Tag Archives: David Shaw

Washington Huskies Look for the Upset Against the Stanford Cardinal

As college football fans turn the corner into October, we start getting into match-ups that will determine division titles. The Washington Huskies and the Stanford Cardinal will battle each other on Friday night to gain an advantage in the Pac-12 North division.

The Washington Huskies are the team on the rise. It’s been a long time since the Dawgs have been even remotely relevant. Washington will have the opportunity to make a statement against the team that is the current big dog in the conference.

The Huskies have a lot going for them. The Huskies have a quarterback that one could argue is the best in the conference,  have running backs that can break off a big play at any moment, and have a physical defense that can also make plays.

Jake Browning, Husky quarterback, is one of those dual-threat quarterbacks that makes life miserable for defensive coordinators. He has led the Huskies to perfect start so far and was instrumental in the Huskies overtime win last week against Arizona.

However, Browning has his first big test of the season with Stanford. The Cardinal defense will certainly try and go the physical route with trying to contain Browning. The Cardinal have to make sure Browning doesn’t get out and extend plays. If Jake Browning is able to extend plays and make big plays it will be a long night in Seattle for Stanford.

Not only do the Cardinal have concerns with Browning, Stanford doesn’t have either starting cornerbacks. Quenton Meeks and Alijah Holder went down against UCLA last weekend. That plays right into the hands of the Husky offense. The receivers are fast and having new cornerbacks on the perimeter will be something to watch as the game progresses.

The offensive line for Washington has to hold strong on enough plays so the Huskies can make plays down the field with Jake Browning’s accurate arm. In my opinion, the offensive line of Washington will be the key to victory for the Huskies.

Husky Stadium will be loud and rocking. I’ve been there for games and it is one of the loudest stadiums in the country. You can’t underestimate the effect that a loud crowd can have on an opposing team. Stanford is experienced in playing in big games, but having a new quarterback in this type of situation can be an adventure.

Myles Gaskin, the ultra-quick running back for the Huskies, has not gotten off to the start that he had hoped for. Gaskin is listed as the starter and certainly could make this game his 2016 coming out party. However, look for running back Lavon Coleman to get some more touches. Coleman came into the game last week against Arizona and ran for 188 yards. Having a combination like these two could prove deadly against a weakened Stanford defense. I look for the Huskies to try and exploit this advantage when the Washington offense is on the field.

Defensively for the Huskies, the goal will be to hold Christian McCaffrey in check. I know, easier said than done. Look for head coach Chris Peterson to try and make some adjustments in the kicking game. Peterson will want to limit McCaffrey to as little return yards as possible. I would kick at angles to make the sideline an extra defender. We all know all dangerous Christian McCaffrey is when he is on the field, so controlling him is a must. The Huskies have to limit McCaffrey to 150 all-purpose yards to be in the game. With the speed the Huskies have, this is a possibility.

When it’s all said and done at Husky Stadium, I believe this will be the first big upset in the Pac-12 this year. The Dawgs will come out on top in a tight game. Huskies win 35-24.

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

Image: Courtesy of Mike Wilson

The Stanford Cardinal is the Big Dog in the Pac-12

We are beginning conference play in college football now. In the Pac-12, the Stanford Cardinal is showing why it’s their conference to lose.

They are still my top team in the Pac-12, by far. They have already used their bye week in week two. That extra time allowed them to get ready for USC. The extra time gained was put to good use. Stanford made the Trojans look like a team that didn’t know what they were doing on the field.

Christian McCaffrey is up to his usual game day highlights. I don’t think there is a defense in the Pac-12, or the country, that can shut this guy down. McCaffrey had 265 all-purpose yards against the Trojans, but it could have been much more. Having stats like those is becoming the norm for him. Coming into the Pac-12 season, head coach David Shaw was adamant about using his star player in different ways, but didn’t want to overuse him.

“We plan to get Christian the ball whenever and however we can. We have many sets that we plan to use to utilize his talents,” Coach Shaw said at the Pac-12 Media Days.

Shaw is becoming a master at getting his star player the ball. He’s used him in the backfield, slot, out on the perimeter, punt return, and kick-off return. If he could play defense, Coach Shaw would use McCaffrey there as well.

Players of Christian McCaffrey’s caliber don’t come along very often, but when they do they are fun to watch.  Going into his sophomore season I talked about him as a potential play-maker for the Cardinal. However, nobody foresaw the type of play-maker he has become. He has exceeded all expectations set forth by his coaches and it has allowed Stanford to reach heights only dreamed of before.

However, football is not a one-man show. Behind every great team is a great coach.

The other part of the equation for Stanford has been head coach David Shaw. Coach Shaw has a vision for his program and he doesn’t waver from it. He goes after players that fit that vision, but doesn’t stray from the vision he has.

