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Pac-12 Notes – Utah Week

November 27th

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A different standard: The Athletic believes ASU’s Kenny Dillingham gets a pass for his 3-9 first season

From The Athletic … Someone recently asked how coach Kenny Dillingham should be graded after his first Arizona State season. That’s difficult to answer.

The Sun Devils finished 3-9 for the second consecutive season, making this the program’s worst two-year stretch in nearly eight decades. Previous coach Herm Edwards and an NCAA investigation into program recruiting had a lot to do with this. It led to a roster overhaul, a 2023 postseason ban and fan outrage.

Dillingham and his staff were left to clean up the mess, a near-impossible task. After Arizona State’s first game — a narrow win over Southern Utah — it was difficult to find another win on the schedule. That the Sun Devils beat Washington State and UCLA — and took Washington to the wire in Seattle — was a minor miracle, especially with their injuries on the offensive line. That says a lot about Dillingham and his energy, but not everything.

Many answers won’t surface for another season or two. That’s how football works, especially in this case. The fist year is always about culture. Arizona State fans will hate this example, but it took Arizona coach Jedd Fisch three seasons to build a strong roster and achieve bowl eligibility. Arizona State’s program didn’t completely bottom out as Arizona’s did (the Wildcats lost a Pac-12 record 20 games in a row), but the Sun Devils should face a similar timeline.

Next season we will find more. If the Valley responds to Dillingham’s “Activate the Valley” challenge. If Arizona State can upgrade its roster. If Rashada becomes the next great quarterback to blossom under Dillingham.

“We’re heading in the right direction, the support is headed in the right direction, we just have to slowly get better,” Dillingham said of Arizona State’s NIL collection efforts. “When we get the support right … once this place gets rocking, it will never fall again.”

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November 25th 

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Michigan State does it again, hires away Oregon State head coach Jonathan Smith

From ESPN … Michigan State hired Oregon State football coach Jonathan Smith for the same role Saturday, hours after both teams ended their regular seasons.

Smith, 44, completed the regular season Friday night as No. 16 Oregon State fell to rival Oregon 31-7 on the road, dropping to 8-4 on the season. A source tells ESPN that Smith met with the Beavers’ team late Saturday morning to inform them of his decision to leave for Michigan State.

Later Saturday, Oregon State named Kefense Hynson, who coaches wide receivers and is the passing game coordinator, the Beavers’ interim coach.

“As I start this next chapter of my coaching career, I want to first thank all the players, coaches and colleagues I have worked with the last six years,” Smith said in a statement Saturday. “I will cherish the memories and friendships. I also wanted to express my deepest gratitude to the people of OSU/Corvallis for your support. When I first arrived as a freshman college student, I had no idea the opportunities and relationships this community would provide for me and my family. The collective impact you have made makes it impossible for me to thank everyone individually, but I am forever grateful.”

The former Beavers quarterback finishes 34-35 in six seasons at his alma mater, but 18-7 since the start of the 2022 campaign. He shared Pac-12 Coach of the Year honors with Washington’s Kalen DeBoer in 2022, when Oregon State went 10-3 and finished No. 17 nationally.

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November 22nd

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One year after CU finished No. 1 in CBS Sports Bottom 25, Arizona State and Stanford likely to make the final rankings

From CBS Sports … There will be no postseason for the Power Five teams represented in the Bottom 25 this week. The hopes of bowl eligibility have long departed for Indiana, Arizona State, Stanford, Baylor and Vanderbilt. So while the rest of the college football world fixates on the cloudy College Football Playoff picture, we invite those five to treat this week as a Bottom 25 Playout.

All five could theoretically escape the final Bottom 25 rankings next week if they pull off victories in their last games of the season. Thus, it’s a “playout” game with dignity and pride on the line. Even Vanderbilt, which is all the way down at No. 10 this week, would likely escape the final rankings if it pulled off an upset at Tennessee as a 27-point underdog.

While the prospects of that result are far-fetched, the outlook is somewhat more practical for Indiana and Baylor. The Hoosiers are only a three-point underdog at Purdue, and the Bears are just nine-point underdogs at home against West Virginia. Stanford faces long odds as a 26-point underdog against Notre Dame, and Arizona State is an 11-point dog against Arizona.

