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    Recapping the Pac-12 action in Week Five … Theme of the week: Blowouts The six games were decided by 8, 17, 18, 19, 23 and 26 points. And the only single-digit affair, UCLA’s win over Washington on Friday night, was lopsided until the Huskies scored two touchdowns in the fourth quarter. We cannot remember a weekend of conference play with so little drama. Theme of the season: L.A. success The Bruins and Trojans are 10-0 (combined), the only unbeaten teams in the conference and just two of 14 unbeatens in the Power Five. Are they for real? Yes, although our definition carries some nuance. They’re good enough to contend, but we aren’t yet convinced either team can win the conference and compete for a playoff berth. In a few weeks, our  view might change. Team of the week: UCLA After gorging on cupcakes through September, the Bruins took full advantage of their opportunity and stomped Washington with a superb all-around performance. They held a 40-16 lead entering the fourth quarter against the same head coach, Kalen DeBoer, who beat them...
    Instant reaction to Pac-12 developments on the field … 1. The state of L.A. The numbers don’t lie, but do they exaggerate? UCLA is 5-0 for the first time since 2013. USC is 5-0 for the first time since 2006 (excluding the disrupted 2020 season). And UCLA and USC are both 5-0 for the first time since 2005. They are the only undefeated teams left in the Pac-12. The Trojans will be in the AP top-10 again next week, and the Bruins should enter the poll. And yet, the resumes still feel flimsy. Let’s examine the opponents. UCLA has beaten: — Bowling Green, a Mid-American Conference team that lost to Eastern Kentucky. — Alabama State, an FBS team that lost to Prairie View. — South Alabama, a Sun Belt team that had the Bruins on the ropes — Colorado, the worst team in the Power Five — Washington, which is better than average but not close to elite. USC has beaten: — Rice, which is Rice — Stanford, which hasn’t beaten an FBS team in 364 days — Fresno State,...
    Submitted to the Associated Press late Saturday night … One general note on voting philosophy: I have never believed that a loss by a ranked team automatically should result in that team dropping down, or off, the ballot. The circumstances must be considered. If No. 18 loses a close game to No. 12, at home or on the road, that doesn’t mean it’s no longer worthy of a spot on the ballot. In fact, No. 18 might deserve to move up under those circumstances. At the same time, a victorious team doesn’t necessarily deserve to climb — or to be included on the ballot in the first place. The quality of opponents must be taken into account. 1. Georgia 2. Alabama 3. Ohio State 4. Clemson 5. Michigan 6. USC 7. Florida State 8. Tennessee 9. Oklahoma State 10. Kentucky 11. Mississippi 12. Oregon 13. Cincinnati 14. Washington State 15. Brigham Young 16. Baylor 17. Florida 18. Utah 19. Wake Forest 20. Washington 21. Texas A&M 22. Arkansas 23. N.C. State 24. Penn State 25. Kansas Related Articles College...
    Four need-to-knows for Week Four in the Pac-12 1. Unbeatens here, there and everywhere The Pac-12 has five undefeated teams: Oregon State, UCLA, USC, Washington and Washington State. That’s four more than it had at this point last season, when only Oregon was perfect through Week Three. — One of the five unbeaten teams is guaranteed to be 4-0 when the weekend concludes: The USC-Oregon State winner. — Two more are double-digit favorites: Washington (over Stanford) and UCLA (over Colorado). — The last one, WSU, is a home underdog against Oregon. If the Cougars win and Washington and UCLA handle their business, the Pac-12 will have four 4-0 teams for the first time since 2017 — and for only the seventh time this century: 2001: Oregon, Stanford, Washington, WSU2007: Arizona State, Cal, Oregon, UCLA2010: Arizona, Oregon Stanford and USC2013: Oregon, Stanford, UCLA and Washington2014: Arizona, Oregon, UCLA and Washington2017: USC, Utah, Washington and WSU (Courtesy of Pac-12 stats and information guru Jim Thornby.) Why is that threshold significant? Check the years: There’s a strong correlation for the Pac-12 between hot...
    The Pac-12’s better-than-expected showing over the first three weeks — can you blame us for having a bleak outlook? —  included non-conference sweeps by four teams. Oregon State, UCLA, Washington and Washington State completed the out-of-league portions of their schedules with 3-0 marks. They are halfway to bowl eligibility with nine league games to play. (Two other teams, USC and Stanford, are undefeated in non-conference games with more dates to come.) The correlation between non-conference perfection and bowl invitations is strong. Since the Pac-12 expanded prior to the 2011 season, 47 teams have recorded 3-0 records against FBS and FCS competition. Of those, 40 went on to reach the six-win threshold needed for a bowl berth. That’s a hit rate of 85.1 percent. The seven teams that started 3-0 and failed to become bowl-eligible — meaning, they were worse than 3-6 in conference games — were as follows: 2013: Utah and Colorado 2014: Oregon State 2016: Arizona State 2017: Cal and Colorado 2018: Colorado (Note: We are including USC ’11 as one of the 40. The Trojans were 3-0 in...