“If a player doesn’t fit the culture we have at Stanford. He’s not for us,” Shaw said recently.

In my opinion, David Shaw is the best coach in the Pac-12 and possibly the entire country. Sorry, Alabama fans.

Shaw has shown that he is flexible in his offensive and defensive schemes. He’s not afraid to be different from the rest of the Pac-12 Conference. While Stanford is known for its physical play and pound the ball type of offense, it has shown that running some tempo offense is not out of its repertoire.

“Most people don’t know about the speed we have on this team. It’s an overlooked facet of our team. We have people that can flat out fly down the field. We would be crazy not to take advantage of the speed we have,” Shaw said.

Coach Shaw has a monster growing in Palo Alto, so he will continue to feed the beast at Stanford to make them the class of the West Coast.

Rumors swirl every year that he might leave for the NFL. He isn’t going anywhere, so keep wishing NFL fans. Stanford is full of intelligent people and to let David Shaw escape campus would be the worst move the school could make.

With the coaching ability of David Shaw and the playmaking ability of Christian McCaffrey it is little wonder why the Stanford Cardinal is the big dog of the Pac-12 Conference.

 

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

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The 2016 Pac-12 Champion Will Be One of These Two Teams Not Named USC

Winning the Pac-12 Conference in football is a difficult thing to accomplish. The conference is known for being one that eat its own, and this year won’t be any different. The question that gets asked this time of year is who will be playing for the Pac-12 Championship?

Stanford and UCLA will be the two teams left standing at the end of the season.

Why?

Stanford

Stanford returns to the title game after winning the Pac-12 title in 2015. Under head coach David Shaw, the Cardinal has won conference titles, gone to three Rose Bowl’s, and was very close to squeezing into college football playoff. The experience of this success will be something for Stanford to rely on in 2016. Experience counts for something in football and Stanford has experience in spades.

Christian McCaffrey will have something to say about the Cardinal getting to the title game. McCaffrey is coming off a season that was one for the record books, but he will be will looking to show that 2015 was not a fluke.

Coach David Shaw has one plan.

“We will get Christian the ball as much as humanly possible. We would be crazy to think otherwise.” Shaw explained at the Pac-12 Media Days in July.

The other part of Stanford that I believe will help them return to the Pac-12 title game is their ability to line up and smash teams. The Pac-12 is a finesse conference, so having the ability to line up and act like an SEC team is advantageous for them.

Stanford is replacing a couple of players on the offensive line, but they have shown that they can find big, tough guys for the offensive line and it works.

Being in the Pac-12 North will be tough on Stanford. They have to play at Oregon, at Washington, and Washington State at home. Nothing easy there. Plus they have to travel to Notre Dame, so that’ll be another challenge.

However, when it’s all said and done, the Stanford Cardinal will be the representative from the North Division.

UCLA

The Bruins come into this season as one of the teams that has a returning quarterback, and at this level that means a hell of a lot.

Josh Rosen is becoming a household name, and if he leads the Bruins to a conference championship he becomes a nationwide name. Rosen is the biggest key to the Bruins chances in the Pac-12 South.

Josh Rosen is easily the most talented Bruin, but he’s not the only talent on the offensive side of the ball for the Bruins.

Rosen has a talented trio of running backs that will provide much-needed punch to the offense. Keep your eye on Soso Jamabo, Nate Starks, and Bolu Olorunfunmi. There is plenty of speed between the three of those players to create problems for the opposing team.

UCLA will be the winners in the South because of Rosen and the ability of the offensive line to protect him. There are some new faces on the line, but Texas transfer Jake Raulerson joins the Bruins this season to solidify the o-line.

The schedule for the Bruins is one that works well for them. They avoid Oregon and Washington, but have to face Stanford, USC, Utah, and Arizona at home. Three those four teams are South division teams, so those wins are crucial.

UCLA has the talent, schedule, and quarterback to get them to the Pac-12 Championship game against Stanford.

Pac-12 Champion

Stanford wins the conference title again with Christian McCaffrey as the best all-around player in the country, a tough offensive line, and the best coach in the Pac-12 in David Shaw. I trust what Coach Shaw is doing with his program. Shaw’s results speak for themselves. UCLA is talented and has the best quarterback in the conference with Josh Rosen. However, Stanford just has more experience, toughness, and talent right now than UCLA. Stanford beats UCLA 45-21.

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

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Pac-12 Links: Tough Quarterback Decisions

Moving into the month of July, the curiosity factor with fans about their particular team gets a bit ramped up. Fans start looking forward to the start of camp.  Fall camp hasn’t started at all, but in the Pac-12 Conference there are a bunch of teams that still have lingering questions about their personnel. Let’s take a look at a few of those teams.

