Tag Archives: Jim Mora

A Look Ahead- The Impending Coaching Carousel

We’re not even halfway through the college football season, but it’s never too early to start talking coaching moves. Especially this year, as we’ve already seen one high-profile head coached fired and the proverbial hot seat growing increasingly warmer for many more.

Here is a look at the status of a few big-time coaches that will likely be on the move during the offseason (or sooner):

Les Miles- Formerly LSU

Miles has already been fired by LSU this season after an 18-13 loss to Auburn. Many saw it coming. Some thought he would be let go last season, and it wasn’t until late in 2015 that Miles was told by Athletic Director Joe Alleva that he would keep his job and head back to LSU in 2016.

Miles is 141-55 during his coaching career, and 8-6 in bowl games. He’s won one national title, two SEC championships, and three SEC Western Division championships.

He’s expressed interest in returning to coaching soon, leaving no doubt that he will be leading a program in 2017.

Tom Herman- Houston

Unlike the rest of the coaches that will be mentioned in this article, Herman has no chance of being fired from his role at Houston.  However, his return is not likely.

After an incredibly successful stint as Ohio State’s offensive coordinator, highlighted by a National Championship in 2014, Herman took over the Houston program in 2015. He led the Cougars to a 13-1 record, American Athletic Conference Championship, and Peach Bowl victory in his first season.

The Cougars were upset by Navy Saturday, but that won’t stop big programs from heavily pursuing Herman. He’ll be the hottest commodity on the market when the coaching carousel really gets spinning.

LSU has already inquired.

It’s very likely Herman will take the money and run when this season ends.

Charlie Strong- Texas

Before Strong took over the Texas program in 2014, Longhorns fans had seen just three sub-.500 seasons since 1990.  In his first season, Strong’s Longhorns finished 6-7.

In 2015, 5-7.

After two straight victories to start this season, Texas has lost three straight games while giving up an average of 48 points to the opposition.

Texas is growing impatient.

However, even though Strong is struggling to find success in the Big 12, he did successfully orchestrate the turnaround of a Louisville program that was crumbling under the Steve Kragthorpe era.

Louisville under strong:

2010- 7-6, bowl win

2011- 7-6, Big East Championship

2012- 11-2, Big East Championship, won Sugar Bowl

2013- 12-1, won Russell Athletic Bowl

It has been tough sledding at Texas, but Strong has a very impressive resume and shouldn’t have a problem securing employment if let go by the Longhorns.

Mark Helfrich- Oregon

After two successful years in Eugene to begin his head coaching career, due largely to the foundation Chip Kelly built, Helfrich’s Ducks finished 9-4 in 2015.  That was a tough pill to swallow for a fan base that hadn’t seen a four-loss season since 2007.

What’s more, it’s been a rough start to 2016.  The Ducks are on a four-game losing streak, capped by Saturday’s 70-21 loss to Washington at home.  Oregon hasn’t given up 70 points in a game since 1941.

Thanks to Nike, Oregon is one of the most recognizable brands in college sports, and that brand is in danger of seeing its first losing season in 11 years. Helfrich won’t last if that happens. With the lack of success on his resume, Helfrich likely won’t be in charge of a major program in 2017.

Notable Coaches on a Cooler Hot Seat

Clay Helton, USC– Helton’s Trojans came away with a tough win against 21st ranked Colorado Saturday night, which threw some water on the fire under Helton.  USC’s athletic department hasn’t been sure what direction they’ve been headed the last few seasons, but they need consistency before they will begin to see success.  You never know what will happen in Southern California, though.

Brian Kelly, Notre Dame– Kelly has had success almost everywhere he’s gone.  Kelly boasts a 228-84-2 overall record as a head coach, and despite a 2-4 start to this season, he’s 57-27 during his tenure with the Irish.  However, Notre Dame is a proud program with a history of success and if Kelly doesn’t get them back on track, he may be shown the door.

Gus Malzahn, Auburn– Malzahn’s Tigers went 12-2 in 2012 in his first season at the helm.  Since then, Auburn has been in decline, winning eight games in 2013 and seven in 2014. This season the Tigers are off to a 4-2 start, including two big wins against LSU and Mississippi State.  Malzahn may be on the coolest hot seat of them all, but if the Tigers don’t finish this season with seven or eight wins he could be in trouble.

