ducks’ victory over Ohio State earned them a promotion from No. 12 to No. 4.

Another impressive defensive performance by Iowa in the Cy-Hawk Trophy game pushed the Hawkeyes from No. 10 to No. 5.

Arkansas, coming off a home win over old Southwest Conference rival Texas, was rewarded with its first appearance in the AP Top 25 in five years, coming in at No. 20.

Alabama remained No. 1, receiving 60 of the 63 first-place votes. Georgia, which picked up the other three first-place votes, stayed at No. 2.

Oklahoma was No. 3 and followed by Oregon, Iowa, Clemson, Texas A&M, Cincinnati, Ohio State and Penn State.

Oregon’s eight-rung leap came after its 35-28 win in the Horseshoe. It marks the biggest jump for a team entering the top five since LSU went from No. 13 to No. 5 after it knocked off second-ranked Georgia in October 2018.

The Ducks have their highest ranking since they finished the 2014 season No. 2 as the national runner-up to Ohio State.

Iowa, a 27-17 winner at Iowa State, allowed a total of 23 points while beating two ranked teams in succession for the first time since 1960. The Hawkeyes’ defense is typically stout. The question about this team is whether it can elevate its offensive play with quarterback Spencer Petras.

  1. Alabama (60 first-place votes)
  2. Georgia (3)
  3. Oklahoma
  4. Oregon … up eight spots from last week 
  5. Iowa
  6. Clemson
  7. Texas A&M … down two from last week
  8. Cincinnati
  9. Ohio State
  10. Penn State
  11. Florida
  12. Notre Dame
  13. UCLA … up three from last week 
  14. Iowa State
  15. Virginia Tech
  16. Coastal Carolina
  17. Ole Miss
  18. Wisconsin
  19. Arizona State … up four from last week 
  20. Arkansas
  21. North Carolina
  22. Auburn
  23. BYU
  24. Miami
  25. Michigan

Others receiving votes: UCF 111, TCU 103, Liberty 52, Michigan State 44, USC 39, Indiana 34, LSU 31, Kansas State 30, Nevada 28, Oklahoma State 27, Texas 23, Maryland 14, Pittsburgh 13, Kentucky 13, Stanford 10, Utah 9, Boston College 8, Arizona 6, Texas Tech 2, Fresno State 2, Toledo 2, Army 1

After Two Games, the Class of the Pac-12 South is: UCLA?

… UCLA had a bye week to rest up after knocking off LSU in the Rose Bowl last weekend. The 2-0 Bruins, who came into the week ranked No. 16, were just one of four ranked teams from the Pac-12 South heading into Week Two. After Saturday’s results, though, it may be that the fighting Chip Kelly’s are the Class of the outfit.


  • USC, the prohibitive favorite to win the division, lost to Stanford, 42-28 (and it wasn’t even that close. The Trojans trailed 42-13 in the fourth quarter before adding two garbage time touchdowns). The loss was not only humbling due to the fact that the Cardinal had mustered only one score in a 24-7 opening week loss to Kansas State, but gave the Trojans an 0-1 Pac-12 conference record, with USC now sitting at the bottom of South division standings;
  • Utah, an annual dark horse to win the division, had won nine straight games against BYU in the Holy War series. Not only did BYU, a team which lost more personnel than almost any other team in the nation, pull off the 26-17 win, the Cougars made the Utes’ vaunted defense look ordinary, with 231 rushing yards on the night. (Oh, and BYU accepted a bid to join the Big 12 Friday. Here’s guessing the Utah faithful aren’t all that excited about competing for recruits with a Power Five conference school which is just 45 miles down the road);
  • Arizona State remained undefeated, with a 37-10 win over hapless UNLV. While the final score may look like a yawner to anyone who didn’t stay up late to watch the game, this was a 14-10 game with less than a minute to go in the third quarter. Yes, a four-point lead with 16 minutes to play, for a team which came into the contest a 34.5-point favorite. The Sun Devils also got off to a slow start in their opener against Southern Utah (two turnovers, 13 penalties for 135 yards, with seven penalties in the first quarter alone). ASU beat Southern Utah, 41-10, but came into the game as 44.5-point favorites; The Sun Devils will get their first true test of the season next weekend, when they travel to Provo to take on what should be a ranked BYU squad;
  • Arizona continues to be a hot mess. The Wildcats were a two-point favorite over visiting San Diego State. The Aztecs are usually a pretty good Mountain West team (as CU learned last season), but was not expected to challenge for a division title this fall (SDSU even struggled in its opener against New Mexico). The result? It was all San Diego State, with the Aztecs racing to a 35-7 halftime lead before cruising to a 38-14 final. Arizona should break its school-record 14 game losing streak next weekend, with Northern Arizona from the Big Sky Conference coming to town, but that may be the only victory for Arizona this season.