Arizona

Down in Tucson head coach Rich Rodriguez has to figure out how to keep his mobile quarterback, Anu Solomon, injury free. Much of last season for Solomon was spent on the sideline which left Arizona with an inexperienced threat under center.

Does Rodriguez adjust the playbook and not call plays that will put Solomon in harm’s way? It might be something that he’ll want to consider to keep his quarterback healthy. A healthy Anu Solomon gives the Wildcats a better chance at winning. Another 7-6 year is not going to cut it at Arizona. They want a winner yesterday.

During spring practice, Coach Rodriguez said he wanted back-up quarterback Brandon Dawkins to push Anu Solomon. However, Dawkins could push his way to the starting position. Dawkins is a big-armed, quick quarterback and showed some signs of brilliance against Arizona State in the season finale. He also could have a higher ceiling than Anu Solomon.

It’s going to be interesting in Tucson come fall camp. Don’t sleep on Brandon Dawkins.

Arizona State

This is a critical year for the Sun Devils and head coach Todd Graham. They are coming off a disappointing season in which they were picked to finish fairly high in the rankings and by a certain ESPN commentator to go to the playoff. We all know how that turned out. What do we know?

We know that questions about the quarterback situation are still not resolved. Coach Graham has not named a starter and likely will not until they are well into fall camp. Manny Wilkins and Bryce Perkins still seem the likely front runners to land the starting role, but it’s anybody’s guess. Sun Devil fans are simply hoping for a quick decision once camp gets rolling.

There had been talk of using the two-quarterback system, but that is something that should be steered away from. If you have two quarterbacks playing, you have no quarterback. Roles should be defined with the players, so here’s to hoping that Graham and new OC Chip Lindsey decide on somebody quickly.

Oregon State

What can you say about the program at Oregon State? Not much. Head coach Gary Andersen struggled to a 2-10 record in his first year. When Mike Riley left for Nebraska, he didn’t leave much in the cupboard for Andersen. What does Coach Andersen have to look forward to going into fall camp?

Coach Andersen is going to need at least another year to turn this rebuild around in Corvallis. He still has an extremely young team, but he does have something that he didn’t have in his first year. He has an experienced quarterback. Beaver fans are letting out a collective sigh of relief with that fact.

Darell Garretson is now the guy for the Beavers. He’s not a huge runner, but he is by far the most experienced quarterback on the roster. With that said, Garretson needs to stay healthy for Oregon State to have any chance at improving its win-loss record from 2015.

Garretson will have to get in sync with his two threats on the outside in Victor Bolden and Jordan Villamin to create any kind of offensive efficiency for the Beavers. Bolden is the speed guy being only 5’9, 185lbs, but has good speed to give defenses some fits. Villamin is the size on the outside at 6’5”, 230lbs. Garretson will also have a huge tight end as well in Caleb Smith who is 6’6”, 265lbs. He certainly will be Garretson’s security blanket when things break down on offense.

All in all, it’s going to be another thin year in Corvallis, so Beaver fans, like myself, will have to temper their expectations for 2016.

Stanford

In this political season, Stanford would be considered the presumptive nominee to win the Pac-12 Conference in 2016. Why?

Head coach David Shaw and running back Christian McCaffrey are the solid pillars on the Cardinal team for this upcoming season. With all the good feeling that Coach Shaw has built up over the course of his reign over the Stanford program he does have some concerns for 2016.

As with many other Pac-12 schools he has to find a new field general at the quarterback position. With Kevin Hogan taking his talents to the Kansas City Chiefs in the NFL the need to find another quarterback is glaring. Who is the heir apparent?

Most people have thought it will be Keller Chryst, with Ryan Burns being the back-up. That is basically the same thought now, but Burns showed that he has gained more confidence in his abilities. The spring game was a bit of an eye-opener for coaches in what they saw out of both of these quarterbacks.

Coach Shaw said both players did some very good things and did some not so good things, but one thing was apparent. Ryan Burns is going to push Keller Chryst for the starting position.

I believe that this race will eventually go to Chryst, but it will come down to the final week of practice. All eyes will be on this position battle and it will certainly be interesting to watch who wins out.

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The Pac-12’s Best Football Games of 2016

It’s hard not to think that the Pac-12 missed its window. For a year or two it appeared on par with the SEC as the nation’s best conference, and going into last year there was a lot of promise with Stanford, Oregon, and USC poised to be top ten teams.

The conference provided some great games throughout the season but was ultimately left out of the College Football Playoff. It looks like 2016 will be a transition year for the conference with much less dominance at the top. On the other hand, this should increase the competitiveness of the conference as a whole.