    The Hotline mailbag is published every week. Send questions to [email protected] or hit me on Twitter: @WilnerHotline. Please note: Some questions have been edited for clarity and brevity. What’s the timeline looking like for the Pac-12 to make a decision on expansion? Do you think it’ll be wrapped up by the time the conference makes its media rights deal public next year (or later)? — @cgboan Most likely, a decision on expansion and the act of signing a new media rights agreement will unfold concurrently. In our estimation, the course of events will follow one of two paths: — The Pac-12 signs an exclusive deal with ESPN, as a 10-school conference, in the next two or three weeks. — The Pac-12 negotiates with multiple bidders on the open market and takes a hard look at expansion in a process that consumes six or eight weeks, if not longer. The Big Ten just announced a new media rights agreement after six months (approximately) of negotiations. These things take time, unless you have a killer deal on the table. And there is no reason...
    As the Pac-12 fights for survival in the wake of USC and UCLA announcing their joint departure for the Big Ten in 2024, merger, acquisition and going-out-of-business talk is all the rage. Washington and Oregon are also headed to the Big Ten … No, Stanford is really the next target … Arizona State, Arizona, Utah and Colorado are preparing to jump to the Big 12 … The Pac-12 and Big 12 should merge to form a super-conference … Meanwhile, the grandmaster stays quiet, examining the chessboard and plotting its next move. The future of college football in the western half of the country depends largely, and perhaps entirely, on ESPN — one of the sport’s two overlords. The other, of course, is Fox. How did we get here? “It’s part media companies and part lack of leadership in college sports,” a media industry source told the Hotline (via text). “Nobody looking out for best interests of (the) sport — too much self interest and conflicts.” ESPN made the first grand move last summer, quietly orchestrating the SEC’s acquisition of Texas...
    The foundation for recruiting success during the December signing window often is laid in the spring, when on-campus visits are taken, short lists created and verbal commitments made. The Hotline is delighted to provide Pac-12 fans with a dive into the process through the eyes and ears of Brandon Huffman, the Seattle-based national recruiting analyst for 247Sports. Huffman will relay news and insight into the latest developments and cast an eye ahead to upcoming events that will shape the 2022-23 recruiting cycle. The following report, in his own words, was provided to the Hotline on May 2 … *** The big news from the weekend was Dante Moore, a five-star quarterback from Detroit, took his official visit to Oregon. It was his second official visit; he took one to LSU last month. There’s a lot of buzz pointing him to Michigan and Miami, but Oregon getting him for an official was significant because the Ducks were supposed to get another five-star quarterback, Jaden Rashada of the Bay Area, onto campus last weekend for an official. And that didn’t happen. The...
    The Pac-12 is well positioned to end an unseemly streak when the NFL Draft begins Thursday evening in Las Vegas. In each of the past three years, the conference has produced just three first-round selections. This year, four players are expected to be picked on Day One, and a fifth name might be called, as well. Oregon edge rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux, USC receiver Drake London, Utah linebacker Devin Lloyd and Washington cornerback Trent McDuffie are considered first-round locks by draft analysts. A second Washington cornerback, Kyler Gordon, is viewed as a borderline Day One prospect. Success in the first round matters, particularly on the recruiting trail. Elite prospects from the West Coast are motivated by two factors to sign with powerhouses elsewhere: The chance to participate in the College Football Playoff, and the lure of becoming a first-round pick. On both fronts, the Pac-12 is lagging: It hasn’t placed a team in the CFP since the 2016 season and typically generates fewer first-round selections than most peers. First-round picks by Power Five conference from 2019-21: SEC: 36 Big Ten: 19...
    The Pac-12 will announce its men’s basketball postseason award winners and all-conference teams on Tuesday morning, based on a vote of the head coaches. We expect it to reflect the events of the past three months: Arizona will dominate. Unwilling to wait for official results, the Hotline opted to call its shots here and now … Coach of the Year: Arizona’s Tommy Lloyd Lloyd’s system was a perfect fit for the returning talent and resulted in success beyond all reasonable expectations, with a rookie coach crafting a No. 1 seed out of inherited personnel. As we wrote recently, Lloyd replacing Sean Miller unfolded in comparable schematic fashion to Steve Kerr taking over the Warriors from Mark Jackson. In each case, the switch from a grinding style of play to a free-flowing system based on spacing and ball movement allowed the returning talent to blossom. Also considered: Nobody. Player of the Year: Arizona’s Bennedict Mathurin This two-player race featured the classic contrast: Mathurin was the best player on the best team — and is the Pac-12’s top NBA prospect — while...