Jim Mora, UCLA– Mora hasn’t had a losing season at UCLA, but he hasn’t been particularly impressive either.  UCLA is another program with a rich history, and after a 3-3 start to this season and the meat of the Pac-12 schedule in front of him, Mora could be in trouble.

Less Notable

Mark Stoops, Kentucky

Steve Addazio, Boston College

Derek Mason, Vanderbilt

James Franklin, Penn State

Darrell Hazell, Purdue

Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern

Also, don’t forget, Jim Tressel’s show cause is up this year. He may not want to get back into coaching, but it’s certainly a fun prospect to entertain.

With just over half of the season yet to be played, some of these coaches may fall off this list and some may hop on before the end of the year.  One thing is for certain, though; we are in for a bumpy, wild ride.

Buckle up.

E-mail Evan at or follow him on Twitter @skilliter.

Photo: Neon Tommy, Flickr

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Jim Mora Isn’t Afraid of the Challenge at College Station and that’s Refreshing to Hear

Being able to talk to coaches during game week is something that many media types enjoy because of possible story lines being made. It can also very mundane because all you get is “coach speak”. Coaches are going to let you know what they want you to know and dodge any tough question. With that being said, the Pac-12 had their weekly conference call on Tuesday.

The coaches were talking in general terms, but there were a couple coaches that were not afraid of being up front about things. Hearing that confidence was like getting a nice, cool breeze on your face in the summer.

What was said during this conference call?

Let’s start with the biggest name in the conference. USC.

The USC Trojans have the most difficult schedule in the country. They are lining up against National Champion Alabama. Head coach Clay Helton is very familiar with the OC of the Crimson Tide Lane Kiffin and what he likes to do. According to Helton, he certainly is trying to use what he knows about Kiffin against him.

“Every team has tendencies. You try and find tendencies by groupings and personnel groupings. Lane has things he likes in short yardage, on the goal line, and between the 20’s. I’m looking forward to the chess match.” Helton said.

Through all the questions on Kiffin, Clay Helton let nothing but compliments fly out over the phone. No surprise there. Helton and Kiffin worked together. Lane Kiffin gave Clay Helton his shot at coaching at USC, so expecting anything but praise from Helton would be a surprise.

Washington head coach Chris Peterson has a team that is receiving a lot of hype was excited about getting the season started. I was expecting him to deflect the hype.

“We have talked about the hype. They know that we have to prove it on the field. We were only 7-6 last season and now we are supposed to be some great team. The players know the hype means nothing unless we show it on the field.”

With Peterson and his Husky squad fully taking on the hype, knowing it’s there, but realizing it means nothing is refreshing to see. There is talent on the Huskies, but they absolutely have to show it on the field. The number 14 ranking they got by the AP was too high in my opinion. That ranking was based on pure speculation that the talent they have takes the next step.

Prove me wrong Washington. I’d love to see a return of the Dawgs.

UCLA comes in as the favorite in the south division. Jim Mora is looking forward to the game with Texas A&M.

“Our young men love to compete. We are getting that opportunity on Saturday. An SEC environment, a chance to compete is what our guys are after. We want to take advantage of that.” Mora mentioned.

Mora’s Bruins do not want to back down from anybody this year. They know the target is on their back.  He is certainly putting it out there that his Bruins are not afraid about getting a tough first game.

If people think the Bruins will be bothered by the noise at College Station, think again. Dealing with noise is nothing new for UCLA.

“Oregon, Arizona, and Washington all have some of the best stadiums in terms of crowd noise, so College Station won’t be anything new for us.” Mora explained.

“The players know that College Station is going to be loud, but we practice with noise to try and help with communication.” Mora said.

Mora is doing his part to make sure his team is ready for the challenge of an SEC team.

Coaches don’t let anything out of the bag on a game week and hearing them talk about their upcoming games that was evident.

However, I liked how both Chris Peterson of Washington and Jim Mora of UCLA were straightforward in their answers about the season. They both had a matter-of-fact tone in their voices.

Dodging questions about your opponent or not saying what you think about your chances in a particular game is pretty stupid. Don’t be afraid of bulletin board material.

