Tag Archives: California Golden Bears

Time is Ticking Away for the Golden Bears

As a kid, I would watch soap operas daily.  One of my all-time favorites was “The Days of Our Lives.” I know, I know. What’s a child doing watching soap operas? Well, I don’t have a legitimate answer for you. Moreover, I really don’t care what you think anyway. So, for those that are familiar with the popular daytime soap, the introductory line to the show went something like this, “Like sands through the hour glass, so are the days of our lives.”  Well, this notion is sadly similar to my beloved California Golden Bears. Fresh off a super-sized beat down from the #4 Washington Huskies, Cal is left picking itself off the turf at Memorial Stadium.

The night’s festivities couldn’t have begun any sweeter, Cal alum Marshawn “Beast Mode” Lynch whipped and swerved his way across Kabam Field in a golf cart as he did 10 years ago after an overtime win over these same Huskies. This time, Marshawn was accompanied by his mother for the first few whips about the field, but she soon got out and was replaced by none other than Bay Area Hip Hop legend, E-40. With the crowd in a frenzy, this was on the verge becoming something special. Could lightning strike twice, albeit 10 years apart? Let me put it to you this way, it was close for a few moments, literally, but in the end, the Golden Bear secondary was abused, torched, burnt, etc. in rout to a 66-27 drubbing. What a waste of a Beast Mode and E-40 sighting! Their mere presence alone should have garnered at least 50 points from the Bears in pure hype. Alas, all we were privileged to was just another dismal performance from the ever-suspect Cal secondary.

Cal (4-5, 2-4) is now down to its final three games of the season in hopes of winning at least two to gain bowl eligibility for the second consecutive year under head coach Sonny Dykes. Oh, and just in case you were wondering who those next three opponents are, let’s see. There’s #23 Washington State, The Big Game with Stanford, and UCLA. Luckily, the last two games are in front of the home crowd. At this juncture last year, Cal was 5-4 with only one more win to secure a bowl berth. Now Cal is faced with the un-enviable task of taking two wins from these three teams that have a combined record of 124-136 (Cal owns a 46-16 record over Washington State).

I swear, and I swear quite often and frequently, but why oh why must Cal’s bowl chances come with so little margin for error? Yeah, I get it. It’s clearly a sign of a mediocre team. But this is my mediocre team, dammit! I know I should be looking at this situation with the “glass half-full” approach, but why? This is ridiculous! When are we going to learn? Hell, I’m five seconds from reaching out to Nnamdi Asomugha to re-enroll and man the secondary again. Geesh! I don’t ask for too much. Or in Cal’s case, maybe I do.

Time is of the essence and if there ever was a time when Cal needed to play out of its mind (in a good way) and snatch at least two more victories, now is the time. The road isn’t going to get any easier and it would be a travesty to see the Golden Bears regress after they have made steady progress under Coach Dykes. Unless something miraculous occurs on defense in the next few weeks, we’ll be watching bowl season with Oski and friends at the local bar–and the clock will again be ticking on the Sonny Dykes regime.

Although I’m a loyal fan, I can’t escape the reality in which I live. Cal is not a good team overall. There are some bright spots and a lot of glaring deficiencies. These do not have overnight solutions. These are systemic issues that may take some time to correct. Unfortunately, it takes a change in staffing and/or culture to bring about desired results. Let me be clear, I’m not calling for Coach Dykes’ job. I am calling for a change in recruiting strategy. There’s plenty of talent offensively, but for Pete’s sake, can we please hang our hat on somebody on defense?

Football, unlike soap operas cannot be written and rewritten at the drop of a hat. For Cal to make the necessary changes, it will take time and patience. With the “win now or else,” mantra in full bloom among collegiate programs, dutiful program development under a coaching staff is a notion that has run out of sand.

Email David at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @VirgosAssasin.

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At .500, Cal is at a Crossroad

After four games last year, the California Golden Bears were sitting pretty at 4-0. Hopes were high. The necessary talent was there with an elite quarterback, swift, sticky-handed receivers, and four diverse, yet effective, running backs. Cal had all the offensive firepower to make some noise in the Pac-12.

Of course, their Achilles heel, a much-improved, yet not-quite-there defense, was exposed too often to make Cal a legitimate contender in the Pac-12. However, Cal was good enough to post its first winning record since 2011’s 7-6 mark. To boot, Cal reached and won a bowl game (a 55-36 win over Air Force Academy in the Armed Forces Bowl).

I mentioned all of that to say this: Cal is not undefeated after four games this year. It doesn’t have world-beaters on the offensive side of the ball as in years past. Yet, it has the rarest of opportunities to mask those two blemishes in the loss column this Saturday.

Currently, the Golden Bears are 2-2, with a notable win over previously 11th ranked Texas.

Not bad.

In their two losses, both coming in the waning moments of each contest, Cal had the opportunity to change its fate. Against #19 San Diego State, Cal quarterback Davis Webb had the Bears knocking on the door for what would have been the go-ahead score and win. Unfortunately, Webb threw a costly interception that sealed the deal.