There are many conference tilts to look forward to on the west coast this season, and that’s before you get to marquee matchups against Notre Dame and Alabama. Here are the ten games to mark on your calendar for Pac-12 teams in 2016:

10. Stanford at UCLA (Saturday, September 24)

It feels strange having conference games this early, but with Pac-12 teams playing nine conference games, it’s basically a necessity. It’s fun for fans, probably not so fun for coaches like David Shaw, who has to have a new quarterback make a conference start on the road a few weeks into the season. UCLA and Stanford only bring back 11 and 12 starters respectively, so we’ll see who has done the best job reloading in the first month.

9. Washington vs. Stanford (Friday, September 30)

I mentioned earlier that Washington could make a run at a Pac-12 Championship appearance in 2016. If they’re going to do it, it’s got to start here. A Friday night down on The Farm. It’s early enough in the season that Stanford’s passing game could still be unsettled with a new quarterback. If Stanford takes care of business, we can expect another year of the Cardinal and Ducks competing for that Pac-12 North title.

8. Arizona at UCLA (Saturday, October 1)

Arizona and UCLA were both big disappointments last year so expectations will be lower coming into this one. Which team can bounce back stronger from their lackluster 2015? With many of the top quarterbacks from a year ago gone, this game could feature the conference’s two best in Arizona’s Anu Soloman and UCLA’s Josh Rosen.

7. USC at Washington (Saturday, November 12)

This one probably won’t come anywhere near 80 total points. Washington actually beat USC in L.A. 17-12 last year and will be looking for more in Chris Petersen’s second year leading the Huskies. With plenty of uncertainty at Stanford and Oregon and 15 starters returning, Washington could be primed to make a run at the Pac-12 North crown.

6. Oregon at USC (Saturday, November 5)

It doesn’t matter that neither Oregon or USC lived up to expectations last year (or the past few years for USC). There’s still plenty of glitz and glamour that comes with this game. Going back the last five times these teams have met, there’s been an average of 82.8 points per game total. Even if you live on the East Coast, it’ll be worth staying up for this one.

5. Oregon vs. Stanford (Saturday, November 12)

As usual, this is the favorite to decide which team heads to the conference title game. One of these schools has won the Pac-12 each of the five years since going to twelve teams and a conference championship game. There is a little uncertainty this year however, with neither team returning its starting quarterback and barely half of its total starters.

4. USC vs. Notre Dame (Saturday, November 26)

Notre Dame beat USC 41-31 in a high-scoring affair last year. This game is always must-see TV, but it could feature one if not two playoff hopefuls. Worst case scenario? Two teams with talented offenses and nothing at stake give us an entertaining shootout like last year.

3. Stanford at Notre Dame (Saturday, October 15)

These two teams played what may have been the best game of the regular season last year. A true instant classic where the loser’s playoff hopes were all but dashed. We can only hope to get half the game we saw last year when Stanford breaks up its Pac-12 schedule with a trip to South Bend. This will also be one of the few times Notre Dame can beef up its playoff resume.

2. USC vs. Alabama (Saturday, September 3)

Two college football heavyweights playing in Jerry World. Nick Saban has dominated season openers, but will be starting a new quarterback. USC will as well, but nine of the 10 other offensive starters return. That USC speed versus Alabama’s defense? Sign me up.

1. Stanford vs. USC (Saturday, September 17)

Oregon has the glitz and glamour, but Stanford has also remained steady atop the Pac-12 for the last half-decade. These two teams played a couple of entertaining games last year, and this could be a Pac-12 Championship preview once again. This early-season game with two new starting quarterbacks will tell us a lot about what to expect from each team this season (ABC, 8:00 pm est).

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

Featured image courtesy Ray Terrill

The Face of the Pac-12: Christian McCaffrey or Josh Rosen?

When you think of your favorite conferences or teams in this country you usually associate a player with said conference or team. Many people like to call it “The Face of the Franchise.” It got me thinking about how that saying applies to football in the Pac-12 Conference? Who is the face of the Pac-12, Josh Rosen or Christian McCaffrey?

At first glance, you might say Christian McCaffrey due to his finishing second in the 2015 Heisman Trophy voting and the highlight reel he created in his record-setting season last year.

If you believe Josh Rosen is the face of the Pac-12 then you are probably thinking long-term because he’s only going to be a true sophomore in 2016. He plays in the entertainment capital of the world and the amount of publicity you can get when you’re good in Los Angeles is unparalleled. Rosen has created his own highlight reel as a true freshman, but is it on the same level as McCaffrey’s?

What about Heisman Trophy possibilities for 2016?

Both of these players have a shot at winning the Heisman Trophy, but to different degrees.

Let’s start with Josh Rosen.

Rosen was the number one quarterback coming out of high school in 2014 and won the starting quarterback position at UCLA. Hcertainly proved to be worth the risk of starting a true freshman at, arguably, the most important position on a football team. The success of Rosen last season should have head coach Jim Mora excited about the prospect of an even better season in 2016.