Putting up bulletin board material up for the other team is overrated to me. Fans and media make too much about that. Peterson and Mora sound like they expect to win and really are not afraid to say so. I like it when coaches show the confidence in their team. A little bravado doesn’t hurt anybody.

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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Big Pac-12 Football Games for 2016

Before any football season starts fans and writers take a look at what games look to be considered the big games. Sometimes it’s a non-conference game, but most of the time it turns out to be a few games during the regular season that fans look forward to. It’s time to take a look at what the Pac-12  big games will be for 2016.

September 3: UCLA at Texas A&M. The Bruins are considered by many to be the favorites in the South division and by some to be the favorites to win the conference. However, if they want to live up to those expectations they need to get a win at College Station. Heisman Trophy talk will certainly pick up for Josh Rosen if he can lead his team to a convincing win against the Aggies, so there will be a ton of eyes on this opening game for the Bruins. This is a table-setting type of game for UCLA if they can get the win.

September 3: USC vs Alabama. Head coach Clay Helton has a daunting task in front of him and his team right out of the gate by taking on the defending national champion. Many people consider this game a win for Alabama, but the outcome of this game will have repercussions for both the Pac-12 and SEC for the rest of the year. The playoff committee will certainly have their eyes on this game and it will be appointment television because of the tradition for both of these programs.

September 17: USC at Stanford. This will be the first big game test for the Cardinal and their own quarterback issues for which they still haven’t named their starter. Will Stanford be able to make a statement in terms of the playoff race and conference crown with a win here? Can USC avoid being 0-2 after a possible loss to the Crimson Tide or will they be building off an incredible win? At least we won’t have to worry about Pat Haden coming down from the press box to defend his coach.

October 1: Oregon at Washington State. This will be another one of those statement games for both teams. Washington State is coming off a season in which they had a lot of success. Some of that success was beating the Ducks in Eugene and that is no easy feat. This will be the first big game for new Duck quarterback Dakota Prukop and we will see if he can handle the pressure of a hostile crowd. This will also be a game in which Luke Falk can put his name into some possible Heisman Trophy talk.

October 8: Washington at Oregon. This is a rivalry game that hasn’t been much of a rivalry. The Ducks have 12 straight victories over the Huskies, but I think this is the year that Washington breaks through. The Huskies may have one of the best backfields in the conference and possibly in the country. Jake Browning, Husky quarterback, is looking to stay away from the sophomore slump and prove that he is an elite Pac-12 quarterback. For the first time in a while, the Huskies may have the same amount of talent that Oregon does, so keep your eye on this game in early October. I’m taking the Huskies in this one.

October 22: Utah at UCLA. Once the season rolls around to this game we may be looking at both of these teams being in a spot to challenge for the division title and certainly a conference title game berth. Utah has Joe Williams replacing Devontae Booker this season and Williams proved he is more than capable of replacing the All-American Booker. Will UCLA be able to put the Utes challenge down in a pivotal game at The Rose Bowl?

November 19: USC at UCLA. This just may be the game that decides the Pac-12 South division. Will Josh Rosen have the Bruins primed to crash the College Football Playoff? Do the Trojans come into this game with an undefeated record or with one loss? If the scenario is having both teams vying for a playoff spot or at the very least being in the conversation then the eyes of Southern California and probably the rest of the country will be on this game. I will take the Bruins in this game because I believe Rosen will have the Bruins rolling by this time.

The Pac-12, as always, will be a conference that will eat its own. The 2016 season will be no different and I still believe that the conference is left out of the playoff for a second consecutive season. I hope that I am wrong with that statement, but with a ton questions at the quarterback position, it’s going to be tough for a Pac-12 team to break through.

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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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Josh Rosen: Sophomore Slump or Superstar for UCLA?

When you are 18 years old and people have already called you “The Chosen” things in your life may be a little different for you. Josh Rosen, quarterback for UCLA, is that person. Ever since he arrived on campus for the Bruins expectations have been placed upon his shoulders that most college football players never receive during their entire career.