Long story short, the Pac-12 South remains wide open. UCLA is atop the heap right now, but faces a pretty good Fresno State team (just ask Oregon) before going on the road to face a resurgent Stanford team. Colorado may remain fifth in the division in the minds of most pundits, but there are weaknesses in all of the contenders. With CU’s strong defense, they can be in every game they play …

… Game stories from Saturday night’s Pac-12 South division games … 

— “Amid a chorus of boos, No. 14 USC sputters to 42-28 loss to Stanford” …

From the Los Angeles Times … The sun went down, and USC’s worst nightmares came to life.

The defense that looked dominant last week was coming apart at the seams, shredded by a first-time starter at quarterback in Stanford’s Tanner McKee. The problematic penalties returned, the discipline diminished, the force field inside the red zone remained. Even the kicker was kicked out.

In its first taste of #Pac12AfterDark, USC fell asleep at the wheel in a 42-28 thrashing by Stanford on Saturday.

Standing again amid the wreckage was Clay Helton, the Trojans’ embattled coach, reassuring at the start of his sixth season that he’d steer USC away from its skid. As Helton listened to the now-painfully familiar questions about his uncertain future, he promised USC was on the right track. He didn’t need to make any major changes, Helton said. He just needed time.

“Let’s see at the end of the year,” Helton said. “Let’s see. It’s Game 2. It’s Game 2. I have total faith in this staff. I have total faith in the men that are in there, players, coaches. We didn’t play our best tonight. But I know this. At the end of the season, see where we’re at.”

After a nightmarish night, it’s not at all clear Helton will get that chance — or even make it to the end of the month — not after its most lopsided loss to an unranked opponent since October 2018. Where the coach stands after the disastrous defeat in the eyes of USC’s athletic leadership remains to be seen. But the Trojans’ disillusioned fans made their frustrations clear with cascading boos echoing throughout the half-empty Coliseum from Helton’s halftime interview through the fourth quarter, when many fans started streaming early for the exits.

“It’s early in the season. We lost our first conference game,” Helton said, when asked how he’d reassure USC’s fanbase. “We’ll come back out and we’ll continue to get wins and add them up, and we’ll see where we are at the end of the season. I know it’ll be a successful season at the end.”

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— “What went wrong in Utah football’s loss to BYU? Pick a problem, any problem

From the Salt Lake City Tribune The University of Utah picked a bad night to have a bad night.

Turnovers, poor play along both lines, and an overall malaise marred the 101st meeting between the Utes and BYU, the latter firmly in control throughout on its way to a 26-17 win in front of an announced sellout crowd of 63,470 at LaVell Edwards Stadium.

Pick a problem, any problem on Saturday night, large or small, collective or individual, because there were a lot of them.

That play call on fourth-and-2

Utah (1-1) took on some water early, but settled in after Charlie Brewer’s 20-yard touchdown pass to Brant Kuithe cut the Utah deficit to 10-7 midway through the second quarter. The Utes defense followed with a three-and-out, giving Utah’s offense the opportunity to continue building momentum.

Faced with fourth-and-2 at the 8 after Brewer hit Theo Howard for 13 yards, Whittingham opted against a 25-yard field goal attempt from All-Pac-12 kicker Jadon Redding. Instead, the Utes lined up in the shotgun, Brewer handed the ball to Micah Bernard on a draw, and the third-year freshman was stopped a yard shy of the first down.

Whittingham, who is by no means a staunch analytics guy, cited the analytics had that down and distance as a “solid go from 4 (yards) or less.” With that, Whittingham had no problem going for it with two yards to go.

That play was not a game-ender, or maybe it was depending on how you want to view it. Either way, it stands out as a rough play on a rough night for most of Utah’s offense, with the exception of Micah Bernard …

Utah’s defense, especially its front four, got bullied

No matter the season, no matter the personnel losses and reloading, Utah stops the run. That is one thing everyone can always count on.