The Bruins were 4-0 out of the gate last season, and while they did fade a little bit toward the end of the season, it was quite apparent that Rosen was going to leave his imprint on the Pac-12 by the time he’s done.

Here’s the imprint he’s made so far.

Josh Rosen threw for 3,669 yards, 23 touchdowns, had a quarterback rating of 134, and earned First Team Freshman All-American honors.

He also showed that he had a big arm that is accurate downfield and the ability to break down opposing defenses. Here is the other aspect that will have Rosen’s name in the Heisman talk: He takes care of the ball. He had a streak of 245 consecutive passes without an interception last season.

For writers who are asleep by the time Rosen is on the field, that consecutive pass statistic will be something they latch onto when they look at whether or not Rosen should be a legitimate Heisman candidate.

To me, Rosen is a dark horse Heisman Trophy candidate. Every Heisman winner has “Heisman moments/highlights” and Rosen will have to have those in 2016 to even have a shot at it.

Christian McCaffrey, like Rosen, comes into the 2016 season with impressive stats and a highlight reel that is second to none in college football.

Unlike Rosen, however, McCaffrey already is placed at the top of many Heisman Trophy voters’ lists.

What McCaffrey did in 2015 was nothing short of a phenomenal. He should have won the Heisman, period. He’s the most versatile player in the conference and you could make the argument that he is the most complete player in the country. Sorry Alabama, Clemson, and Ohio State fans, if he were on your team you would believe the same thing as all of us on the West Coast.

To provide some context for why Christian McCaffrey is getting all this love, let me remind you of his statistics.

McCaffrey had 3,496 all-purpose yards (NCAA record), 2,019 rushing, 6.0 yards per carry, 645 yards receiving, 13 total touchdowns, and 832 yards on kick returns/punt returns. If there was ever a drop the mic moment for a player, this would be it.

What are the odds he gets the Heisman this season? Well, if you ask Vegas odds-makers, Christian McCaffrey is in third place with 6-1 odds. Good odds, but to win the Heisman he is going to have to show that he can replicate what he did last season. Does that mean he’ll do it? Not at all.

He’s not sneaking up on people like he did last season. Pac-12 defenses will be focusing in on him and scheming their defenses to stop him. Plus, there will be a new quarterback for the Cardinal. That will put even more pressure on McCaffrey to perform at a high level.

At the end of the day when you take a look at both Josh Rosen and Christian McCaffrey and try to figure out who is the face of the Pac-12 you go with Christian McCaffrey. People know of Josh Rosen, but I don’t think they look at him as appointment television just yet. He doesn’t yet have the highlights that Christian McCaffrey has.

When you make fans stand up every time you touch the ball, you have captured something with them.

Stanford is going to be on the t.v. quite a bit this season and it’s going to be because of one person: Christian McCaffrey, the face of the Pac-12 Conference.

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SEC Links: We Ain’t So Dumb

Good day sports fans! Here is week two of our SEC Links. In spite of it being the “off-season” there is always some good SEC football to talk about. People like Jim Harbaugh actually ease the burden of assembling discussion-worthy material and he doesn’t even coach in the SEC. But he has pissed a lot of SEC coaches off, hasn’t he? Speak ye of the devil…

I understand where Finebaum is coming from on this matter but I also understand that he has to fill a lot of air time banging his gums on the SEC Network. No one stirs the pot better than Ole Big Ears and he does a fine job of it here. But guess who continues to get lots and lots of press? Correct! Mr. Khaki Pants himself.

And we continue along this line with Ole Miss coach, Hugh Freeze, weighing in on the subject after Harbaugh called him out.

I have to agree with Blindside on this one and I don’t blame him. These satellite camps can certainly throw a monkey wrench into your dead period for recruiting. Now everybody take a deep breath and… chill. Of course that is easier said than done when you’re getting paid $4 million dollars a year to win football games. You had better cry for yourself because no one out here in middle-classville is going to do so.

Ok! Just one more please! Some Pac-12 head honchos weigh in on the matter and Stanford’s football CEO says our SEC football players are dumb.

Stanford is most definitely an elite school in the academic arena and they are pretty darn good on the gridiron, as well. But that is also an elitist attitude on the part of coach David Shaw. You know what we used to say about such folks on the elementary school playground? “Smarty pants, smarty pants, lay you britches on a mat!”

Ah yes, coaches and coaching. Ultimately they put up or shut on the field of play. How do the SEC coaching staffs rank in order of their abilities? This piece attempts to sort them out from fourteen through one.

http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2632543-sec-football-ranking-every-team-by-2016-coaching-

Alabama’s staff surely appears to be the best. Duh! Florida second? I don’t think so. A&M third? Nope. I’ll take Georgia, LSU or Ole Miss over the Gators or the Aggies. Butch Jones has assembled a very nice group also. Mississippi State at twelve behind South Carolina and Kentucky? Mullen and company were the number one team in the country, for a few weeks, back in 2014, and what on earth has Will Muschamp proven? And the Stoops group? Nope.