Last week at Arizona State, costly turnovers and a returned onside kick foiled what should have been a decisive victory. In retrospect, any time you give up 31 points in a quarter, you deserve to lose, hands down! Great game, Sun Devils.

Now at .500, facing what will no-doubt be a very difficult stretch to close out the season, Cal is at the inevitable crossroads all .500 teams encounter.

Which way will it go?

Currently on a two-game skid with #18 Utah coming to Strawberry Canyon, Cal is in quite the predicament. Utah (4-0, 1-0) is a talented bunch with an impressive defense and an effective run game, all the tools necessary to slow down that Bear Raid offense and make this one a real grinder.

If there was ever a statement game of the season, this one against #18 Utah would be it. This could be the monumental upswing that they have been looking for. If the Bears can knock off another ranked opponent, they will clearly show that they can hang with the “big boys” and be in prime position to make a run at the Pac-12 title.

If Cal can pull off the upset this weekend, I believe the preseason consideration it received will be reinstated. Cal would have to be recognized as a quality program worthy of a national ranking.

All (and I do mean all) the teams in the Pac-12 are in a down year. There are no clear favorites and every game is ripe for the taking. It just depends on which team is willing to reach for it. I know some may argue #10 Washington is very much worthy of the ranking and void of criticism. After Friday’s game against # 7 Stanford, we’ll have a bit more meat to chew on in that regard.

As far as Stanford is concerned, it goes as Christian McCaffrey goes.

Until then, I stand by my words. Every team in the Pac-12 is ripe for the taking. And it just so happens that both teams are on Cal’s upcoming schedule. Foreshadowing much?

Of course, if Cal lays an egg this Saturday, all won’t be lost per se.  They would have to gather themselves and march on to the next opponent. A third consecutive loss definitely affects the psyche. It very well could lead to a spiraling and eventual bottoming out. The season will go up in flames.

It’s sad, because there was optimism in this year’s Golden Bears. In the end, it’s up to Coach Sonny Dykes to rally the troops regardless of this weekend’s outcome. If Cal takes another loss this Saturday, you can kiss all hopes of a Pac-12 title away. However, consecutive trips to a bowl game are not entirely out of the picture. But we’re trying to aim high here! Bowl games are secondary to a conference title. Hell, you can make a bowl game and get the brakes beat off you. Where’s the fun in that? If you capture a conference championship, that accomplishment can never be taken away. That’s forever. As Michael ‘Squints’ Palledorous from “The Sandlot” put it, it’s “foooooreevvvvvvvvver”

Looking at the entire college football landscape, there are improbable wins and losses every week. It really has come down to which team shows up on Friday or Saturday. For Cal, it showed up to each and every game thus far. Admittedly, they checked out a bit early on a couple games. Nonetheless, Bears have demonstrated that they are a competitive and resilient bunch.

It’s time Coach Dykes makes good on the extension he received this offseason and gave a little return on investment to his employers. If he’s able to pull off the improbable, they will sing his praises for seasons to come. If not, well, cue the familiar song of ineptitude that has been playing in the background for quite some time.

E-mail David at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @VirgosAssasin

Featured image courtesy of Eric Chan/ Flickr

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Questions Remain Despite Arizona State Beating California

To predict how an Arizona State football season will end up you might want to call a psychic into your house. The moment you think the team is good, they disappoint. When they actually fly under the radar they end up being a quality team. What do we have in Tempe?

What the Sun Devils are is still a mystery to me. Entering their game with the California Golden Bears, the Sun Devils were 3-0 and looking for more. That’s right, the Sun Devils had not been beaten yet.

Getting to 3-0 had not come easy for the Sun Devils, but by no means does this mean that the Devils are a lock for a post-season bowl game. This Sun Devil team is a “bend, but don’t break” type of team. With a legit quarterback in Davis Webb for California, the defense had its challenge right in front of it.

Defense wins games right? Right now, I would settle for a Sun Devil defense making a stop or two.

The Sun Devil defense had to make stops against California. Sonny Dykes has that Chip Kelly quality with running plays at the speed of light, but does not have Kelly’s flare. With that in mind, it was imperative that the Devils defense kept up with the California offense.

On California’s second possession of the night, it exposed the middle of the Sun Devil defense, which has been a problem. Davis Webb torched the defense and got the Bears up 7-0.

This game had the feel of the Sun Devil and Texas Tech game, but sometimes the feel of the game doesn’t happen for a while.

It wasn’t exactly like the Texas Tech game, but both teams tried to put the hurt on each other. California’s Davis Webb is a bona fide pro prospect with how he can throw the ball. I was immensely impressed with how he tossed it around the field. He had 234 yards of passing in the first half and his team was up 24-10.

Arizona State didn’t look interested in the first half and it showed. California seemed like it had control of the game, but looks can be deceiving.

It’s always amazing how the flow of a game can change with a couple of stops on defense, yet the game still up in the air. Stopping the air attack from the Golden Bears was the key to any success the Sun Devils would have on Saturday night.