BYU rushed for 219 yards at 4.8 yards per clip. That is pretty gaudy by normal standards, but now go look up where Utah has ranked in rushing defense nationally in the Pac-12 over the last decade. That doesn’t happen to the Utes …

The offensive line continues to be an issue

There was a lot of talk during camp about improved line play, improved pass pro, mostly veteran groups, etc.

None of that has come to fruition yet, but we’re willing to wait that out for another game, maybe even two, because the offensive line is just now starting to find full health.

Second-year freshman Jaren Kump made his season debut at left tackle after starting all five games last season at right tackle. Kump’s first appearance helps Utah move towards getting its five best guys healthy and on the field.

Left guard Braeden Daniels, center Nick Ford, right guard Sataoa Laumea (season debut) and right tackle Simi Moala rounded out the line, with last week’s starting left tackle Bam Olaseni spelling Kump at one point.

BYU’s defensive line pushed Utah’s offensive line around for much of the night, which is not something that usually happens to a Utah offensive line. As noted above, Whittingham seemed genuinely shocked postgame at the play of his two lines, so here comes a new subplot to an already consistent storyline …

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“Arizona has no answers vs. San Diego State; Wildcats’ losing streak hits 14 games”

From the Arizona Daily Star … It couldn’t happen again, could it?

Things were supposed to be different for Arizona football under Jedd Fisch, who’s brought boundless energy, hope and positivity to the program since his arrival in late December.

Yet the product on the field looked discouragingly familiar Saturday night.

Arizona was thoroughly outclassed in its home opener, falling to San Diego State 38-14 in front of an announced crowd of 39,097 at Arizona Stadium.

The defeat extended the Wildcats’ losing streak to 14 games — the longest active FBS skid in the nation. The next opportunity to end it comes next Saturday against NAU.

“Hats off to San Diego State,” Fisch said. “They certainly outplayed us, outcoached us, outschemed us. They played extremely hard, and they made it very hard on us.”

The first half was a compilation of breakdowns, miscues and ineffectiveness not seen since, well, the last time Arizona played a home game. Nothing could match the nightmare that was the 2020 Territorial Cup — a 70-7 debacle against Arizona State that capped an 0-5 season and got Kevin Sumlin fired. But the first 30 minutes against SDSU were a decent approximation.

The Aztecs (2-0) grabbed a 21-0 lead less than eight minutes into the game. At that point, Arizona had been outscored 115-7 at home since holding a 13-0 advantage over Colorado in the penultimate game of last season.

Gunner Cruz’s 43-yard touchdown pass to Stanley Berryhill III later in the first quarter halted that run. But the celebration was short-lived. By the end of the first half, SDSU held a 35-7 edge. The Aztecs had 344 yards to the Wildcats’ 106.

“We just never could get in the game,” Fisch said. “I thought our team was ready to play. I hate that saying; I feel like it’s such coach-talk, Yeah, we were ready to play. We practiced hard. We played well in practice. We prepared hard. But we have to have an edge about us.”

Continue reading story here

“Here’s what Arizona State’s 37-10 win over UNLV means for power balance in Pac-12”

From … Arizona State football might be onto something.

The Sun Devils are 2-0 after thumping UNLV 37-10 at Sun Devil Stadium on Saturday night.

It’s always good to be undefeated.

It’s even better when most of the rest of the Pac-12 has at least one loss.

ASU, Oregon and UCLA are the only unbeaten schools in the conference. It’s early. There are a lot of games left on the schedule.

But with the way things have played out so far, the Sun Devils have a real opportunity to reach the Rose Bowl for the first time since 1997. (Who knows? Maybe ASU could end up with the Pac-12’s first College Football Playoff berth since 2017?)

Make no mistake, ASU needs to play better to reach those goals.

In the first half against UNLV (0-2), ASU started slowly on offense and made mental mistakes on both sides of the ball.

Quarterback Jayden Daniels threw an interception in the end zone on the game’s first possession. (It was a bad throw that was probably the result of a bad route by wide receiver Johnny Wilson, who took an inside release when Daniels seemed to be expecting to lob the ball in over his teammate’s outside shoulder.)