Coming into the 2016 season, the level of expectation for Rosen will be enormous. During last season he showed glimpses of what made him the top quarterback coming out of high school a year ago. Having seen him play in person and numerous times on television it is apparent to me that he can make all the throws necessary at the division one level. He can throw the deep ball, he can throw the out route, he can throw with touch, so what does he need to do to improve?

For UCLA to have a special season Josh Rosen needs to be more consistent with every snap, every series of downs, and every game. As unique and special a quarterback as he is, he was still a freshman last year and he was making freshman mistakes. There were plenty of times where the speed of the game caught up with him and he was trying to make throws that would have been touchdowns or completions in high school, but the speed of division one players made those same passes incompletions or interceptions.

With spring practice coming to a close in Westwood, Rosen’s coach Jim Mora wants his star pupil to develop his sense of urgency this year. There were times last season where Rosen seemed to be going through the motions and Mora didn’t enjoy the lack of focus from Rosen.

“You’re not at… Bellflower St. John Bosco!” Mora screamed at him a practice and referring to Rosen’s high school.

Rosen has to pick up his level of play for the Bruins this season and not have the dreaded sophomore slump because UCLA could make some noise this year in the Pac-12. They are one of the few teams that have a returning, experienced quarterback. In a conference where that will not be the norm, the Bruins can take advantage of that experience to possibly win the Pac-12 South and then the whole conference.

Is that too much to put on a young man’s shoulders? It might be. However, Rosen has shown a level of maturity that goes beyond his years. To say that Rosen doesn’t understand what he needs to do to improve would be a lie. He would tell you that he is the farthest thing from a perfect quarterback, but that it is something that he is striving for like any quarterback at the college level.

With the change in offensive coordinators at UCLA, the offense should take a swipe at making Josh Rosen’s talent the focal point of the offense. That would require changing up the schemes a bit as well. New OC Kennedy Polamalu and new Quarterbacks Coach Marques Tuiasosopo will be trying to utilize a more pro-style offense for Rosen. Coming off a season where he threw for 3,670 yards, 23 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions in a more spread, no huddle type of offense, Rosen will be looking to utilize his arm and accuracy more in this change of scheme.

Rosen is big, strong and accurate and a change to a more pro-style would probably fit him a little better. To Rosen, it’s not that big of a change. In fact, he doesn’t really think it is a change.

“It’s the same. We’re just under center, maybe adding a few more guys in the box.” Rosen stated during spring practice.

Rosen is that player who comes along and you do whatever you have to do to make him and the offense successful. A good coach will adapt to his personnel and that appears to be what Jim Mora is trying to do at UCLA.

Being a young quarterback and going to a new style of offense, the one thing that Rosen is certainly going to have to work on is his footwork. Both he and his coach, Jim Mora, know it.

It’s different because your footwork has to change. You have to work on it.” Mora said

This is something that new Quarterbacks Coach Marques Tuiasosopo will be working with Josh Rosen on constantly during summer/fall camps. He certainly has been working on it during spring practice and is happy with the work that he has put in with his quarterback coach.

“He’s awesome. I love him. We have really good chemistry in meetings. He respects me and I respect him.” Rosen said recently.

When the quarterback coach and his star quarterback are working in a tandem so well, the benefit for the offense will only get better as they get more time to practice and work together.

At some point in the future, Josh Rosen will leave for the NFL, but in the meantime he is a UCLA Bruin and has a chance to become that guy that a program only gets once every ten years or so. Is he perfect? No. Show me a perfect quarterback and I’ll show you a picture of me and Bigfoot. Josh Rosen is arguably one of the two top quarterbacks in the Pac-12 right now and with so many teams having questions at the quarterback position he has a chance to separate himself from the rest of the league with a quality season.

There is reason for optimism at UCLA this season and Josh Rosen is the reason for that optimism. Period. End of story.

 

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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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Pac-12 Football Early Preview: UCLA Bruins

The UCLA Bruins have had a ton of expectations placed upon them every year since the beginning of time in the Pac-12. They are one of the premier programs in the Pac-12 and one of the premier destinations for many athletes. If the Bruins come knocking on your door you listen to them. Playing in Pasadena would be an amazing thing for any athlete, but in the recent past the Bruins haven’t won anything of consequence and are looking to change that outlook with their 2016 squad.