    Things to watch this week in Pac-12 Conference basketball: GAME OF THE WEEK No. 16 Southern California at No. 17 UCLA. The rematch of this rivalry will affect seeding in next week’s Pac-12 tournament in Las Vegas. The Trojans and Bruins have already locked up top-four spots and a first-round bye for next week, but are jockeying for position behind No. 2 Arizona. The Wildcats rolled over USC 91-71 to win the Pac-12 regular-season title Monday night while dropping the Trojans into a tie for second with UCLA at 14-5 in conference play. USC won the first meeting 67-64 on Feb. 11 after Drew Peterson scored a career-high 27 points and had 12 rebounds. The winner Saturday gets the No. 2 seed in Las Vegas. LOOKING AHEAD No.2 Arizona, USC and UCLA have locked up top-4 seeds in the Pac-12 tournament, which comes with a coveted first-round bye. The last bye will come down to Oregon or Colorado. The Ducks (18-11, 11-7) play Washington on Thursday, and Washington State on Saturday. Win those and they’ll get the first-round...
    Maybe it won’t matter once shots start flying Wednesday in the 21st Pac-12 women’s tournament, but second-ranked Stanford being pushed in its last three regular-season games provides at least a glimmer of hope for an upset champion. The Cardinal completed their eighth undefeated Pac-12 run with victories over Washington State (61-54) and Washington (63-56), trailing in the latter by a point with just over a minute remaining. Before that, on Feb. 20, they held off Oregon 66-62. For the defending national champs, winning their 15th Pac-12 tournament title seems less of a given than it was a few weeks ago — not that coach Tara VanDerveer will do anything other than have her team prepared for an event that she treats as the start of the postseason. “That’s how you get the NCAA (automatic) seed,” VanDerveer told reporters recently. (The Cardinal already is virtually assured of a No. 1 seed no matter what happens at the Mandalay Bay Events Center.) Anna Wilson converted a critical steal into a layup and made 3-of-4 free throws in Stanford’s 31st consecutive win over...
    The Hotline’s projections for Pac-12 postseason awards and honors … Coach of the Year: Arizona’s Tommy Lloyd. Impressively close to locking up the award before the calendar turns. (There’s nobody close at this point.) As long as the Wildcats finish in the top three, Lloyd will be tough to beat. Player of the Year: Arizona’s Bennedict Mathurin. The top NBA prospect in the conference is the early favorite for POY based on playmaking, efficiency and sample size. We considered UCLA’s Johnny Juzang and USC’s Isaiah Mobley. Freshman of the Year: Stanford’s Harrison Ingram. An impressive start (12.2 ppg, 6.9 rpg) and the paucity of competition — the rookie class has been low-impact thus far — make Ingram the smart pick. Newcomer of the Year: USC’s Boogie Ellis. The Memphis transfer is contributing with points, rebounds, assists and general elevation of the collective. Also considered: Cal’s Jordan Shepherd, WSU’s Michael Flowers and Washington’s Terrell Brown. Defensive Player of the Year: Arizona’s Christian Koloko. The 7-foot-1 sophomore is averaging 3.3 blocks per game, along with an incalculable...
    The first NET rankings of the season, released earlier this week, were as kind to the Pac-12 as you might expect after all the unseemly non-conference losses. Which is to say, they were accepting of only three teams, tolerant of a few more and downright dismissive of the masses. Arizona and USC made the top 10, while UCLA is solidly positioned in the 30s. But that’s it. If we assume that only the top-40 teams at the end of the regular season could be considered locks for the NCAA tournament at-large field, the Pac-12 is staring at the potential for three measly bids. Yes, the rankings will change as conference play ramps up, but not necessarily for the better. The metrics underpinning the NCAA Evaluation Tool (NET), which replaced the RPI several years ago, rely heavily on non-conference results in November and December. In that regard, the most significant development for the Pac-12 in the initial NET rankings wasn’t the number of teams on  the top tier but, rather, the quantity of bottom feeders. One-quarter of the conference is currently...
