Tag Archives: pac 12 football

The Pac-12 Earned this Smack

No. 7 Stanford travels to No. 10 Washington in what could be the must-see game of this weekend.  That is if it weren’t scheduled for the Friday night graveyard shift.

This is going to be a hell of a game between two Pac-12 North opponents with early aspirations of a berth in the College Football Playoff.  It’s tough to pick but I’ll have to go with the Stanford Cardinal.  Mostly because I like to rely on what I know, rather than what I think I might know.

I know Stanford is a solid, well-coached team that’s not afraid of playing big games on the road.  I know the Cardinal is good for about 24 points on any given, and I know its opponent is normally held around 13.  I know Christian McCaffrey is the most electric player in college football.  I know I can count on Stanford.

I think I might know that Washington has the talent to win this game.  I think I might know that the secondary is lights-out.  I think I might know this could be the year the Huskies sneak up on everyone and end up in a semi-final.  What I do know about Washington is that I don’t know enough about Washington.

U-Dub has beaten up on three teams that didn’t belong on the same field and escaped Tucson with a 35-28 win over an awful Arizona Wildcats team.  This weekend is our best opportunity to see what the Huskies are really made.  I hope you didn’t have Friday night plans.

Still, as much as Washington needs to prove itself to a national audience, so does Stanford.  The Cardinal will also be looking to impress the committee, having robbed UCLA last weekend.  Again, I’m going with Stanford, but this one’s a win-win for me.

All this is to say, I don’t want to smack down Stanford or Washington.  This is going to be a great game and I’ll be happy either way it goes, honestly.  No, the real chump here is the Pac-12.

You’ve got two top 10 teams facing off in the best game your conference has to offer all season and you’ve fumbled it into a 9 p.m. Eastern start on a Friday night in September.  Forget about the ratings.  Those numbers will be laughable.

As a conference, you’ve got one shot at sending a team to the playoff in this, a “down” year.  You need an undefeated team that cannot be denied a spot.  The best way to do that is to showcase your big boys beating up on each other and let everyone see which team emerges.  In the Pac-12’s case, it had this one shot to do so, and the game is being stashed away on a Friday night.

The idea might have seemed cool at the time, but how ‘bout now?  Yeah, as it’s turned out, not such a good idea after all.  Think back to Stanford’s opening week, too.  Oops, another Friday night fireworks special.  This is not high school football.

So, Pac-12, stop with the Friday night nonsense.  Get your primetime games on Saturdays like the other Power 5 conferences, or surrender your membership to the club.

I guess there is a bright spot here.  At least the game won’t be broadcast on the Pac-12’s failure of a network.  That thing will take you longer to find than it’ll take an eight-year-old to pick all the choice pieces in his or her giant pillow case of upcoming Halloween candy.

E-mail Mitch at [email protected] and follow him @GreatGatzke.

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At .500, Cal is at a Crossroad

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

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

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

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

Not bad.

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

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

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

Which way will it go?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Questions Remain Despite Arizona State Beating California

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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USC Is A Waste Of Space

Look, I’m going to go ahead and get this out of the way: I hate the University of Southern California.

I’ve hated USC for years. Even before he was Khaki Jesus, I cheered when Jim Harbaugh ran up the score and went for two. It made my day when Reggie Bush was stripped of his Heisman. It made me even happier when USC had to vacate a National Championship.

Really, I think it all goes back to when I was first exposed to Pete Carroll. That guy was so arrogant and I guess when you assemble teams like he did, you can be. But they were never “clean” teams. There was so much money flowing through that place it should have been insured by the FDIC. 

Carroll fled to the NFL once he got wind of all the sanctions that were coming. USC brings in Lane Kiffin, who had never accomplished anything. His entire claim to fame is that he’s Monte Kiffin’s kid and I guess now that he’s Alabama’s offensive coordinator he has something to boast about. Quite frankly, once Pete Carroll bolted, that’s the last time USC was not only relevant, but good.

Kiffin brought in some highly-touted recruits but did nothing with them. All his teams were ranked highly but ended up flaming out, which lead to him being pulled off the team bus and being fired. I mean, that’s brutal and that’s coming from someone who doesn’t like Lane Kiffin.

The post-Carroll USC program is like an older quarterback in fantasy football. Deep down, you know that this particular quarterback isn’t actually any good anymore (see, 2015 Peyton Manning) but you draft him in the early rounds anyway. That’s what USC is. They’re still getting ranked because Pete Carroll made them into a household name despite not having won more than a divisional title since Carroll’s last year in 2009. They play in a watered down Pac-12 that helps inflate their records. If they were in the SEC or the Big Ten, they wouldn’t have more than seven or eight wins a year. Oh wait, they’ve only done that twice anyway.

You know what? I’m going to take this one further.

USC is going to be the new Notre Dame.

Notre Dame won a couple titles decades ago and has been leaning on them ever since. It has been essentially irrelevant in the world of college football, well, pretty much since I was a kid. That was a while ago, in case you were wondering. Leaning on those past titles is exactly what USC is going to do.

Look no further than this season for proof.

After inexplicably trying to piss off Alabama, the 20th ranked Trojans got absolutely decimated. Like, beat so bad that it wasn’t even funny after a while. They couldn’t even muster 200 yards of offense. Then, after a bounce-back cupcake game against Utah State, Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey basically beat them on his own. Against a school with actual talent, the Trojans fold quickly.