For all of them, it’s time to put the ridicule and shame of poor 2023 seasons in the past, buck up one more time and go prove to the nation that they aren’t among the 25 worst teams.

From the Pac-12 …

No. 22 … Arizona State … 3-8 … Barring an upset victory over red-hot rival Arizona, the Sun Devils are likely to finish in the Bottom 25. But there have been some encouraging signs in Year 1 under Kenny Dillingham, who inherited a mess from predecessor Herm Edwards. Unfortunately, a 49-13 loss to Oregon last week was not one of those encouraging signs. ASU is simply out of gas.

No. 21 … Stanford … 3-8 … Barring an upset victory over Notre Dame, the Cardinal are likely to finish in the Bottom 25. But there have been some bright spots in Year 1 under Troy Taylor, who inherited a program coming off consecutive 3-9 seasons under predecessor David Shaw. However, the team didn’t look good 27-15 home loss to rival California last week. Are the Cardinal simply out of gas?

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November 19th 

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Washington/Washington State extend Apple Cup – will play in September next fall 

From ESPN … Washington and Washington State have agreed in principle to a five-year extension of the Apple Cup, ensuring the in-state rivalry will continue through at least 2028.

The schools announced the agreement Sunday, six days before playing for the final time as both members of the Pac-12. There was uncertainty whether the rivalry game would continue, with Washington moving to the Big Ten starting next season and Washington State yet to find a permanent home for its athletic programs.

Washington, ranked No. 4 in the latest AP Top 25, will host the Cougars on Saturday in Seattle. The Huskies (11-0, 8-0) will be trying to close out their first perfect regular season since 1991, while the Cougars (5-6, 2-6) need a win for bowl eligibility.

“For more than a century, fans across the state have been circling the Apple Cup date on their calendars. We are pleased that we will be able to continue this beloved tradition for future generations of Coug fans,” Washington State president Kirk Schulz said.

Next year’s game will be played Sept. 14 at Lumen Field, home of the Seattle Seahawks. After that, the matchup will return to the home campuses, with Washington State hosting games in Pullman in 2025 and 2027 and Washington hosting games at Husky Stadium in 2026 and 2028.

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Utah quarterback Cam Rising to return next season

From ESPN … Utah quarterback Cam Rising, who helped the Utes to consecutive Pac-12 titles before missing this season with a significant knee injury, is set to return to the team in 2024.

Rising, who began his college career at Texas, announced Sunday on social media that he will play a seventh college season (sixth at Utah). He sustained a torn ACL against Penn State in the Rose Bowl after quarterbacking the Utes to a second straight Pac-12 title last fall.

Utah had hope that Rising would return for the 2023 season, and he attended Pac-12 media day in July. Although Rising had been cleared for practice, he never saw game action. In early October, Rising revealed that he tore an MCL and two other ligaments, in addition to the ACL, which complicated his recovery. He had been in regular contact with noted surgeon Neal ElAttrache, who performed his knee surgery in January. After Utah’s Oct. 21 win at USC, coach Kyle Whittingham announced that Rising would be shut down for the season.

Rising took redshirt years in both 2018 at Texas and 2019 at Utah, and was limited by injury to only game in 2020 before becoming the Utes’ starter the following season. He earned first-team All-Pac-12 honors in 2021, when he passed for 2,493 yards and 20 touchdowns, while adding 499 rushing yards and six scores. In 2022, Rising had 3,034 passing yards and 26 touchdowns and won Pac-12 championship game MVP honors as Utah beat USC.

Buffs a three-touchdown underdog to 7-4 Utah

From DraftKings

Friday, November 24, 2023

6:30pm MT – Oregon State at Oregon (FOX) … Oregon is a 14.0-point home favorite …

Saturday, November 25, 2023

1:00pm MT – Colorado at Utah (Pac-12 Network) … Utah is a 20.5-point home favorite … 

1:30pm MT – Arizona at Arizona State (ESPN) … Arizona is a 12.5-point road favorite …

2:00pm MT – Washington State at Washington (FOX) … Washington is a 16.0-point home favorite …

5:00pm MT – Notre Dame at Stanford (Pac-12 Network) … Notre Dame is a 24.5-point road favorite …

8:30pm MT – Cal at UCLA (ESPN) … UCLA is a 10.0-point home favorite …

Utah falls out of the AP poll for the first time since 2021

From ESPN … Ohio State passed Michigan and moved up to No. 2 in The Associated Press college football poll Sunday, a week before the Big Ten rivals play another top-five matchup, and No. 4 Washington also flip-flopped with No. 5 Florida State.