By the end of the third quarter, the Sun Devils had fought their way back to within one possession.

Arizona State showed its critics that it had some fight, however it still had a hill to climb.

The fourth quarter is where the rubber hits the road in a close game. Unfortunately for the California Golden Bears, they were the ones who got run over.

With defensive stops, interceptions, and Manny Wilkins making some key passes, the Sun Devils turned a sluggish start into a Sun Devil monsoon at the end.

The Sun Devil defense does have holes in it, but it made the plays down the stretch. Don’t get me wrong, they still gave up 41 points, which something that has to be solved. However, they were a big part of this 51-41 win over California.

Say what you want about Arizona State. It is 4-0 heading into its games with the USC Trojans and then the UCLA Bruins. This game was a confidence boost for the Sun Devils. They have to figure out how to be more consistent on defense and not as sluggish to start games. They fix those two things and who knows what happens.

Well, the psychic might. Forks Up, Sun Devil fans.

Email Mike at [email protected] or follow Mike on Twitter @pigskinopinion

Image: Courtesy Mike Wilson

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China is a Bad Match for the Pac-12

The recent business pulled from North Carolina due to a transgender law on the books brought up a question about the Pac-12. If the social justice warriors are so upset about the law in North Carolina, what about the Pac-12 doing business with China?

People get behind things that fit their own personal narrative about what is right and wrong. However, when it comes to China people see business and money, not social justice.

If you follow world politics, you know that China is one of the biggest human rights violators. China is a communist country for those of you that conveniently forget that. They also provide a ton of business for the United States. Thus, the crux of the question with China.

The Pac-12 is no different from any other entity, it is looking to expand its brand in this new global economy. While I am all for the Pac-12 expanding its brand and making money,  doing it in China is a bad idea.

I have many questions about this expansion of brand.

What is the end game of these dealings in China? How much is the league spending on this Asian adventure? Do the human rights violations mean anything to anybody?

It is something that does confuse me.

Larry Scott calls this branding expansion a Global Initiative.

“It’s about international brand building, engagement and relationship development. Asia is globally significant to us,” Scott said.

Last year, when the Washington Huskies and the Texas Longhorns had a basketball game in China, the importance of China was clearly shown by university presidents.

David Pershing, the University of Utah President went with the Pac-12 contingent to China for that basketball game. His team wasn’t even involved in the game.

Why would Pershing come along? University presidents see a population that could possibly attend and spend money at their school. Once again, the bottom line is what they see.  They don’t see what the Chinese government does to its citizens.

I understand the attraction of China. It’s a market with a billion people, but it is a market that is suppressed by the government.

Doing business in China means doing business with the Chinese government. The same government that squashed a pro-democracy movement at Tiananmen Square in 1989. People stood in front of tanks, sacrificed their lives, and the lives of their families by taking a stand against their government.

One of the things that the Pac-12 prides itself on is being transparent in its business dealings. Well, excuse me if I don’t buy the transparency part when you crawl into bed with the Chinese.

The conference spent approximately $726,000 on these Global Initiatives in China. Shouldn’t this amount of money be put towards fighting human rights violations in China?

If you want a true Global Initiative, that would be a good one to start for the Pac-12.

I think the conference presidents would benefit more from that with their students, instead of spending that money on athletics.

The Pac-12 Conference should be about what is good for the whole, not just itself. By telling China thanks, but no thanks, you tell other businesses that human rights are more important. Money takes a back seat to what benefits society.

While we throw our monetary condemnation on North Carolina for having a ridiculous law, we need to have the same reaction when we go over to China to do business. If Chinese officials want the business of the Pac-12, they need to show that they are serious about being fair to their own citizens.

However, that won’t happen. Money is what college athletics is about and that will not change anytime soon.

The Chinese will continue to do what they do and the Pac-12 will continue to turn a blind eye to human rights in China.

 

E-mail Mike Wilson at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @pigskinopinion.

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Pac-12 Teams Have Something to Prove in Week Two

The Pac-12 Conference is not expected to make the playoff for the second straight year and after the performance of some of its teams last weekend that could be an easy assertion to make. Which teams need to prove something going into week two?

Arizona State

In reality, the Sun Devils were not going to contend for a division crown this year. What Arizona State had to show to its fans was that they were ready to play right out of the gate, especially with lower division teams. First up was Northern Arizona University.

The ability to put a lower-tier team down quickly is still not there. Well into the third quarter this game was a one possession game. Really ASU? This contest should have been over by halftime at the latest, but the Sun Devils let the Lumberjacks hang around too long. The Devils need to get out of the shoots quickly and not take their time getting warmed up to their opponent.

I know people will say that, with all the new coaches and players, it takes time. That is hogwash.  That’s what the spring and summer camps are for. Get it together Sun Devils.

If the Sun Devils play this slow against Texas Tech, they will lose easily.

California

California had to start their season in Australia against Hawaii. That is asking a lot of any team, but getting the amount of rest that they have got after that game is the bonus side of that equation.