Continuing along the line of coaches. If you read last week’s column you might remember that I posted an article about Auburn and Alabama as candidates to move to the East as realignment talks are in the works. Auburn’s Gus Malzahn shares his thoughts on the Tigers openness to that possibility. I am all in. I thought Auburn should have been in the East, as they volunteered to do, when the divisions were contrived. It makes even more sense now. Missouri in the East is crazy.

And finally! I know! I Know! Hold the applause. We bring you to the subject of SEC teams playing FCS opponents. You see it every year dotting the landscape of SEC schedules. South Carolina vs. Wofford, Auburn vs. Jacksonville State (oops! Almost a major bust), Alabama vs. The Sisters of Mercy, etc.

Personally, I do not like these games. You don’t have to play another Power 5 team. I wish they would, or schedule a ninth SEC game. They could at least play FBS teams within their respective states. Alabama could play UAB, Auburn could play Troy, Tennessee could play Memphis, Texas A&M could play any number of schools. Keep it in the state. Those games surely generate more interest than say Florida vs. New Hampshire.

Well, there’s your dose of SEC links for this week. Chew on those for a bit and we’ll be back here with more from the best conference in the FBS, the SEC.

E-mail Bird at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @Autull.

Pac-12 Links: The Conference of Quarterback Battles

Once again it’s time to see what is happening in the Conference of Champions with its football teams. There are plenty of things happening with these Pac-12 teams with spring ball, quarterback issues, and not having satellite camps, which to me is just ridiculous. Who cares where these kids practice or where these recruits get to be seen. Anyway, let’s get into the Pac-12.

In Tucson, head coach Rich Rodriguez has to answer to questions about his ability to get his team back to winning the South division. He can get a little irritated when questioned about it, but he says it’ll turn around in 2016.

“We got more questions now than in our first year.” Said Rodriguez heading into spring practices.

He absolutely does. He has a returning quarterback in Anu Solomon, but is Solomon going to be healthy enough to endure the season?

At Arizona State, Todd Graham is looking for a new quarterback after Mike Bercovici graduated. He has to decide between three guys, but in reality to me it’s down to two. I believe the job is between Manny Wilkins and Bryce Perkins. What do I know though? Based on what I have seen at practice, those are the two that I would be looking at to lead the team in 2016. Coach Graham and new OC Chip Lindsey have a big decision because the Sun Devils can not have another season like last year or an up and down year from the quarterback position again.

What’s happening for California right now? Quarterback/safety Luke Rubenzer asked to be permanently placed at safety after seeing he was falling behind in the race to replace Jared Goff at quarterback. It was matter of seeing the writing on the wall for Rubenzer who came to Berkeley from Saguaro High School in Scottsdale, Arizona. According to head coach Sonny Dykes, Rubenzer is whatever he can to help the team in the long run, but it’s also a good move for Rubenzer because projected starting safety Damariay Drew will be undergoing knee surgery in about two weeks.

Colorado wants to break through in 2016 and has more talent than it’s had in recent years, but is it enough to spring ahead of teams like ASU, Arizona, or even Utah? I know they are trying to build something in Colorado, but can it be done in the Pac-12 South? With coach MacIntyre now having a full recruiting cycle in his fourth year, fans want some results and that includes just not being competitive. Everything in football starts up front and the inexperience on the O-line is something to be addressed by the staff. Time to work that out in spring ball.

Oregon is just happy to have all their quarterbacks on campus at this point. In the long run that will only benefit the high flying Duck offense. People may think there will be questions at the quarterback position, but they are not bringing in Dakota Prukop, a graduate transfer, to sit on the bench. What it calls into question for me is their ability to develop young quarterbacks. At some point they will have to develop some young quarterback, so there is a bit more stability over a longer period of time for the Duck offense.

Meanwhile down on The Farm at Stanford, things are getting a little testy with head coach David Shaw or I should say that people are getting a little testy with Shaw’s comments about the recent ban on satellite camps and his veiled reference to SEC academics or lack of academics. To me, coach Shaw is spot on with what he is saying. He’s not hiding that the facts back him up. Stanford graduates 90 percent of its football players, while the SEC doesn’t even come close to that. Vanderbilt graduates 70 percent of its players and that leads the SEC. While these SEC fans get all bent out of shape about this, Shaw just sits behind the data. Don’t back down coach Shaw, you are right.

At USC, there is an intense quarterback situation brewing and it may not be over for the Trojans. The competition has boiled down to two guys. Max Browne, who was thought by many to slide into the spot left by Cody Kessler, has been pushed by redshirt freshman Sam Darnold. As a result of this competition, head coach Clay Helton has yet to name a starter which leads many to believe that this quarterback job may be open through fall camp. This is an important decision for Helton because this may set the table for the next few years for the program and the sooner a starter is named, the sooner the offense can get in rhythm for the Alabama game at the beginning of next season.