Georgia remained No. 1 and received a season-high 61 first-place votes. The Bulldogs have been atop the rankings for 23 straight weeks, the second-best streak in the history of the poll and 10 behind the record held by USC (2003 to ’05).

The top five teams, all unbeaten, had held their places for five straight weeks. All improved to 11-0 on Saturday, but the order changed Sunday.

Michigan had been No. 2 since the preseason but slipped a spot after playing its closest game yet. The Wolverines, without suspended head coach Jim Harbaugh, beat Maryland 31-24.

The Buckeyes received one first-place vote after blowing out Minnesota.

Washington moved up a spot after a 22-20 win on the road against Oregon State, which slipped five spots to No. 15. The Huskies have their highest ranking since reaching No. 4 in 2016, their lone playoff season and the last time the Pac-12 had a team in the College Football Playoff.

No. 6 Oregon, No. 7 Texas, No. 8 Alabama and No. 9 Louisville all held their spots after victories, and Missouri moved up to No. 10.

Michigan and Ohio State will be a matchup of top-five teams for the 13th time, the most of any rivalry. The Buckeyes are 7-4-1 in those games.

Oklahoma-Texas is the only other rivalry that has double-digit top-five matchups. The Sooners and Longhorns have met 10 times as top-five teams.

Nebraska and Oklahoma are next at eight top-five matchups.

MOVING IN; MOVING OUT

Utah (7-4) is out of the AP Top 25 for the first time this season. The Utes plummeted from No. 16 after losing 42-18 at Arizona. Utah has lost three of four. The Wildcats are up to 16th.

The Utes saw their streak of 33 straight poll appearances dating back to the 2021 season snapped. It was the fifth-longest active streak in the country behind Alabama, Georgia, Ohio State and Michigan.

North Carolina also fell out again after losing to Clemson.

Associated Press poll … 

1. Georgia (61)
2. Ohio State (1)
3. Michigan
4. Washington … up one spot 
5. Florida State
6. Oregon
7. Texas
8. Alabama
9. Louisville
10. Missouri
11. Penn State
12. Ole Miss
13. Oklahoma
14. LSU
15. Oregon State … down five spots 
16. Arizona … up three spots
17. Notre Dame
18. Tulane
19. Kansas State
20. Iowa
21. Oklahoma State
22. Liberty
23. Toledo
24. James Madison
25. Tennessee

Others receiving votes: Utah 69, NC State 66, UNLV 56, SMU 49, North Carolina 26, Clemson 20, Kansas 7, Fresno State 6, New Mexico State 3, Texas A&M 1, Miami (OH) 1, UCLA 1

Utah taken down by No. 19 Arizona, 42-18

From the Salt Lake City Tribune … After losses against Oregon State, Oregon, and Washington, respectively, this season, the Utah football coaches and players vowed each time not to let that conquering opponent “beat us twice.”

They promised that no defeat would linger, that they’d get back to work, that there would be no carryover into the next week.

And yet, following last weekend’s difficult defeat in Seattle, it was hard not to see the effects of a hangover Saturday, as a disastrous start by the Utes ultimately led to a 42-18 annihilation by host Arizona.

Utah surrendered one big play after another on the Wildcats’ opening drive, yielding a touchdown. Their own subsequent drive was a quick three-and-out that went from bad to horrendous when a blocking miscue allowed a free run to punter Jack Bouwmeester, resulting in a blocked kick that was recovered and returned two yards for a score.

The Utes wound up trailing 21-0 after the first quarter, and were left to wonder what had happened.

They were outgained 196-23 in those first 15 minutes.

And to add insult to injury, Arizona tacked on yet another touchdown on the opening play of the second quarter.

While the Utes eventually stopped the bleeding, they ultimately died from the wounds.

“Really tough to win a football game when you go down 28-zip,” head coach Kyle Whittingham said afterward. “That’s a lot to overcome, and that all happened in the blink of an eye.”

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