California needs to prove that their offense with new quarterback Davis Webb should be taken seriously because it appeared to struggle at times with Hawaii. Davis did find some rhythm during the Hawaii game, but he needs to show a greater ability to read defenses.

Against San Diego State this weekend, the Bears will have to show a great command on the offensive side of the ball. Webb has to clean up his play on deep balls and show the fans that they can trust him to win ballgames.

The bigger question will be if the defense line can muster any kind of rush at the quarterback. If they can’t get at the opposing quarterback, it’s going to expose the secondary again.

With all the high-powered offenses in the Pac-12, the Golden Bears are going to have to stop somebody, otherwise they will be battling for last place.

USC

What the hell do we do with the USC Trojans? All this hype, all those five star athletes, and all these people thinking that the Trojans are finally back. How did all that work out in the first week?

You saw what happened.

USC needs a dose of reality brought to the program, quickly. They are not as good as everybody makes them out to be. Every single time we think this is the year the Trojans make some noise, they fall flat on their backsides.

The Trojans have the most to prove this week because they have the crazy expectations from everybody.

Is Clay Helton the guy?

He’s 0-3 as the official head coach of the Trojans, not exactly a record that endears himself to the USC fans.

With the Utah State Aggies coming into the L.A. Coliseum the Trojans better have their hard hats on because the Aggies are not a team you want to take lightly. They are 1-0 and looking for more. Utah State has nothing to lose and the Trojans have everything to lose.

Tempers flared up during this week at practice and that causes me to raise more red flags with this program. When you have players fighting each other it usually doesn’t bode well for the following game, or even for the rest of the season.

Washington State

The Cougars came out and laid another opening game egg. For all the talk that Washington State has got over the summer, they’re still showing us they may not be ready for primetime.

Last year, the Cougars did the same thing by losing to Portland State at home, but managed to turn their season around. There is a difference between last year and this year, to me.

Washington State is not sneaking up on anybody this year like they may have done in 2015. There is a bit of a target on their back and they have raised expectations due to their success last year.

Head coach Mike Leach was frustrated with the defense.

“We couldn’t play any dang’gum defense last week,” Leach said in the weekly conference call with the media.

The other issue I saw was with leadership from the quarterback, Luke Falk.

Luke Falk has to show that he can take that next step in getting his team to win games that they should. Falk puts up video game numbers, but to be a great quarterback, leading your team to wins is what it is all about. He needs to show he can put a team on his back and win the game. He didn’t do that in week one.

Week two is against the Boise State Broncos on the road. Boise State is a quality team and playing on the smurf turf has brought many teams to their knees. The Cougars certainly have their work cut out for them this weekend.

If the Cougars can’t get this win the whole season could be a disaster for them. Mike Leach bought some time with the winning season last year, but reverting back to a mediocre team will make his seat hot.

E-mail Mike at mike {dot} wilson {at} campuspressbox {dot} com or follow him on Twitter @pigskinopinion

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Clemson’s Deshaun Watson is a Dual-Threat Quarterback Even if He Won’t Acknowledge It

Deshaun Watson is a premier dual-threat quarterback as he proved a year ago when he led the Clemson to an appearance in the 2015 national championship game. Yes, I said dual-threat quarterback, because when a player passes for 4,109 yards and runs for another 1,105, as Watson did in 2015, you’re a dual-threat in my opinion. Watson was recruited, as a multi-faceted player and he continues to be equally effective in the air as he is on the ground.

Did you hear that Mr. Watson? You’re a dual-threat quarterback. Embrace it young fella!

Well, he not only isn’t embracing it, he has made the claim that labeling him as a dual-threat quarterback is racist. Yes, calling him a dual-threat quarterback is a “code word.”

No. Calling a black quarterback who not only threw for over 4,000 yards but also ran for over 1,000 yards a dual-threat quarterback is simply acknowledging the skills that a player of Watson’s caliber brings to the field. Even though Watson doesn’t care to acknowledge his rushing statistics, those yards per carry are very much real.

In the same Bleacher Report article, Watson rattled off his passing statistics while ignoring his rushing ability:

Hayes: You’ve always been a thrower, all the way back before your high school days, right?

Watson: I threw for more than 13,000 yards and 155 touchdowns at Gainesville High School and set the Georgia state record for total offense and total touchdowns by the end of my junior season. We won our first state title in more than 100 years. Every school recruited me to throw the football, not run it. I threw for more than 4,000 yards [and 35 touchdowns] last year and was more accurate on throws of more than 30 yards than anyone [in college football—a stat Clemson attributes to an ESPN broadcast but that B/R couldn’t verify]. You don’t get all of that by running the ball first and throwing it second.

Then everyone said, ‘Well, let’s see how he does against the Alabama defense‘—the defense everyone thought was the best. I think my teammates and I proved we can throw the ball.

Yes, Watson answered the question and yes, all of those numbers are accurate, but they don’t prove that Watson is a quarterback with a pass first mentality.

And in this day and age of collegiate football, most, but not all, quarterbacks at least flirt with being dual-threat quarterbacks. That’s not racism. That’s just the nature of the game.