    The coaches have voted for the Pac-12 awards, with the results scheduled to be announced Tuesday. If you don’t call your shot ahead of time, why even bother. So here we go … Coach of the Year: Utah’s Kyle Whittingham. You could make a solid case for Oregon State’s Jonathan Smith and a semi-case for Washington State’s Jake Dickert (since he only coached a semi-season). But Whittingham led his team through tragedy and won the conference in dominating fashion. Perfectly fair to wonder what might have happened if the Utes had started Cam Rising all along, but that’s a mere quibble compared to the result: The Rose Bowl against Ohio State. Offensive Player of the Year: USC receiver Drake London. We pondered this category over the past few days and settled on a player who missed the final month of the season. It’s unprecedented call for the Hotline, but London’s two months on the field were extraordinary. And there wasn’t an obvious Plan B. And there isn’t a well-defined bar for how  many games are required for this honor. Most...
    The team that won in Columbus is an underdog in Salt Lake City. The two-time defending conference champions are expected to lose to the no-time defending conference champions. The team that consistently raises its play to the heights required is projected to fall short in the biggest game of the Pac-12 season. Look what we have here: The Ducks are a three-point dog Saturday afternoon at Utah. The line makes two slivers of sense. The Utes always play well in the thin air and relentless din of Rice-Eccles Stadium. Also, they’re 6-1 since handing quarterback Cam Rising the keys to the attack. We believe those advantages will hold up about as well as a running back trying to block Kayvon Thibodeaux. The Ducks cover. The Ducks win. And here’s why: 1. Oregon’s big stage experience. The Ducks won’t be unnerved by a few mistakes or major shift in momentum toward the home team. Quarterback Anthony Brown isn’t always smooth, but he tends to rise to the occasion (see: Ohio, Columbus; Sept. 11, 2021) and can make plays with his legs...
    Power ratings based entirely on the scoreboard, except when they aren’t. (All times Pacific.) 1. Oregon (9-1/6-1)Last week: 1Result: Beat Washington State 38-24Next up: at Utah (4:30 p.m., ABC)Line: Oregon +3Comment: Think the two-touchdown win over WSU was impressive? Consider this narrative that we assume is percolating beyond the Pac-12 footprint: “Oregon didn’t even dominate a team that lost to Utah State and BYU; meanwhile, Ohio State blew the doors off a team (Purdue) that beat Iowa and Michigan State.” Even if they keep winning, the Ducks could have a perception problem rooted in the Pac-12’s poor September performance. 2. Utah (7-3/6-1)Last week: 2Result: Won at Arizona 38-29Next up: vs. Oregon (4:30 p.m., ABC)Line: Utah -3Comment: How might things go wrong for the Utes on Saturday afternoon? Our list of possibilities starts with a massive breakdown on special teams that directly results in points for the Ducks or creates a change in field position that alters the trajectory of the game. 3. Arizona State (7-3/5-2)Last week: 4Result: Won at Washington 35-30Next up: at Oregon State (7:30 p.m., ESPN)Line: Arizona State...
    Instant reaction to Pac-12 developments on and off the field … 1. Sunday in Seattle It has been 713 days since Jimmy Lake was named the head coach of the University of Washington football program. Today could very well be his last. Lake’s one-week suspension for striking a player ends today, so either the administration must reinstate him to the post or announce a permanent separation. All indications are that he will be fired before sunset. (If we had to guess: two or three hours before sunset.) There is no way Lake can return to the job — no way he can credibly lead the program, no way he can properly represent the university — after the self-inflicted damage prior to the suspension. Lake’s fall has been stunningly swift: — Nobody questioned Washington’s decision to elevate him when Chris Petersen announced his resignation on Dec. 2, 2019. At the time, Lake was arguably the hottest coaching candidate in the country. A coordinator coveted by Nick Saban. A  recruiting machine who turned out one NFL defensive back after another. Had the...
    Opening night was generally positive for the Pac-12 as it attempts to build on the momentum from the wildly successful NCAA tournament. — The top teams were impressive. — The middle-of-the Pac teams survived a series of scares. — And the two expected bottom feeders produced expected results. All in all, the conference was 10-2 on Tuesday, with Cal and Washington on the wrong side of the ledger. Prepare for more losing in Berkeley and Seattle — a lot more losing. Note: The power ratings will be published weekly through the conclusion of the regular season. 1. UCLA (1-0)Last week: 1Result: Beat Cal State-Bakersfield 95-58Next up: vs. Villanova (Friday)Comment: The 2016 and 2018 national champions visit Pauley Pavilion in one of the most important games of the season, for the Bruins and the conference. 2. Oregon (1-0)Last week: 2Result: Beat Texas Southern 83-66Next up: vs. SMU (Friday)Comment: The transfer trio (Quincy Guerrier, Jacob Young and De’Vion Harmon) combined for 37 points and 18 rebounds. Yep, sounds about right. 3. USC (1-0)Last week: 3Result: Beat Cal State-Northridge 89-49Next up: at Temple...