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

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Pac-12 Football: DIRECTV, Media Bias, and Taking Control of Your Own Conference

I grew up on Pac-12 athletics, graduated from a Pac-12 school, and now write about the Pac-12 Conference. I am unapologetically a Pac-12 guy. I root for the teams in the conference and root for some a bit more than others, but in general I want the Conference of Champions to be what everybody is talking about. Does that always happen? Not at all. Do I see the good and bad in the conference? Absolutely. Do I pick Pac-12 teams to win their games? No doubt and I make no apologies for that. I want the best for the Pac-12 period. End of story. However, what needs to happen in this great conference to make it better? A few things.

When I was younger, the Pac-12 (Pac-10 at the time) on television was a very regional conference as were many other conferences. The Pac-12 didn’t have the television deal it has now, so exposure was fairly limited to the West. We knew that the only teams that were getting national play were USC, UCLA, and Washington, but the reason for that was they were the recognizable brands from the conference because of the winning traditions they had produced as a school in football. When the Rose Bowl game was on, we knew that the Trojans, Bruins, or Huskies were probably going to be in the game because they were the dominant figures in the conference. Things have changed.

With the creation of the Pac-12 Network, the conference has a much more national brand to it. More people can see their teams play in football than having to wait to see if their team makes a national broadcast, the games are streamed on-line, or they can keep up with the scores on a minute by minute update on different phone or computer apps. Getting the game highlights, information, or scores is just not an issue anymore. If it is, then you might just be living in a cave. However, not all of us can enjoy the Conference of Champions anytime we want and it is immensely frustrating.

If you subscribe to DIRECTV you know what I am talking about. I am one of those unfortunate people that does not get the Pac-12 Network because of the ongoing dispute between the Pac-12 and the satellite provider.

There was a glimmer of hope that something might be changed with the DIRECTV being bought by AT&T because of AT&T’s connection with the conference, but, alas, no such luck. Here is what sticks in my craw.

For a conference to be so concerned with increasing their national exposure they seem to be dragging their feet when it comes to actually doing that. Not having the estimated 3-5 million more viewers with conference football games is obviously not a positive for the conference and puts them at a severe disadvantage with other Power 5 Conferences like the Big Ten or SEC. Don’t get me wrong, those are great conferences in their own right, but I don’t really care how Northwestern, Michigan State, Mississippi State, or even Alabama does on a weekly basis. I care about how Oregon, Stanford, USC, and, yes, Oregon State look on any given Saturday. Pac-12 fans with DIRECTV are in the dark and somehow, someway, this needs to be resolved.

I want to take both parties into a room, get them seated, make sure they are comfortable, and then lock the door until they reach a deal that benefits both sides, but mostly gets the football games to the fans and increases television revenue for the conference. Get it figured out Pac-12 and DIRECTV.

Even without the DIRECTV exposure, the starting times for these football games have been an issue with coaches, players and fans alike. Being a guy who attends plenty of Arizona State Sun Devil games as a media member, the start times are atrocious. In the past few years, there have been starting times of 7 p.m., 7:30 p.m., 8 p.m., and even a 8:30 p.m. starting time thrown in there for good measure. I like college football as much as the next guy, but why so late? It doesn’t make sense at all. Don’t tell me it’s for greater exposure.

Half of the country is asleep by the time these games start and even if the people on the East Coast are awake, they are not watching Pac-12 football. Just about guarantee you that. College football is fairly regional thing with fans. Unless there is some type of personal connection with a school in a different conference than the one they root for, they won’t watch it. Not that they hate the conference, but it doesn’t interest them. People in the SEC don’t care about what is happening out West, just like West coast fans don’t really care what happens in the Big Ten, Big 12, or SEC. It’s not where their allegiance lies. Many Pac-12 coaches have complained in the past year about the number of night games they have had to play.

Last season, UCLA, had to play on Thursday night in back to back weeks. Needless to say, head coach Jim Mora was not pleased.

“This is a complete injustice to our young men.” Mora said at news conference.

Rich Rodriguez, head coach of the Arizona Wildcats was even more upfront about a late starting time for his own Wildcats when they were to play at Washington starting at 8 p.m. Pacific time.

“I just don’t understand how this happens,” quipped Rodriguez, “At some point the conference has to have the ability to step in and say, ‘Hey, give this team one afternoon road game.’”

Stanford head coach, David Shaw, even chimed in on the issue.

“Sunday is the players’ day off, and it’s tough sometimes, getting back to their dorms at 3 or 4 in the morning from a road trip.” Shaw said.