Very few teams run a stereotypical pro-style offense and the ones that do have quarterbacks who rarely, if ever, run. If Watson wants to see what the statistics of a pocket-passer look like, he needs to look no further than California quarterback Jared Goff. Please, nobody should consider pocket-passer to be a “code word” for anything. Just let Goff’s 2015 statistics speak for themselves.

Like Watson, Goff threw for over 4,000 yards, but he only ran the ball 56 times for -8 yards. While it’s true that Goff is just one example, he is still an example who illustrates my point. A quarterback who is not an effective mix of run/pass has statistics that resemble Goff’s. They don’t have statistics that resemble Watson’s.

Here’s my challenge to Watson for the 2016 season – He should stay in the pocket and not use his legs. Pretty simple since he’s not a dual-threat quarterback. Right? Stay in that pocket as it collapses and either take the sack or throw the ball away. I mean, that’s what a pocket-passer would do and that’s what Watson is suggesting he is.

Look, calling a quarterback a dual-threat quarterback isn’t veiled racism just as calling a quarterback a pocket-passer isn’t veiled racism. Those “code words” are merely ways of describing how a quarterback plays. Those terms describe the actions of the quarterback on the field.

Watson needs to play his game and playing his game means embracing the attributes of his game. Racism isn’t part of this conversation.

E-mail Seth at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @SethMerenbloom

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Five Teams with Zero Chance of Winning the Conference Title in 2016

It’s the second half of August which means we’re mere weeks away from the start of college football. While everyone is going to tell you which teams will make the playoff or win the conference championship, I’m here to tell you about five teams that have absolutely no chance to win a conference championship this season. Be angry.

ACC

There are two really good teams in the ACC and then there’s every other team. Unfortunately for all of us,  Clemson and Florida State are also in the same division. In 2016, I think Florida State has the most talent on both sides of the ball, but at this very moment, I think Clemson’s Dabo Swinney is a better coach than Jimbo Fisher. And, I think that’s where the difference lies. Here’s where all this gets interesting: I believe after Clemson beats Auburn in Week 1 (Hi Bird), the Tigers will run the table, and win the Atlantic division en route to beating whichever team loses the least amount of games in the Coastal Divison. Here’s where the rubber meets the road: I also believe that when these two teams meet Halloween weekend at Doak Campbell, I think Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson will lead the Tigers to its first win in Tallahassee since 2006.  There will be rain, wind, and shenanigans. Get ready.

Big 12

This one is a bit tougher to pick, because, honestly no one knows how good Baylor will be 1. I would be absolutely out of my mind to think Oklahoma would have no chance to win the Big 12 in 2016, but ‘No Game’ Bob Stoops, as I call him, hasn’t had two awesome seasons back-to-back in well…ever. BUT, and a Baby Got Back type of BUT(T), I will take the Sooners in 2016 to win the Big 12 because not only will they blow the doors off Oklahoma State, they will find a way to beat Ohio State in Week 3 and roll to their first 12-win season since 2010. So the question becomes which team has zero chance to win the Big 12, and we’re not gonna step on Iowa State or Kansas more than we need to, but it’s TCU. TCU with Gary Patterson (who I like a lot, but needs to eat less brisket) has absolutely no chance despite how much the media is pumping their chances. Baylor, in its current state of disarray, has a better chance than the Horned Frogs. The purple and white will lose to following teams this season: Arkansas, Oklahoma, Baylor and Texas. Yes, the Frogs will be 2-2 in against the state of Texas and will be no closer to the winning the Big 12 this year as they have been in the past five years*. Where the hell is TCU anyway? Wherever that is, stay there and watch from the middle of the pack. Send the brisket! Calm the hell down. I know exactly where TCU is, but no one who doesn’t watch college football knows that it’s in Fort Worth.

Big Ten

Is Ohio State the overwhelming favorite to win the Big Ten in 2016? No. Are the Buckeyes the most experienced team in either division? Yes. Michigan State is the closest in experience and that brings us to the team that has absolutely zero chance of winning the Big Ten in 2016: Michigan. Michigan doesn’t win the East and the conference because of, yep, the Harbaugh Effect. This is not Harbaugh’s year. I do expect Michigan to finally beat Michigan State for the first time since 2012 and the first time in East Lansing since 2007 2. It all ends for Michigan on November 12 when the Hawkeyes of Iowa slip one past the goalie and beat the Champions of the West in Iowa City. Oh, and Michigan isn’t beating Ohio State, but keep dreamin’ that dream. I’m one of the few non-Ohio State fans that live in Ohio and even I can’t get behind Michigan beating Ohio State. That first victory since 2011 needs to happen in Columbus, not the whore known as Ann Arbor.