Coaching/Personnel:

Expectations are always high at UCLA and with a returning quarterback that is pretty good in Josh Rosen, the replacement at offensive coordinator will scrutinized in a big way. Noel Mazzone is gone and nobody that is a fan of the Bruins is sorry to see him go. He had good offenses, but not great and only had one year out of the four ranked in the top 20 of college football in offense. Mazzone went to coach the offense with his long time friend Kevin Sumlin at Texas A&M. Who takes his place?

Running backs coach, Kennedy Polamalu, who many consider the best coach on staff, takes over the offense. He had one year as OC while he was at USC but many people thought he was having Lane Kiffin make the calls. Polamalu is known as a “tough” coach and wants to put his stamp of toughness on the Bruins. How quickly can he do that will be something that people will be looking at as the Bruins get to spring and summer practices.

The other big change for the Bruins on the offensive side of the ball is that they think they finally have a quality quarterback’s coach. Marques Tuiasosopo gets to mold his star pupil in Josh Rosen.  Rosen will be looking to stay away from the dreaded “sophomore slump” in 2016 and Tuiasosopo will be a big part of whether or not that happens. The other big part of Marques is that he does very well as a big time recruiter, not that it’s tough to sell a big time recruit on the benefits of coming to play in Pasadena. His talent in recruiting will be a welcomed addition to the program.

One of the big changes that the Bruins will have to contend with is player personnel on the offensive line. They have lost three starters off the O-line from 2015 and that means replacing all that experience. They lost four-year starter Jake Brendel, three-year starter Caleb Benenoch, and another three-year starter Alex Redmond. With the departures on the O-line, do the Bruins have an idea of what the line will look like? They do have an idea.

The biggest returning offensive line player is Conor McDermott. McDermott had a good 2015 season and did stay pretty healthy for UCLA, so they are expecting the same in 2016. If Conor has a similar season to his 2015 season then he may be one of the top O-line prospects for the 2017 NFL Draft.

The Bruins are getting University of Texas graduate transfer Jake Raulerson after he graduates from Texas in May. He won’t be there for spring practice but most Bruin sources think that he will take the center position from current Bruin center, Scott Quessenberry once summer/fall camp starts. If that happens, Jim Mora will probably move Quessenberry over to guard where he has experience playing in the past.

The other position that is interesting is running back. All-American Paul Perkins is gone, so the Bruins have to figure out who will take the pressure off the passing game with Josh Rosen. UCLA has three players to choose from to replace Paul Perkins. They will pick from Soso Jamabo, who had four touchdowns and 6.1 yards per carry in 2015, and has a very smooth running style which makes people think he may be as fast as he actually his. The second guy is Nate Starks who has slightly better stats than Jamabo. He had five touchdowns, a 6.4 yards per carry average, and showed great potential in the offense for the Bruins in 2015. The next guy who will get a chance is Bolu Olorunfunmi who didn’t have as many carries or as much playing time as Starks and Jamabo, but still showed some solid stats when he did get his chance. He racked up 200 yards with a 5.9 yards per carry average.

With all these changes on the offensive side of the ball, from the coaches to the players, UCLA has some challenges in front of it that it has to start getting squared away when spring practice gets underway this week.

Schedule:

The schedule for the Bruins does not include two pretty good teams in Oregon and Washington, which is certainly a benefit for them. Still, the rest of the tough Pac-12 schedule is right in front of them for 2016.

The three non-conference games that they have are Texas A&M (away), UNLV(home), and BYU(away) which are not all that bad. They should beat UNLV, but the other two games will be fun, challenging games to watch the Bruins in. Coming out of the non-conference part of the schedule 2-1 or even 3-0 would obviously be optimum for UCLA because the next five games will be tough for them. They open Pac-12 play with a home game with Stanford on September 24, then they get the Arizona Wildcats at home, followed by a road trip to Arizona State, then a roadie to Washington State, then they come back home to play Utah to end this five game stretch.

The positive aspect for the Bruins with this stretch of games is that three out of the five games are at home. This stretch of games will determine what kind of season the Bruins end up having. The Stanford and Washington State game will be the toughest out of the bunch because of the talent that they will have coming back, but that doesn’t mean the other games are cupcakes for them. Arizona, Arizona State, and Utah just have more questions about them than the other two teams. Obviously, coming out of that stretch undefeated would be amazing, but reality says, it may be more of a 3-2 type of record for them.