    Commentary on Pac-12 developments on and off the field … Rising: Pac-12 November relevance The Pac-12’s reputation has been severely damaged in recent years by the absence of College Football Playoff participants. Not since Washington in 2016 has the conference produced a semifinalist, and it has only claimed two of the 28 berths over the history of the event. But within the broader CFP canvass is an important component: stretch-run relevance. Whether or not the Pac-12 ultimately sends a team to the CFP this season — Oregon is the only option — the conference needs to be part of the conversation in the sport’s most important month. Without a legitimate playoff candidate, the Pac-12 might as well be Conference USA for all the attention it would garner on ESPN and FOX and every other national media outlet. That’s why Oregon’s No. 4 position — the highest ever for a Pac-12 team in the initial rankings — was so vital. Until they lose, the Ducks will be smack in the middle of the conversation, reminding everyone that the conference exists … that...
    Utah’s identity is an enduring mystery of the 2021 Pac-12 football season. We expected a title contender in Week One given all the returning talent but instead witnessed mediocrity on both sides of the ball throughout September. The quarterback change, from Charlie Brewer to Cam Rising, seemed to set the Utes on track. They survived a challenge from Washington State, then produced a devastating second half to wrest control of the division away from Arizona State. The team we envisioned finally revealed itself — but not for long. What in the world happened in Corvallis? The Utes started fast, then crumbled. It was the antithesis of the ASU game, a rollover the likes of which we have not seen from Utah in many years. And so after two months, we’re back to the beginning with the Utes, wondering if their potential can be reached and the South can be won. With a victory, Utah would remain at least one game ahead of ASU (via the tiebreaker) and hold a three-game lead on the Bruins. In other words, the South, muddled...
    Power ratings based entirely on the scoreboard, except when they aren’t. (All times Pacific.) 1. Oregon (6-1/3-1)Last week: 1Result: Won at UCLA 34-31Next up: vs. Colorado (12:30 p.m., FOX)Line: Oregon -26.5Comment: News from next Monday: After a start-to-finish wipeout of Colorado, the Ducks climbed to No. 6 in the AP poll and are just five wins from a likely spot in the College Football Playoff. However, the stretch run is challenging, with Washington State and Oregon State at home, Utah and Washington on the road, plus a potential berth in the Pac-12 championship game. Meanwhile, Ohio State thumped Penn State to further boost the quality of Oregon’s Week Two victory, and the Michigan-Michigan State result knocked another team from the ranks of the unbeaten. 2. Oregon State (5-2/3-1)Last week: 5Result: Beat Utah 42-34Next up: at Cal (4 p.m., Pac-12 Networks)Line: OSU -1.5Comment: Had you told us prior to the season that the Beavers would beat USC, Washington and Utah, we would have 1) asked for the coordinates to your universe and 2) expected OSU to have a bowl berth locked...
    Recapping the best and worst of Week Seven in the Pac-12 … Themes of the week: Comebacks and close calls Three of the five games were decided by a touchdown or less and three featured come-from-behind victories. Oregon rallied to beat Cal 24-17. Utah erased a 14-point halftime deficit to beat Arizona State 35-21. And Washington State came from behind twice to topple Stanford 34-31. All in all, it was one of the most compelling weekends thus far. Game of the week: Oregon 24, Cal 17 Oregon dodged a major upset with two touchdowns in the fourth quarter, then kept the Bears out of the end zone in the final minute on eight plays from inside the 10 yardline. Wobbly as they have looked lately, the Ducks remain on track for the playoff … if they win out. Team of the week: Washington State The Cougars won their third consecutive game, all against North rivals, and their fifth in a row over Stanford. In contrast to the opening weeks, when they couldn’t hold second-half leads, the Cougars refused to wilt...
    Katey Sagals Husband Kurt Sutter Jokes That Shes Auditioning for DWTS After Being Hit by Car Here Are the Most and Least Tax-Friendly Countries Check out odds, insights and more in our betting preview for the Washington Huskies vs. UCLA Bruins college football matchup on October 16, 2021. © Provided by Sports Illustrated Oct 2, 2021; Corvallis, Oregon, USA; Washington Huskies quarterback Dylan Morris (9) throws a pass against the Oregon State Beavers during the first half at Reser Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports The Washington Huskies (2-3, 0-0 Pac-12) host the UCLA Bruins (4-2, 0-0 Pac-12) on Saturday, October 16, 2021 in matchup between Pac-12 foes at Alaska Airlines Field at Husky Stadium. UCLA is a 1.5-point underdog. The over/under is 55 in this matchup. For more great betting and fantasy insight, join the SI Winners Club Newsletter.Odds for Washington vs. UCLAOdds courtesy of SI Sportsbook.Over/Under Insights Washington has combined with its opponents to score more than 55 points only two times this year. UCLA's games have gone over 55 points in four of six chances...