Pac-12

This is also very tough to pick because I don’t know which team is the best in the Pac-12. Here’s what I will tell you, no Pac-12 team will make the playoff because the Pac-12 is not good this year. The season will begin and one team (you know which one) will start strong by beating the Little Sisters of the Poor, then BOOM, they’ll lose on a Thursday night like all overhyped Pac-12 teams do. This is the phenomenon known as Pac-12 Suicide. That’s right, USC will lose to Cal on Thursday, October 27 sending its season into the familiar nosedive we’ve become used to over the past half-decade. No, USC will not beat Alabama (#DontBeStupid) but they will beat Stanford, survive Arizona in Tucson and will lose to UCLA and Notre Dame. Mathematically, they will probably still have a chance to win the division but mentally the Men of Try will not beat the Pac-12 North representative, thus losing the Pac-12. Look, this is totally a stretch, but UCLA and Cal are moving forward while USC lives on hype. Prove me wrong, please.

SEC

This is the easiest pick of them all. The SEC will continue to be won by a team from the West until Nick Saban retires. I’m not suggesting Alabama will play or win the SEC Championship Game, but he’ll single-handedly make every other team in the division get better. That means there can only be one team with zero chance to win the SEC in 2016: Tennessee. I’m a closet Tennessee fan. I enjoy Neyland Stadium. I enjoy listening to the Pride of Southland Band perform Rocky Top 50 times before kickoff, but no, Tennessee is not winning the East and the Vols will not be appearing Atlanta. I’m not on the Josh Dobbs hate train like Seth. I believe the biggest hindrance to the Big Orange’s success in 2016 is Butch Jones. Tennessee will lose to BOTH Florida (no surprise here) and Georgia because Butch Jones does something incredibly stupid. And since the games are back-to-back (Sep 24 and Oct 1), before Alabama rolls the Volunteers in Knoxville on October 15, Butch Jones will officially be at the top of college football’s chopping block. Tennessee would owe Jones $2.5 million every year through 2020 if fired without cause, and Jones can save some face by beating Alabama, but there’s no chance in hell they beat Florida AND Georgia in 2016. If they do, it would be the Vols’ first championship game appearance since 2007. It last won the championship game in 1998.

There it is, five times that have zero chance to win a conference title in 2016. If you’re a smart college football fan, I’ve played Captain Obvious for the almost 1200 words, but for everyone else, don’t stop believin’.

*Update: Reader Sam e-mailed to remind me (I honestly forgot and so did my editor) that TCU split the Big 12 with Baylor in 2014. I personally don’t consider a split as winning, but I’m including the note because Sam took the time to write a respectful note.

E-Mail Damien at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @damienbowman.

  1. They’re playing football despite all the nonsense that’s been going on, so let’s stick to the prize right now – football.

  2. Maybe Brady Hoke was as bad as they said he was? Nah.

Pac-12 Football Media Days

A media day can be an interesting thing to attend or it can digress into a couple days of coach and player speak. Coaches know what they want the media to know and the players have been told what to focus on in their interviews. This was certainly the case here in Hollywood, California for the Pac-12 Football Media Days.

State of the Conference

The Pac-12 Media Days in Hollywood began with a “state of the conference” speech from Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott. Will Scott get hammered on the conference’s television contract, Directv, or nine-game schedule?

Not really.

Larry Scott discussed, with pride, the amount of athletes going to the Rio Olympics from the conference. He also was boastful about the new venture with Twitter which will expand their streaming capabilities and give fans of the Pac-12 something new to use when looking for highlights of their favorite Pac-12 team. There will also be more technology streaming with Facebook Live and putting all 12 conference teams on a conference YouTube channel. It’s obvious that they are taking to technology advances and trying to use it to their advantage to bring in more Pac-12 fans.

With Silicon Valley being physically in the lay of the conference, the Pac-12 should be doing what it is doing with technology. It’s an absolute no-brainer for the conference and for their fans.

Once Larry Scott was finished it was onto the run of coaches for this first day of Pac-12 Football Media Days.

Arizona Wildcats

Rich Rodriguez was in the leadoff position and was still in vacation mode when he took the microphone.

“I’d rather still be on vacation for another week than be here. Let’s get this rolling,” Rodriguez quipped.

One of the focuses for Arizona is to keep quarterback Anu Solomon healthy and to get more consistency from him. When asked, Rich Rodriguez agreed.

“Anu is getting better but we need more consistency from him and we are also going to put more responsibility on him this season,” Rodriquez stated.

California Golden Bears

Next up was California head coach Sonny Dykes.

Dykes seemed most pleased with his players raising their grades on the APR of the team than anything. Which, in and of itself, is a great thing to hear from a major college football coach these days.

Dykes mentioned that they have to overcome losing the talented Jared Goff. He mentioned that quarterback position is still open and will continue to be through the first week or two of camp. His staff will make a decision on the position around then.

It might have been kind of tough for Sonny Dykes to follow a gregarious guy in Rich Rodriguez and be the guy before Clayton Helton of USC.

USC Trojans

Clay Helton took to the microphone and it seemed like all of the media was upon him. It was like sharks circling their prey.

One thing you get real quick about Helton is that when you listen to him speak, you get a sense that he wants to be on the field playing. I certainly would want to be a young player at USC playing for him.

Being a part of USC means you have to come to work every day because of the amount of talent that is seeping from the program.