Final Thought:

UCLA is like many other Pac-12 teams in that they are going to be battling changes in player and coaching personnel in 2016. When you have a lot of turnover in personnel it may take a while for everybody to come together and that’s not something that fans like to hear because they tend to think it should all come together after only a few practices. Reality dictates that it takes a while for a team to gel, but here’s the thing that UCLA has going for them, Jim Mora and Josh Rosen. Mora provides the stability for the program and gives them their identity and Rosen gives them the ability to be in most games with his talent. Rosen will be better than he was in 2015 and that will be nothing, but a positive for the Bruins. He’s learning what he is comfortable with and Mora is learning that same thing from his star player. Is UCLA going to the College Football Playoff? No, but I don’t think there is a playoff team in the Pac-12 this upcoming year. Will they have a winning season? Yes, I think they end up 8-4. It’s always for tough for fans and coaches to view anything but a National Championship at UCLA as a success though. Welcome to UCLA.

 

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Pac-12 Coaching and Player Changes

The season is over and now the changes to coaching staffs and player personnel happen that can alter the fortunes of many programs for the upcoming season. There has been plenty of turnover for many schools in the Pac-12 Conference. Which ones will pay immediate dividends? Which ones will take time? All great questions, but one of the things that the Pac-12 has going for it is that many coaches and players want to be part of the conference because of its competitive nature and its exciting brand of football. Let’s look at these changes.

Pac-12 North

California

The coaching changes almost happened at the top of the coaching staff with Sonny Dykes. It seemed like Dykes was interviewing for any open job in college football and had no interest in returning to Berkley. In the end, he returned, with a new contract, more money, and gives the football team stability with his return. The big personnel change will be with Jared Goff leaving for the NFL. Goff arguably the best quarterback in the conference in 2015 will be a very tough player to replace because of his mental and physical abilities that he brought to the table for California, but that responsibility looks like it will be thrown upon freshman Chase Forrest. The Bears made a bowl for the first time in years and to maintain this positive roll for the program Sonny Dykes needs make sure Chase Forrest is the quarterback for the program moving forward. The quarterback position will be the biggest question for the Golden Bears going into 2016.

Stanford

Finishing third in the final poll of the season was a great accomplishment for David Shaw, his staff, and players. What David Shaw has done since he took over is amazing. He is getting great talent combined with having a “Stanford intelligence” to come to Palo Alto to play football. Going into next year there isn’t a lot of turnover with the coaching staff at all. Why leave a good thing, right? However, on the player personnel side, they will be missing Barry Sanders Jr and Kevin Hogan. They will also be missing some possible linemen as well. Michael Rector, Cardinal receiver will be coming back for his fifth and final year of eligibility. Replacing Hogan will be a big task for Head Coach David Shaw, but let’s remember, he still has Christian McCaffrey. When you have him, it’ll make the job of the quarterback a little more bearable, but much like California, the quarterback question will be a big one for the Cardinal.

Oregon

Questions abound in Eugene. After the debacle of the Alamo Bowl in which the Ducks lost a 31-0 lead and lost in overtime people are wondering if the Duck run of success is over. Other people are wondering if they can develop a quarterback in the post-Mariota era at Oregon. Vernon Adams comes in, does a decent job, but gets injured and his back up, Jeff Lockie stinks up the stadium with his play. Lockie, a career back up at Oregon, looked like he hadn’t been taught the game at all. Once again, the Ducks have a fifth year transfer player in Dakota Prukop this year and he’s already on campus taking classes, so there will be no Vernon Adams issues in terms of classes. Enter new quarterbacks coach David Yost, who comes over from Washington State to help develop Duck quarterbacks. Other changes also are former Michigan Coach Brady Hoke who will be the new defensive coordinator replacing Don Pellum who was moved to linebackers coach. All in all, a season of change is upon the Oregon Ducks. How will it go? Only time will tell.