    Power ratings based entirely on the scoreboard, except when they aren’t. (All times Pacific) 1. Oregon (4-1/1-1)Last week: 1Result: Lost at Stanford 31-24 (OT)Next up: IdleLine: N/AComment: Playcaller Joe Moorhead made a great case for himself as the conference’s top coordinator by missing the Stanford game (for a non-COVID illness): Anthony Brown specifically, and the offense generally, looked completely out of sync. Also, we wish him the best in his recovery. 2. Arizona State (4-1/2-0)Last week: 4Result: Won at UCLA 42-23Next up: vs. Stanford (Friday, 7:30 p.m., ESPN)Line: Arizona State -10.5Comment: If the Sun Devils approach their potential, they should win by double digits. If they give Stanford a sliver of a chance, it goes to the wire. 3. Oregon State (4-1/2-0)Last week: 3Result: Beat Washington 27-24Next up: at Washington State (1 p.m., Pac-12 Networks)Line: Oregon State -3Comment: We were impressed with OSU’s resilience on two fronts: Level-setting emotionally after the USC game; and responding to UW’s back-to-back touchdowns in the fourth quarter. The mark of a contender. 4. UCLA (3-2/1-1)Last week: 2Result: Lost to Arizona State 42-23Next up: at...
    With the first month of the 2021 season complete, several Pac-12 teams face daunting climbs to the six-win mark needed for bowl eligibility. Arizona looks utterly and completely doomed, and Colorado isn’t far behind. The Buffaloes are dead last in the country in scoring against FBS opponents (6.7 points per game). A few others have shown enough life at various points to make mini-winning streaks possible. It doesn’t take much for the bowl math to improve, but with each passing week, margin for error slips away. We envision at least one team falling a single victory short of the postseason requirement and looking back on a bungled September opportunity against a Group of Five or FCS opponent as the fateful result. The top contenders for that unfortunate end-game are Washington (the loss to Montana), Washington State (to Utah State), Cal (to Nevada) and Utah (to San Diego State). For the first time, the Hotline’s bowl projections include the remaining schedule for each team in order to provide context on the road ahead. College Football...
    Recapping the best and worst from Week Four … News of the day: Utah Crushing development from Salt Lake City, where Utes defensive back Aaron Lowe was killed in a shooting incident early Sunday morning. Lowe was from Mesquite, Tex., the same hometown as former Utah running back Ty Jordan, who was killed late last year in an accidental shooting. Our deepest condolences to Lowe’s family and the Utah football program. Theme of the week: Separation Saturday Admittedly, there is enough season left to render obsolete these early assumptions, but the Week Four results provide initial framing for the division races: In the North, it’s the Oregon schools and perhaps Washington; in the South, it’s UCLA and Arizona State and perhaps Utah. Meanwhile, Colorado, Cal and Washington State are facing difficult bowl math: At 1-3 overall, they must win five of their final eight to qualify for the postseason. We’ve seen little on the field to suggest that’s reasonable. Theme of the season: Officiating We were critical of several calls early in the Oregon State-USC game, but over the sweep...
    Reaction to Pac-12 developments on the field … 1. Week One judgment The first Saturday of full non-conference play in two years started poorly for the Pac-12, with Stanford’s no-show offense,  and ended abysmally, with Washington State’s late-game collapse. In between, USC was victorious, but Oregon struggled, Oregon State came up short, Cal was outplayed, Arizona couldn’t make plays and Washington flopped. All in all, the conference lost two of three games against Power Five opponents and went 2-3 against Group of Five opponents. It would have been a Black Saturday — at minimum, a Gray Saturday — except for UCLA. The Pac-12 won the game it had to win, the marquee affairs of the weekend. As a result, we’ll call Week One a push for the conference. Neither indisputably good nor unequivocally bad. Increasingly, college football success is defined by big games on big stages against blue blood opponents. The Bruins not only beat LSU 38-27, they were the superior team. In the Rose Bowl. On FOX. In primetime. The afterglow, in other words, has staying power. Besides, half...
