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College Hotline - Pac-12 football: The 9-game league schedule, playoff hopes, flimsy...

Discussion in 'CU Buffs Newsroom' started by RSSBot, Nov 16, 2015.

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    RSSBot News Junkie

    Jul 8, 2005
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    (AP Photo)

    Before we examine a wild weekend in Pac-12 football, a quick note: Fox has one 6-day selection window available and could very well use it for the games of Nov. 28. My guess: We’ll get a few kickoff times today, but the key games won’t be announced until Saturday night …

    Theme of the Week I: Cannibalism.

    Both division leaders and all three ranked teams tumbled, severely undermining the conference’s prospects for a playoff berth and, quite naturally, bringing the merits of a nine-game league schedule into focus.

    My advice: Don’t get your hopes up.

    Dropping to eight game isn’t happening because the league’s athletic directors don’t want it: The time and cost involved in finding a fourth non-conference opponent would be significant, as would be the loss in gate revenue from swapping a conference date for an FCS/lower FBS opponent. SEC schools can schedule Have Mercy State because they’ll pack the stadium regardless. That’s not the case in the Pac-12. It’s a demand and supply issue.

    Dropping to eight isn’t happening because the TV partners (ESPN and Fox) don’t want it. Let’s see: Oregon against UCLA, or Oregon against Idaho? Hmmmm. Lesser content would result in lower paychecks, and when was the last time a major conference agreed to take less for anything.

    It’s not happening because the Pac-12 Networks — Larry Scott’s baby — don’t want it. Think they’re having trouble with carriage deals now? Think the football programming is second rate? (All the good game are on ESPN and Fox.) Just wait until they try to negotiate with distributors with fewer league games.

    It’s not happening because there is no need: The Big 12 already plays nine league game, and the Big Ten will start playing nine next season. Three of the Power 5 will have nine, with the only holdout of consequence being the SEC. (The ACC has zero bearing on the Pac-12.)

    Yes, there is a chance — a pretty darn good chance — that the Pac-12 will get left out of the playoff this season. But it’s going to happen to at least one P5 conference every year, and Scott is fully prepared for that fate to befall his league.

    Now, if you’d be so kind, I’d refer you to Scott’s comments on the topic from last December:

    “I don’t think there will be a lot of tolerance for sour grapes. We all went into it — everyone can do the math. Four slots and five big conferences, and beyond the five big conferences there are other strong teams. So any belly aching about not getting in, I don’t think people are going to react to that. We went into it expecting it to be controversial, expecting at least one conference to be on the outside looking in.”

    Theme of the Week II: Playoff positioning.

    I had the gall to suggest on Twitter that Stanford still has a chance, albeit slim, to reach the semifinals. (You can imagine the hysterical reaction that followed: A two-loss Pac-12 team?!?!? In the playoff?!?!)

    The Cardinal’s prospects hinge, of course, on winning out, in which case it would be a 12-2 Power 5 champion with a stretch-run victory over top-5 Notre Dame in its pocket.

    A two-loss league champ is going to make the CFP at some point. And it seems to me that the odds improve when that two-loss league champ has just beaten the beloved former school of the most powerful voice on the selection committee.

    Wisconsin AD Barry Alvarez coached at Notre Dame under Lou Holtz. When he’s not bleeding Badger red, he’s gushing Notre Dame green (or is it gold? or black?).

    If Stanford handles the Irish and then wins the Pac-12 title a week later, trust me: It will have Alvarez’s attention. And for that reason, it will be in play for the semis.

    Also keep in mind: The committee doesn’t seem to care much for the Big 12. It doesn’t seem to like the style of play; it doesn’t like the back-loaded schedule; and it doesn’t like the lack of a title game.

    If it comes down to a two-loss Pac-12 champ against a one-loss Big 12 champ, you’d have to like the Pac-12’s chances — to a much greater extent if it’s Stanford, because of the Notre Dame win, than Utah, which won’t have the equivalent late-season blockbuster victory.

    Theme of the Week III: Time for concern, officially.

    Either in this space or on Twitter, I attempt to avoid partaking in the time-honored weekly ritual of bashing Pac-12 officials. The number of egregious mistakes seems to have decreased this decade over last.