“You come to USC to compete. We play in a playoff system world. You’re building your resume when you come to USC.” Helton said.

When asked about the pressures of being at USC, he simply said he will gladly take it.

“If you don’t want the pressure, don’t take the job,” Helton told the hordes of reporters surrounding him.

Like many other conference schools, he is dealing with a quarterback issue between Max Browne and Sam Darnold. According to Helton, it’s a very open competition right now and won’t be decided until the last couple weeks of fall camp.

Oregon Ducks

“Win the day” is the saying at Oregon, but can they win the conference? Can they win their division? Many people believe its Stanford’s conference this year, yet head coach Mark Helfrich doesn’t seem to care.

“We have to worry about watching enough film to have a good practice and game. We don’t worry about rankings. It’s not our focus,” Helfrich explained.

The Ducks have a quarterback battle going on as well. Helfrich still calls it an open competition, however, I still think it’ll be Dakota Prukop winning the starting position.

Washington State Cougars

Mike Leach is probably the most entertaining coach of this day. Usually the coach has some opening remarks for the assembled media, but not Leach.

“If you know me at all, you know I don’t do opening remarks. Let’s get this thing rolling,” Leach said.

He is just a guy who speaks his mind, whether or not the media or fans like it. He doesn’t care.

Leach has quarterback Luke Falk coming back and when asked about what he needs to see out of Falk this year, the answer was simple.

“Consistency. He’s not a guy that has a glaring weakness anywhere, but consistency is needed,” Leach said.

The Cougars will be challenging everybody this year and could even be considered a dark horse in the division. With a talented quarterback and guys at the skill positions who are threats, Leach could lead this team to something special.

Utah Utes

Kyle Whittingham of Utah was the last to appear on the media stage. He lost Travis Wilson and Devontae Booker to graduation and the NFL, so those positions are a concern.

“We got to get the quarterback position question resolved. It’ll be an open competition entering fall camp,” Whittingham explained.

Whittingham likes how his team has gradually got better every year they have been in the Pac-12 and he doesn’t expect that to change.

I don’t expect that to change either. If ever there was guy to weather a big change in his football program, it is certainly Kyle Whittingham.

Image: Google

The Mountain West’s Best Football Games of 2016

The Mountain West has taken quite the fall from grace. Just ten years ago things looked great, as it was the dominant non-BCS conference. With TCU and Boise State challenging for BCS title appearances, and Utah and BYU very solid programs as well, there were years the MWC was better than some BCS conferences.

Now, Boise State is the only of those four teams still around, and even the Broncos have fallen back to the pack with former coach Chris Petersen now at Washington. It has left a less interesting conference, albeit one that is much more competitive. San Diego State ran away with it in 2015. Will that change this fall? Here are the ten games that will shape the Mountain West in 2016.

10. Fresno State @ Nebraska (Saturday, September 3)

Fresno State wasn’t very good last year, but Nebraska hasn’t exactly been dominating since joining the Big Ten, either. It’s a long shot, but the Bulldogs would earn the Mountain West a huge amount of respect if they can knock off the Cornhuskers in Lincoln on the season’s opening weekend.

9. Utah State @ Boise State (Saturday, October 1)

The unfortunate Chuckie Keeton era is over at Utah State, but replacing him won’t be the Aggies biggest issue. Kent Myers played a good chunk of the season last year and finished with 16 touchdowns to just 3 interceptions. He’ll lead an offense with eight starters returning against Boise State in a game between two teams competing for a conference title bid.

8. Nevada @ San Jose State (Saturday, October 15)

These were the only two teams besides San Diego State to even finish .500 in their division last year. The winner of this one will later play the Aztecs with a spot in the conference championship game likely on the line.

7. San Diego State @ Northern Illinois (Saturday, September 17)

Northern Illinois has been the class of the MAC recently, and San Diego State rolled through the Mountain West last year. It may not mean much to most of the country, but this game is for bragging rights over the strength of Group of Five conferences.

6. Boise State @ Oregon State (Saturday, September 24)

Boise State, playing its second consecutive Pac-12 team, gets a bye before this one. The Broncos might be favored and will look for a win to provide the team some momentum and confidence heading into its conference slate.

5. California @ San Diego State (Saturday, September 10)

This is one of the bigger non-conference games among Mountain West teams. The Aztecs will bring in the nation’s second-longest winning streak and look to avenge last year’s 35-7 loss to Cal. It will be much easier with departed Cal quarterback Jared Goff playing on Sundays.

4. Washington State @ Boise State (Saturday, September 10)

Boise State hasn’t been the same team in the past few years that it was when Chris Petersen had them rolling, but the Broncos should improve from their four losses a year ago under third-year coach Bryan Harsin. The Broncos knocked off the Washington Huskies last year and will look to do the same against the Huskies’ rival.

3. San Diego State @ Fresno State (Saturday, October 15)

This in-state battle for San Diego State is against one of the few teams to play them close in 2015. The Bulldogs played a close-ish 21-7 game against the Aztecs and now get them at home. With SDSU’s defense not as dominant as a year ago, Fresno could pull the upset.