Oregon State

The Beavers will be looking to improve upon their disaster of a season in 2015 where they only had two wins under first year coach Gary Andersen. The coaching change at defensive coordinator will be the one area that could garner most of the discussion going into 2016. Kalani Sitake left Corvallis for the head coaching position at BYU, so Coach Andersen went and got Kevin Clune to take over at defensive coordinator. New schemes, new way of thinking for a defense that ranked near the bottom in defense in the country. The Beavers will also have co-offensive coordinators in T.J. Woods and Kevin McGiven. Once again, new schemes and new ways of thinking on the offensive side of the ball. The Beavers need to continuity and stability on both sides of the ball and hopefully after all this change it happens for them. Coach Anderson will have to give the fans something more than two wins to get excited about. It’ll be tough, but Coach Andersen is committed to bringing a winner to Oregon State and I, for one, believe he can do it.

Washington State

For all the talk about the demise of Mike Leach, it may have been greatly exaggerated. Washington State was the surprise team in the Pac-12 by a wide margin and ended the year with a great win over Miami in the Sun Bowl. Changes are occurring in the Palouse for Leach and his staff though. David Yost, left to coach the quarterbacks at Oregon, JaMarcus Shepard comes from Western Kentucky to coach receivers, Dave Nichol is added to the receiver coaching staff as well, and they will get a graduate transfer from Michigan in Logan Tuley-Tillman who will provide immediate help to the offensive line. Mike Leach has to keep the positive vibe going with the program because the hot seat he may have been on can be repeated with a disappointing season in 2016. The Cougars will be one of the few teams in the Pac-12 to have a returning quarterback in Luke Falk, so that will not be the question. The question is can the coaching staff build upon 2015 with creating more depth and getting more talent to come out to Wazzu.

Washington

Washington also showed that they could be on the way up as well. Head Coach Chris Peterson was starting to hear the complaints and he actually turned in a season that Husky fans were fairly happy with. Peterson came from Boise State with that reputation as an offensive guru and really has yet to deliver on that. Like his rival at Washington State, Peterson will have a returning quarterback in Jake Browning. The Huskies will also have a returning running back in Myles Gaskin that has the speed of Reggie Bush and a returning offensive line that showed promise in 2015. The Huskies will not experience major changes in their coaching staff or their player personnel for 2016 and that has created a sense of optimism around the program. The defense was pretty good despite losing some major talent to the NFL and they will continue to get better and the offense showed by the end of the year that they would be considered more of strength than a liability going into next season.

Pac-12 South

Arizona

A season of disappointment happened for the Arizona Wildcats in 2015 and headed into next season there are plenty of questions. Will Rich Rodriguez be the head coach long term for Arizona? He had discussions with South Carolina about their opening and it certainly caused nervous moments in Tucson for a few days. Is Anu Solomon going to be their quarterback? He suffered through injuries and just a bad season when he was playing. Who will replace future NFL draft pick Scooby Wright on the defensive side of the ball? Wright created some much mayhem on opposing offenses, it’s going to be tough finding a guy that has a motor like Wright. Coaching changes abound for the Cats. Rich Rod has let defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel go, defensive line coach Bill Kirelawich go, and cornerbacks coach David Lockwood go. By doing this he has to replace three fourths of his defensive staff. The Wildcat defense has become worse of the last three seasons and a change was needed in Tucson. Who will Rich Rodriguez get to come in? Good question, but they have to do something to return to the “Desert Swarm” days.

Arizona State

Where do I begin with the Sun Devils? A season of huge expectations came crashing down quickly and they were regulated to a very second/third tier bowl game in the Cactus Bowl against West Virginia. A game that they lost, which just put a disappointing stamp on the season. Offensive coordinator Mike Norvell left to be the head coach at Memphis and he took a few coaches with him. Chip Lindsey was hired as the new offensive coordinator for the Devils and he brings the same type of offense that Todd Graham likes to run which is that zone-read/spread offense. Kodi Burns was brought in to coach the running backs and he brings a wealth of knowledge from Auburn. The Sun Devils will also have to replace Mike Bercovici at quarterback and D.J. Foster at running back/wide receiver. Replacing that experience and talent will be a question facing the Arizona State going into 2016 as well as the coaching additions that the Devils will have.