    And lest we forget: The officials get far more right than wrong, and there are major mistakes in every conference.

    But it sure seems like there has been an uptick in bad calls in the Pac-12 over the past three or four weeks. Maybe that’s because there are so many close games, because so many teams have a chance to win each week that a greater percentage of calls matter to the outcome … I can’t pinpoint the reason and don’t have data to support my gut.

    But lately, from what I’ve seen — and I’ve seen a lot of games — the decisions on the field and in the booth have been particularly troubling.

    Team of the Week: Washington State.

    Sorry, Oregon. But the Cougars earned the kudos with their come-from-behind victory at UCLA, which adds to a collection that includes a W in Eugene.

    The Cougars have seven wins for the first time since 2003,and Mike Leach is on his way to a well-deserved Pac-12 COY award.

    What strikes me most about WSU isn’t the quarterback play or the array of receivers; it’s the speed and toughness on defense.

    Game of the Week I: Oregon 38, Stanford 36.

    The league’s dominant teams this decade engaged in a down-to-the-wire duel that had major consequences for the playoff chase.

    (And if the Cardinal had converted the two-point pass and won in overtime, there would have been some serious backlash directed at the officials. The PI call on the Ducks in the final seconds was weak, weak sauce.)

    This was a case of two things being equally true: Stanford lost the game (mistakes), and Oregon won the game (big plays, red zone defense).

    Game of the Week II: Arizona 37, Utah 30.

    The Cats figured to rise to the occasion at home after back-to-back road losses that included an inspired showing in the Coliseum.

    And the Utes figured to lose one down the stretch — they just don’t have quiet enough playmakers to take charge of the South.

    Now the pressure’s on Utah to avoid losing a second game down the stretch.

    Game of the Week III: Washington State 31, UCLA 27.

    Two touchdowns in the final 69 seconds and the game winner with three ticks on the clock.

    It seems the Cougars felt dissed beforehand, and the Bruins felt p- … err, disappointed when it ended. The Jim Mora era in a nutshell?

    Player of the Week (Vernon Adams division): Vernon Adams.

    The Oregon quarterback continues to settle in following his return from a broken finger. All he did Saturday against one of the top defenses in the conference was post a passer rating of 281.8.

    Player of the Week (non-Vernon Adams division): Gabe Marks.

    The WSU receiver made two huge plays on the game-winning drive, including the 21-yard touchdown with three seconds left.

    Player of the Week (Oregon State opponent division): Jared Goff.

    If the Cal quarterback had thrown for 453 yards and six touchdowns against any other team, he’d warrant consideration for unequivocal POW status.

    Fast out of the gate: Arizona.

    Scored 17 points in the first 13+ minutes to get the Utes on their heels.

    Almost too late: USC.

    Futzed around in the first half, trailed CU 17-6 at the break, then turned it on and, eventually, held on.

    Bend-like-a-yoga-instructor-but-don’t-break: Oregon.

    The Ducks allowed 506 yards but held Stanford to three touchdowns in six trips into the red zone.

    Is it possible that Don Pellum’s job shouldn’t be in jeopardy?

    Strong finish: Arizona State.

    Outscored Washington 24-0 in the second half.

    Unhappy ending: Utah.

    Scored a touchdown on its first drive of the second half, then managed just two field goals on its final seven possessions against the usually-hapless Arizona defense.

    In again: Arizona.

    The Wildcats qualified for the postseason for the fourth consecutive year under RichRod. If only there were a bowl near campus that would want them.

    Welcome back: Cal.

    The Bears qualified for the postseason for the first time in four years.

    Dream/nightmare scenario: Washington.

    The Huskies (4-6) were hardly viewed as a bowl lock before the season. But with Oregon State next, they should be sitting on five wins when they take the field for a do-or-die Apple Cup.

    Wait ’til next year: Colorado.

    The Buffs were officially eliminated with the loss to USC, but expect them to make the postseason in ’16. The two-deep is loaded with sophomores and juniors.

    (Two losses to the LA schools by a combined seven points = progress.)

    Games of this week: UCLA at Utah, USC at Oregon and Cal at Stanford.

    If form holds, form has zero chance to hold. Something funny is bound to happen.


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