    Before we plunge into the names to watch in Pac-12 basketball, a few numbers for your consumption: — Four of the top-20 scorers in the conference last season are back for another year. — Three of the 15 players named to the all-conference teams last season are returning. — Four of the top-50 recruits in the country are joining Pac-12 teams next season. (Gonzaga alone signed four of the top 53 prospects.) Put another way: There’s a paucity of established stars and one-and-done talents. The Pac-12’s success in 2021-22 depends heavily on role players morphing into impact players and on transfers making instant impacts. Now, to our projections for postseason awards … Coach of the Year: Washington State’s Kyle Smith. Entering his third season, Smith has overhauled the roster, maximized his personnel and positioned the Cougars for their first winning season in conference play since 2008. His work in Pullman — a stretch engulfed by the pandemic — has been extremely impressive. Also considered: UCLA’s Mick Cronin, Oregon’s Dana Altman and Utah’s Craig Smith Player of the Year: UCLA G...
    Commentary on Pac-12 developments on the field and off … Rising: Washington State and Cal Two Pac-12 athletic directors, WSU’s Pat Chun and Cal’s Jim Knowlton, recently interviewed for the Northwestern vacancy but are not — or are no longer — candidates for the job. Regardless of the framing, what matters to the Cougars, the Bears and, frankly, the entire Pac-12 is that neither Chun or Knowlton is leaving his current gig for Evanston. Continuity atop any athletic department matters a great deal, but especially now, with all the COVID and non-COVID challenges facing Pac-12. This goes double, and perhaps even triple, for the Cougars. The conference needs every program to thrive, from the top to the bottom. Washington State is by no means at the bottom of the Pac-12 competitively, but it’s clearly No. 12 in revenue generation. According to figures published by USA Today, the Cougars produced $71 million in revenue in the 2019 fiscal year — by far the lowest amount in the conference. Next on the list was Oregon State, at $82 million. Most schools were...
    Commentary on Pac-12 developments on and off the field (and court) … Rising: Pac-12 basketball Through a combination of flexibility, resolve and good fortune, the Pac-12 managed to play 96.7 percent of the total possible conference games this season (116 out of 120). What comes next is equally challenging: 10 games over four days at T-Mobile Arena, followed by a week of negative COVID tests in order for the NCAA tournament teams to be cleared for travel to Indianapolis. At least one coach, UCLA’s Mick Cronin, has expressed concern over leaving campus to spend time in Las Vegas. And that’s understandable: The Bruins have done a marvelous job, in both basketball and football, fending off COVID pauses. But for the collective, the decision to move forward with the conference tournament was the right call. It provides six teams — the teams on the wrong side of the NCAA bubble — with a chance to qualify for March Madness via the automatic berth. In fact, the optimal outcome for the Pac-12 this week would be 10 games played and one gigantic...
    The question of the day in the Pac-12 does not involve the likelihood of canceled games or the specifics of division tiebreakers or the merits of a substitute team playing for the championship. It’s about the conference jumping onto the national stage: Is there a realistic path for USC to reach the College Football Playoff? According to ESPN’s Football Power Index, the Trojans have a 50 percent chance to make the semifinals. According to all sound logic and common sense, the Trojans have a slightly-above-zero chance. They were No. 15 in the CFP rankings last week, behind one-loss teams, two-loss teams, Group of Five teams and half of the SEC (or so it seems). Even if every result broke right this weekend, we cannot imagine the Trojans (5-0) leaping into the top four. They haven’t been dominant enough. The sample size isn’t large enough. The Pac-12’s reputation isn’t strong enough. That said, we wouldn’t be surprised is USC leaps into the top 10 when the new CFP rankings are released later today. And if that’s the case, well, the Pac-12...
    A quick-hitting recap of the Week Six action in the Pac-12 … Theme of the Week I: Clarity and chaos The South was settled on the field: USC’s victory combined with Colorado’s loss to give the Trojans a one-game lead in the loss column, allowing the conference to avoid undefeated Colorado being left out of the championship game. Meanwhile, the North is a mess: Washington was unable to play Oregon and, as result, clinched the division title by virtue of having a better record (3-1) than both the Ducks and Stanford (3-2). And there’s no guarantee that the Huskies will be available this week, either, which means Oregon could advance to the title game out of the second-place position. Theme of the Week II: Cancellations Two more games were declared no contests for Week Six (Washington-Oregon and Cal-Washington State) and a third has already been called off for Week Seven (Cal-Arizona). That brings the season total to 12, with a net of 10 games lost. (Two new games were created: Cal-UCLA and Utah-Washington.) And, yes, there could be a few...