Utah

Utah was the team I was pushing for winning the conference this past season. It was going well until a day against USC pretty much ruined everything and they ended up in the Las Vegas Bowl playing BYU. This may be a season of transition for the Utes, they will have questions at quarterback, punter, and running back because Travis Wilson, Tom Hackett and Devontae Booker are gone. What will Kyle Whittingham do? Oh, just reload with a bunch of players that have chips on their shoulders because bigger programs were not interested. That is what Whittingham has built his program on and he is getting a nice little pipeline of players coming from the island of Samoa too. As far as coaching changes, he recently named Justin Ena and Sharrieff Shah as special teams co-coordinators, which seems a little odd to have dual coordinators for special teams, but it’s what Utah does. Most of the coaching changes for the Utes have stayed within the program, only one of the changes comes from outside the program and that is Guy Holliday who comes from BYU to coach the receivers. The main questions will be who will be the quarterback and running back for the Utes? We shall see, but one thing is for certain, the Utes will be a tough out for any team.

Colorado

Colorado could be the Washington State of 2016 for the Pac-12, but then again, it’s Colorado. A lot of young talent that made life interesting for a lot of conference teams this past year, but could not quite get over the hump in terms of wins. Head Coach Mike MacIntyre has had a bit of a fixer-up project since he arrived in Boulder three seasons ago. Coaching changes have been minimal, but the one hire that stands out is Jim Leavitt who will be the defensive coordinator for the Buffaloes. He brings a wealth of knowledge and experience from both the college and professional level. That is nice upgrade for the coaching staff. What do they have to do for 2016? Is the head coach on the hot seat? The answer to those questions is win and no, for right now. The Buffs just can’t get the talent to come to Colorado and when they do it’s because of a connection through family or others that gets the talent to Boulder. When you don’t win, talent does not come to you. They will have junior quarterback Sefo Liufau who has got better every year he’s been there, but the talent around him has not been the best for him. Right now if you can stop Sefo, you stop Colorado. If Colorado can’t get better and win, they will not have any success in the very tough Pac-12.

USC

The Trojans are the Pac-12’s version of a soap opera in recent years. With removing the interim tag from Clay Helton and making him the head coach, that removed some of the doubt from the program with coaching. Helton wasted no time in making sweeping changes to the Trojan staff. Helton has promoted Tee Martin to offensive coordinator, brought on Clancy Pendergast as the new defensive coordinator, and recently brought on Tommie Robinson as running backs coach. It’s not all the change, but these were the major ones for the Trojans. It’ll be Martin’s first chance to run an offense and he’ll have plenty of weapons to use. Adoree’ Jackson, JuJu Smith-Schuster, a young offensive line, and a good running game. The question Tee Martin will have is at quarterback. Cody Kessler is gone, so this will be a major question for the Trojans for 2016. Helton will also be a question mark as well because he wasn’t the big name, big splash hire that many alumni wanted. Helton also didn’t endear himself to the faithful by losing to a Nebraska team that had a losing record. The talent is there, but can the new coaching staff put USC back on the map and at the top of the college football world?

UCLA

The Bruins were a trendy pick to win the Pac-12 Conference and to make it to the college football playoff. That didn’t happen. Bruins on losing talent on both sides of the ball. From running back Paul Perkins, defensive lineman Kenny Clark, Myles Jack, to wide receiver Thomas Duarte there is plenty of talent that Head Coach Jim Mora is going to have to replace with another stellar recruiting class. Josh Rosen is back for his sophomore season and he has all the skills to be a great quarterback, even a Heisman Trophy candidate at some point in his career at UCLA. Coaching changes are certainly happening for the Bruins. Mora promoted Kennedy Polamalu to offensive coordinator, brought Marques Tuiasosopo from USC to coach quarterbacks, and Rip Scherer will coach tight ends. People feared that the “Bruin Revolution” may be over, but with these hires fans are backing off of that thought. The big question for me will be the offensive line. Josh Rosen can’t perform any magic if he is getting hit all day, so the offensive line play is going to have to improve for the Bruins to do any damage next season.

All in all, there are plenty of questions for the Pac-12 heading into 2016 with coaches and players. What will we see? Hard to say in January, but as a fan of the conference let’s hope that coaches and players get things figured out, so the conference can return to the college football playoff and remind people that some of the best football is played out here in the West.