Just like Notre Dame did. Oh, excuse me. Just like Notre Dame did twice. Well, I guess we’ll find out which one folds better in the last week of the season.

I look forward to watching USC getting picked by everyone to beat Utah this weekend and then crapping the bed. USC just benched its quarterback and that always ends well. Utah can score and doesn’t give up a lot of points. It will be considered an upset even though it’s really not when the Utes deliver the Trojans their third loss.

If it was any other program, USC would be forgotten in a few years. But when it comes to college football, the media has strangely long memories. We’re due to watch USC be overrated for at least four or five more years before it finally fades into oblivion.

 

E-mail Tim at [email protected].

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China is a Bad Match for the Pac-12

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

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

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

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

I have many questions about this expansion of brand.

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

It is something that does confuse me.

Larry Scott calls this branding expansion a Global Initiative.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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Pac-12 Pac(ks) Less Punch

We’re two weeks into the 2016 season and I must admit that I am afraid the Pac-12 has lost a lot of its mojo as a Power 5 Conference. Yes, that’s quite a bold statement. Looking at the Pac 12 as an entire conference, I’m not convinced that any team will have a shot at making the College Football Playoff. Moreover, I feel the Pac-12 is not what it should be.

I’m sure there are dozens of people who would vehemently disagree with my claim. And I would agree that those who oppose my position would have a valid argument or two to refute my point. However, the sample size over the past two weeks has provided me with ample cause for concern. Now, before we get too deep into this, let me preface my point in saying that I think the Pac-12 is still worthy of Power 5 Conference membership, but, the quality of teams that comprise this conference has dipped a bit from last season to this one. That “dip” is evidenced in the level of consistent performances from the top teams in the Pac-12, both in the North and South divisions.

Pac-12 North Division

The favorites in this division (Stanford, Oregon, Washington) have performed as expected, strictly from a win-loss record perspective. Take a closer look at the games played. The opponents aren’t world-beaters by any stretch of the imagination.

Washington beat up Rutgers and the University of Idaho. Quite the daunting task, no? Oregon quacked past UC Davis and Virginia. Although the wins were rather lopsided, Oregon’s defense is allowing 27 points per game. Is this what they brought Brady Hoke in for?

Stanford only has one game under their belt and their ho-hum 26-13 win over Kansas State certainly didn’t turn any heads. Christian McCaffrey bears the weight of the Cardinal and to some extent the Pac-12 on his shoulders being one of few stars in the division. Bottom line, if he struggles, Stanford struggles. It’s as simple as that.

California and Washington State are in some serious trouble in the coming weeks. The Bears outplayed Hawaii down under, but did surrender some points and down the stretch. Some would point to that as a lack of focus in putting away an opponent. Last week’s heart breaker to San Diego State was just that, a heart breaker.

I won’t poo-poo the Aztecs. They are a quality opponent with a workhorse running back that ran rough shod over the Bears. Next for California is a surging Texas team that has found new life. Last year’s narrow escape against the Longhorns will only prove one thing, if Cal can’t catch that same miracle; it’s going to be a long season, because it doesn’t get any easier for them.

Washington State, a team many thought would add some complexity to the division has not been able to catch a break. The Cougars are 0-2 with both losses each by three points. It’s that same old so-close-yet-so-far vibe. Luke Falk has continued to live up to the bill though. He’s thrown for nearly 1,000 yards and has eight touchdowns. Respect due Luke, but if those stats don’t churn out wins, that’s what they are, stats and nothing else.

Pac-12 South Division

I certainly thought the Pac-12 South was going to have the greatest opportunity to re-establish the Pac-12’s reputation of being one of the nation’s premier divisions. With the favored teams in the division sporting nifty 1-1 records (with the exception of Utah, 2-0), Colorado and Arizona State have jumped out the gate undefeated. That’s right. Colorado is undefeated.

UCLA came up short against Texas A&M, but bounced back the following week, doubling up UNLV 42-21. I’m not sold on UCLA. Yes, they have a talented squad, but not enough to crack the top four teams in the land. Their only saving grace is that A&M somehow, some way, makes some serious noise in the SEC and UCLA handles their business. Then and only then, maybe, they’ll get a respectable bowl bid. Maybe.

Oh USC. Where do I begin? I figured the match up with Alabama would give some serious credence to the Pac-12 if they won or made it a close contest. Alas, Trojans couldn’t get either one to go their way. To add insult to injury, after a 52-6 beat down at the hands of the Tide, an SC player got himself ejected for stomping on an Alabama player. I guess he couldn’t bear the embarrassment of being on the field any longer than he had to.

Pac-12 Outlook

It’s still too early to tell how the Pac-12 will shake out. There’s still hope that the expected teams in the conference will show and prove and establish their presence to the nation and the College Football Playoff committee. However pessimistic I may be about that actually occurring, I will gladly eat crow if at least one team from the Pac-12 were to make a substantial run toward the National Championship. However, in ironic bit optimism, I think the birds will be safe this year.

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

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Pac-12 Teams Have Something to Prove in Week Two

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

Arizona State

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

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

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

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

California

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

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

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

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

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

USC

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

You saw what happened.

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

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

Is Clay Helton the guy?

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

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

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

Washington State

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

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

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

Head coach Mike Leach was frustrated with the defense.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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