    With all the focus this week on Colorado’s predicament — both on the Hotline and elsewhere — it’s worth examining the second piece to the potential South chaos calculation. That piece wears Cardinal and Gold and actually resembled a playoff team last weekend. USC is in charge of the division, our pick to win the conference and the Pac-12’s only hope (albeit an ultra-slim one) to reach the College Football Playoff. But the Trojans must beat UCLA on Saturday evening and, for the purposes of the CFP, look impressive doing it. They need to dominate the Bruins the way they dominated Washington State in a 38-13 win. Except UCLA isn’t Washington State. In fact, UCLA isn’t UCLA — at least, not the UCLA we had come to expect under Chip Kelly. After two disappointing seasons, the Bruins are showing real progress. They’re above .500 for the first time in the Kelly era and are a handful of bungled plays against Colorado and Oregon from being 5-0. As far as the Hotline is concerned, UCLA’s advance can be traced to one...
    The Pac-12’s collective performance doesn’t track perfectly with the play of its quarterbacks, but there’s a strong correlation. This season, QB play has been uneven, uninspiring and un-Pac12. Seven teams began the season with first-year starters; three are already hurt. Meanwhile, the five returnees haven’t, for various reasons, reminded anyone of Justin Fields, Trevor Lawrence, Kyle Trask, Mac Jones or Zach Wilson. For elite quarterback play, look elsewhere. ASU’s Jayden Daniels hasn’t played since Week One because of a program-wide COVID shutdown. UCLA’s Dorian Thompson-Robinson has missed the last two games while in quarantine. Stanford’s Davis Mills was held out of the opener because of a testing error, then missed a week of practice before the second game. USC’s Kedon Slovis has been very good … in the final four minutes of two games. Cal’s Chase Garbers, without three quarantined starters on the offensive line, has been inconsistent. Add it up, and the position group is struggling. The Pac-12 has just one quarterback, Oregon sophomore Tyler Shough, in the top-25 nationally in passing efficiency — a stat that relies heavily...
    Reaction to Pac-12 developments on and off the field … 1. Playoff path narrows, slightly. Three days from the release of the first CFP rankings, the Pac-12 needed dominant performances from its ranked teams, No. 11 Oregon and No. 20 USC. It got far less than dominance from the Ducks, who struggled at home against an unranked opponent that committed four turnovers and was playing with a backup quarterback. Nonetheless, UCLA pushed the Ducks to the brink by controlling the line of scrimmage. That’s right: UCLA won the trenches, and it wasn’t really close. The Bruins rushed for 267 yards, held the vaunted Oregon running game to 2.6 yards per carry and pressured Tyler Shough throughout. Oregon, to its credit, converted the turnovers into 21 points — the difference in the game. But it failed the eye test, especially on defense. Put another way: We’re deeply skeptical that any member of the selection committee watched the game and concluded, ‘That’s one of the four or five best teams in the country.’ Yes, the Ducks have several weeks to strengthen their...
    The Pac-12 schedule isn’t stocked with marquee matchups this weekend. But for an audience of 13, there are two games of special significance. Oregon and USC are the conference’s best bets — perhaps its only bets — to contend for a College Football Playoff berth. With the first selection committee rankings coming next week, the Ducks and Trojans have one final chance to make a first impression in a year when first impressions are more important than ever. If the committee values data points and metrics, the Pac-12 is likely doomed. Its champion simply won’t have the same number of games played and quality wins as contenders from other conferences. But if the committee treats everyone equally, follows its eyes and disregards sample size, then an undefeated Pac-12 champion might have a path into the semifinals. Oregon and USC need to look playoff worthy, and they need to look playoff worthy this weekend — against UCLA and Utah, respectively. Once the initial rankings are released, upward movement could be limited because of game cancellations and the paucity of ranked opponents...
    The Pac-12 released its schedule for the 2020 college football season on Friday, and it features an aggressive start.  The season will begin Sept. 26, and the classic rivalry between UCLA and USC will be played on the first week of the season. The Pac-12 championship game will be Dec. 19.  MORE: SN’s top 40 college football players for 2020 The conference left a bye week for each team and the week of Dec. 12 will be left open in case schools have to make up games because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic in the United States.  The Pac-12 is the first Power 5 conference to release a full schedule with dates for the 2020 season. Here’s a look. 2020 Pac-12 Week-by-week schedule  Sept. 26  Arizona State at Arizona Cal at Oregon State Colorado at Oregon UCLA at USC Washington at Stanford Utah at Washington State Oct. 3 Arizona at Washington Stanford Arizona State Utah at Colorado Cal at USC UCLA at Oregon State Oregon at Washington State Oct. 10  Arizona State at Oregon (Oct. 9) Colorado at Arizona Washington at Cal Oregon State at Utah USC at Stanford UCLA at Washington State  Oct. 17  Utah at...
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