2. Nevada @ Hawaii (Saturday, October 1)

Hawaii was pretty dreadful last year and didn’t notch a conference win. They return 17 starters this year though so that streak should end at some point. Will it here? If a Nevada team looking to compete for a conference title game spot overlooks the Warriors, they could be in for a long trip back from the islands.

1. San Diego State @ Nevada (Saturday, November 12)

San Diego State dominated the Mountain West last year, allowing just 90 points in eight conference games. Nevada should have a good offense, but its defense will have to improve after giving up 320 yards rushing to the Aztecs in this match-up last year.

E-mail Jason at or follow him on Twitter @JLindy87

Featured image courtesy Nathan Rupert

Book It!

This will probably be the last thing I write for Campus Pressbox until July. July will also be a very light month as far as writing here is concerned. August is when the heavy hitting begins again. We have slowed the pace down, on our sports site, but August will be here before we know it, and things will then begin to rock. SEC Media Days will be behind us and fall camp will be before us. Pace yourselves, folks. It’s coming!

So what do we do with ourselves until then?

Read. No, not on social media. Get actual books. Hold them in your hand. Feel them. Smell them. Read them. Here are thirteen recommendations, from a variety of types, and in no particular order. All of the books listed below have had a big impact on me.

For fun, I’ll tie a college football team to each title so we can keep the sports theme going for all you fans. Some titles will beg for me to depart from the SEC. See if you can decipher the connections when it’s not obvious.

Fear and Loathing: On The Campaign Trail ’72 – Hunter S. Thompson. The Gonzo journalist is my favorite and this might very well be my top choice of his. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is a great, iconic work of American literature, and it gets all the press. But The Good Doctor’s take on the Nixon-McGovern presidential race is also essential reading, in my humble opinion. Whittier College.

The Hobbit – J.R.R. Tolkien. Another marvelous novel that resides, somewhat, in the shadow of Tolkien’s opus, the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. I was assigned The Hobbit as my first book to read for freshman English 101 at Auburn. It was a game-changer which then led, of course, to my reading of the trilogy. Alabama. Hint, their coach.

Brother to a Dragonfly – Will D. Campbell. Campbell is my hero, and his life and work had as much, or possibly more, influence on my life than anyone else. This is his masterpiece. We old renegade Baptist preachers have to stick together. Georgia Tech.

The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test – Tom Wolfe. From The New York Times’ Eliot Fremont-Smith, “The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test is not simply the best book on the hippies, it is the essential book… the pushing, ballooning heart of the matter… Vibrating dazzle.” We old hippies have to stick together. Sorry that I have to step out of the SEC, but this one just  for the University of California at Berkeley.

On The Road – Jack Kerouac. Not stepping far from the previous Tom Wolfe recommendation. Another essential American novel. Brilliant, lucid, disturbed, wild, cavorting, mesmerizing. We old road warriors have to stick together. Mississippi State.

Ball Four – Jim Bouton. Groundbreaking, rule-breaking, eye-opening, code-of-honor shattering book about life inside the New York Yankees organization back in the 60’s. Bouton pitched for the Bronx Bombers back then. Sparky Lyle’s, The Bronx Zoo, would follow in that tradition. Fordham University.

Mockingbird’s Song, Hettie Keller’s 10 Maxims For Peace And Happiness – Arnold Heflin. Arnold is a friend of mine and an Auburn graduate. He wrote this book, a platonic love story, based on a true story, his story. It will make you laugh and it will make you cry and it might just change your life. It should be made into a movie. Beautiful. Auburn.

They Came To Nashville – Marshall Chapman. Another friend of mine. Required reading if you’re a fan of country music. Marshall interviewed Kris Kristofferson, Emmylou Harris, Rodney Crowell, and Willie Nelson, along with eleven other Nashville singer-songwriters, and she shares their stories in this book that you will not be able to put down. Vanderbilt. Duh!

Skinny-dipping, Wildcat Wine, Bone Valley, and Sweetheart Deal – Claire Matturo. Claire and I studied journalism together at Troy State University, now known as Troy University. We also lived in the same trailer park for a brief period, and a good time was had by all. I am not a huge fan of fiction but this series, featuring protagonist/lawyer Lilly Belle Rose Cleary, is great fun. Smart, sharp-witted and sometimes spine-tingling crime fiction with great characters. Anybody see Kentucky in there?

A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole. “A corker, an epic comedy, a rumbling, roaring, avalanche of a book.” The Washington Post. “A masterwork… the novel astonishes with its inventiveness… it is nothing less than grand comic fugue.” The New York Times Book Review. Ole Miss.

So, take a break from social media. Try to put behind you, if only for a brief period, the madness that seeks to engulf us each and every day. Relax and immerse yourself in some entertaining, inspiring, and excellent reading this summer. And let me hear from you. Tell me what you thought about these great literary works.

Peace.

But don’t forget, only 78 days remain until South Carolina and Vanderbilt kick it off. 😉