(or the fact that ASU’s opponents – Southern Utah and UNLV – were a combined 79-point underdogs, with both opponents handily beating the spread for their respective games against the mighty Sun Devils)

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36 Replies to “Pac-12 Notes – Minnesota”

  1. Ah… so Washington State head coach Rolovich is an anti vaxxer dork, huh? Maybe next he can tell his team to play games without pads & helmets, or send kids back in even when they can’t pass concussion protocols? Tell them not to wear seatbelts in cars and, heck, why even slow down for those sissy stop signs? I mean screw science and the heck with helping the greater good when it can be all about me, right coach!?

    I bet if it were 1959, Rolovich wouldn’t care if some of his players ended up in an iron lung because … FreeDumb!


    Just found a reason to cheer for the Trojans Saturday night.

  2. There is a list of possible and Whittingham is on it. I saw a video on Kyle Whittingham and his life in Utah, I don’t remember where I saw it, but he’s really into skiing in Park City area and loves his quality of life in Utah, so of that list, he’s maybe lower on it as far as interest goes. As soon as the season ends he gets out on the slopes and he talked about his life in Utah, the fans and etc. and why he’s been at Utah for more than 12 years (or something like that), plus time as an assistant too.

    I see two reasons why I could be wrong, MONEY & having a stable of 5 & 4 star players to compete for a National Championship.

    If given 3 times what he’s getting for five years, Whittingham can afford to go/buy anywhere he wants; and money talks. AND the big carrot would be the talent he gets to recruit and work with, Whittingham has worked and developed far less talent with 10+ wins in a season, just think what he could do at USC?

    I think he’d be scary good and really could see him take USC all the way.

    1. They would be smart to talk to him. It wasn’t that long ago that rumors out of SLT were they were trying to push him out. Which is hilarious.

      Of course, after dropping that game to BYU, he’s clearly lost all his coaching chops and cannot coach a lick. That’s sarcasm, for the uninitiated.

      It’ll be interesting to see who they get down there in lalaland. And, I guess, maybe as interestingly, who they don’t get.

      Go Buffs

    2. Welp after yesterday

      And they want a famous coach,

      The obvious choice is:


      Yup Right Yup


      Note: reported internal problems. They will probably pay him more at the Trogenz anyway so no buyout.

    3. Amazing isnt it?
      What a coach can do with “far less talent?” and how other who have far more talent get fired.
      Whittingham may be getting an earful after the BYU game which might be one factor in his decision if offered. Then again I dont see him meshing real well with SoCal and Hollywood type boosters.
      Money doesnt talk….it screams

  3. Only 2 games, but some stats.
    Buffs vs Gophers

    Buffs 91 ypg 4.8 ypp
    Opponents 225 ypg 5.5 ypp

    Gophers 158 ypg 7.5 ypp
    Opponents 225 ypg 10.0 ypp

    Buffs 226 ypg 5.2 ypp
    Opponents 59 ypg 2.1 ypp

    Gophers 189ypg 3.94 ypp
    Opponents 152 ypg 5.45 ypp

    Okay well then:
    Buffs need to get to their rushing ypp and rush alot
    Buffs need to shut down the gophers running attack.
    Buffs defensive passing ypp equal the gopher offensive ypp. Have the younguns grown up yet? This may be the deal to win.

    Buffs need this win
    Buffs DC will have them ready and have the plan
    Buffs OC? Nobody knows


    Note: It appears the freshman kicker may be and excellent practice player. No offense, just facts so far.

  4. The Helton thing is interesting. Been a long time coming, I guess. So, let’s see, Will fickle -phunny fone correction there – be the guy? Matt Campbell? Or some ‘bama analyst?

    This stuff is fun to watch. Glad it’s not my world. Way too crazy.

    Go Buffs

  5. I am guessing that the fly on the wall in the coaches meeting heard a collective ‘WTFH ?!?….’ from KD and the rest of the staff.

    Problem is Chev is too arrogant to realize it was directed at him.

  6. I dont like Helton, and I despite all things USC. But 46-24 ? what was the CU record in the same timespan and whould CU have been happy with that record? ( asking for friend…..)