Something has to be done because this is not fair to these players. I know people will say that this is one of prices they pay for playing big time college football, but less these same people forget, they also have school to contend with. These same players have papers to write, classes to attend, study groups to go to, tests and quizzes to pass, and any other number of things a student-athlete needs to do on a daily basis. It’s not fair to the coaches as well. Family time for coaches is affected, relationships can be affected by not spending time at home, and the coaches just need their rest too.

Pac-12 Commissioner, Larry Scott, has shown some empathy towards his football coaches and players, but has offered no solutions into what can done to solve this issue.

“I’m sympathetic to his concerns, but in some instances, there are things we can do about it and in this case there’s really nothing we can do. Our athletic directors and presidents and conference office agreed to give a certain amount of flexibility to broadcast partners to pick games and have nighttime broadcast windows. In exchange, we have blockbuster TV deals that have been incredibly beneficial to our schools and student-athletes from a resource and exposure perspective, and the trade-off is worth it.” Scott said during the football season.

In other words, deal with it coaches, players, and fans. The money is too good to turn down, so we will let the television networks dictate when we play our games. That is essentially what Larry Scott has told the Pac-12 and it’s fans.

When looked at on the whole, the Pac-12 is a great conference. Is it the greatest conference in the country right now in football? Probably not, but it is certainly towards the top. Most observers put it right behind the SEC in terms of football. Objectively, I would tend to agree with that assessment. The SEC has the hardware to show its number one in football. The Pac-12 is getting there with talent at the coaching level and at the player level, but now it’s a matter of putting it together to where the conference gets into the playoff system and wins the title a few times. People respect winning and it doesn’t matter if those people are fans or in the media. The Pac-12 hasn’t won anything in football since the glory run of USC in the mid-2000’s. The media does notice these things and will tend to give the benefit of the doubt to the conferences or teams that have won something of consequence multiple times in the past. The Pac-12 simply hasn’t done that.

The Pac-12 does battle some bias in the media at some level. People who think otherwise are just kidding themselves, but some of the issue is that the East Coast media have gone to bed by the time we get our football games rolling out here in the West. What people in the East tend to see are SportsCenter highlights and not the whole game filled with its own nuances. However, this is something that will always be there for West Coast teams simply because they are in the West. Can’t fault people for where they live, but the media back East have to take it upon themselves to watch games or at the very least tape some games to watch when they are awake, so that they can give an honest assessment of the teams out in the Pac-12.

At the end of the day, what can the Pac-12 improve upon? The issue with DIRECTV would be a good place to start for many people and then taking back a little control from the television networks with late starting times would be where I headed next. I know money rules all in college athletics, but it would be nice if the coaches, players, and the fans were taken into consideration at some point in this whole process of growing the college football game in the Pac-12.

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

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Pac-12 Links: What’s Happening in the Pac-12

Being a fan and writer of Pac-12 football there are so many things that are happening on a daily basis that it is beneficial to keep you, the fans, informed on what is happening around the Conference of Champions. Here you go Pac-12 fans….

Down in Tucson… Samajie Grant is looking to take a great leadership role.

At Arizona State, they are looking for a bounce back year in 2016. Can they figure out the quarterback situation and how will the new OC do in his first season at a Power 5 school?

California has to replace Jared Goff. What does this mean for the offense?

Can out Colorado finally break out of the basement of the Pac-12 South in 2016? The talent is better than it has been, but…

Is Dakota Prukop the real deal for Ducks? Will he have a more productive year than Vernon Adams? The Duck fans are just happy he is already on campus.

In Corvallis, hope springs eternal for the Beavers as they look to improve upon Gary Andersen’s initial season with Oregon State.

Christian McCaffrey has Stanford poised for another run at the conference title and Rose Bowl. Can they make a deeper run into the CFB Playoff?

At UCLA, sophomore quarterback, Josh Rosen returns to lead the Bruin attack. Does he have anybody to help him out? Can the offensive line protect him?

Coaching changes, new quarterback, and same old USC football expectations. Do the Trojans live up to them or is it a rebuild year at USC?

Kyle Whittingham doesn’t want to look at this season as a rebuild. He did lose some good offensive firepower at running back, but there is optimism at Utah.

Washington is one of the Pac-12 teams with a returning starting quarterback. Good for Huskies right? Does Chris Peterson finally have the Dawgs going in the right direction?

Mike Leach is coming off his best season as the Cougars head coach. What does he have as an encore for Cougar fans in 2016? Hopefully something similar for them as well as himself.

All Pac-12 teams are in the middle of their spring football practices, so any injuries that happen could obviously change the fortunes of any of these teams. The Pac-12 has many questions going into 2016, quarterback is one of the big ones. Can they get a team back into the college football playoff? It’s only spring time, so time will only tell the story for the Pac-12.

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