    Agree that i wish it was the day after a loss to CU

    1. Over any five year span in the past 15 years, yes, I would have been happy with a 46-24 record at CU.
      If CU had, however, a roster with five 5-star and 44 4-star recruits (and remember, Helton was mightily criticized for not recruiting better), I too would have been disappointed with a 46-24 record.
      (CU has zero five-star recruits and seven four-star recruits to work with as we speak … with three of the seven – Max Wray, Robert Barnes, and Jack Lamb – being transfers)

        1. If Coach Dorrell stays at CU long term, I think the number of 4-star athletes on their way to Boulder will increase, and the reality will, over time, change.

          1. Totally agree. Dorrell is doing great developing the talent she have and scouting the talent we can recruit. The better recruits will come as we have success and kids see how he develops them.

  7. So whaddaya think?
    Will USC follow Nebraska by firing a winning coach and slide into irrelevancy trying to find another one?
    I know many times I have complained about money ruining college football but I doubt f I would take Helton’s millions to put up with any fan or booster base (Wilner included) like the cobbs or condoms.
    Throw it at back at me as part of the Buff fan base for wanting Chev to step down but the difference is his O aint what I call a winning one. If he can get a bowl game by throwing the dink and running straight ahead I will quit complaining.

    1. 109TH rank total offense in the country!
      42nd rank total offense in the country? Colorado State

      126 rank in passing offense in the country
      32 rank in passing offense in the country? Colorado state

      30 rank in rushing offense in the country
      65 rank in rushing offense in the country? Colorado state

      Colorado #30 in total defense in the country
      Colorado #14 in rushing defense in the country
      Colorado #80 in passing defense in the country
      Colarado # 5 in scoring defense in the country.

      I bring this up (yup it’s early) because:
      HKCD says they are gonna win with defense!
      HKCD says they are gonna win running the football.


      1. Listen,
        So I get you are upset with Chev’s calls but I loved our d and I would be fine going with a triple option this year (or the modern version which is wait for it….RPO but lean on the run much more than the pass). Slow the game way down, grind the clock. Slow the game down so much that these high powered offenses just aren’t getting enough touches. A&M’s defensive line is legit. They have 2 NFL caliber tackles. I expect that when we are not facing that caliber of talent we will be able to move the ball better. Minnesota, Arizona, cal, Oregon State, and then pick up one from Washington, Utah, or USC. God I would love to crack USC at home this year!

        1. So, what’s yur point.

          That 2nd call on that goal line play was just stupid. There is no other way to say it. Game on the line and the play caller folds. Big time situation and nada. Sorry that isn’t being upset, that is being concerned about the inability to manage the situation.


          Notes: Yup loved the D too. Scheme and execution.

  8. Chev’………… what is wrong with option plays when you have a STABLE….BIG STABLE… FULL OF RB STALLIONS ????? AND….. A QB WHO CAN USE HIS FEET ?????

    Also, what is wrong with deception play calling ? Show them a (R) hook then clobber them with a (L) upper-cut. I know…. fighting terms !!!! It can work with football play calling also. Did you notice how A&M cleared out an area of the field with receivers, then dump-passed to a trailing RB ????? —– #28 and A&M’s QB had a field day.

    Designing deceptive plays like that requires a good chess player…. Feint with one move, then do something different.

    So……..why the hell don’t I get paid a couple of hundred thousand to be that dumb ?

    1. I thought BL would slide over to the guard and a direct snap was going to Clayton after the first failed sneak.
      But Im not eating paste or crayons in the Booth like Chiv.

      At least half of us – including me – would take the the OC job for free and put a better product out there

  9. The longwhorns are ground into burger by an also ran and they only drop two places? The name game will never end. I guess they will have to lose for about 5 seasons in a row like the pusskers before the pandering pundidiots finally get embarrassed. I’m thinking whoever is voting AZ is doing their part to demonstrate just how worthless this whole ranking thing is. The Buffs did on Saturday.

  10. Am I the only one who loves the fact that az is getting votes? Someone has a sense of humor. Smacks of plati now. Probably isn’t, but probably should be.

    Go Buffs

    1. Arizona which has lost 14 straight games has received 6 votes in the latest poll. Those voters should immediately have their voting privileges removed. Sheesh have a little pride in your job and exhibit some professionalism

      1. I think that is 6 points from one vote.

        I thought last week from what I read that the vote looked like a mistake since that person left ASU off their ballot, but now they either embraced the mistake as a joke or they are that bad.

  11. One more game of note. The only way The Corn can beat a buffalo in football? Play the mighty University of Buffalo. They must be brimming with pride.

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