Tag Archives: Pac-12

The Best and Worst of 2016: Pac 12

There were a lot of praise-worthy moments during the 2016 Pac 12 campaign. And in the same breath, I can say with 100% certainty, there were equally plenty of cringe-worthy moments as well. In my opinion, I would say that the Pac 12 took a step back this year. There were some teams that performed extremely well (Pac 12 Champion Washington Huskies) and some teams that stumbled out of the gate, fell, face-planted, and remained on the ground for 12 weeks or so (Arizona, Oregon, Cal, take your pick).

Amongst the peaks and valleys this past season, there were some teams that represented the very best of the Pac 12 and what this conference has to offer to college football. Conversely, there are some teams that flat out stunk and left an ‘un-Febreze-able’ odor, stinging the nostrils of hapless fans up and down the Pacific coast. Depending on your perspective, some of these teams are interchangeable. In the end, we know good football when we see it, straight up. No exceptions. Looking back on this past season, here are my takes on the best and worst of the Pac 12.

The Best

Washington Huskies

Washington made good on their preseason picks to represent the Pac 12 and possibly crack the top four in the College Football Playoff. With an impressive 12-2 (8-1) record, the Huskies punished would-be opponents en route to the Pac 12 championship. It was their first since 2000. Led by sophomore quarterback Jake Browning, The Huskies jumped out of the gate winning their first nine games before falling to eventual Rose Bowl Champion, USC. However, despite the loss, U Dub was able to regroup after the loss, win the Pac 12 Championship and face Alabama in the College Football Playoff semifinal Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl. Though the Huskies were put down 24-7, they showed no quit and scrapped it out until the very end.

USC Trojans

The Trojans stumbled out of the gate, losing three of their first four games. They were beyond cross road status. They were picking out a plot and resting in shame for the rest of the season. But, somehow, some way, they picked themselves up by their bootstraps and forged ahead to what was a turnaround of all turnarounds. After a 31-27 defeat to the Utes (Utah), USC went on a torrid win streak (eight straight) and displayed why they are perennial favorites to compete and win the Pac 12 year in and year out. And the ultimate cherry on top, you ask? It was an ‘instant classic’ of a game as you can imagine with an improbable come-from-behind Rose Bowl victory over Big Ten Champ, Penn State 52-49.

Colorado Buffaloes

No, this isn’t a typo. I meant it. Yes, I certainly wasn’t a believer for this pick, but I had to really sit down and catch a few games. And to my surprise, the Buffs were quite good this season. They finished 10-4 (8-1). I think Colorado would have given eventual champion Washington a bit more competition in the conference championship had Sefo Liufao not injured his ankle early in the game. That’s my opinion. But we’ll never know. It’s remarkable what Colorado could do in a course of two seasons. Talk about a serious 180 degree turn around from last season where they went 4-9 (1-8). It’s incredible, especially since it’s with the same group of players. Just goes to show you what continuity can do for a team. Unfortunately, the Buffs had to come crashing back to Earth from a 38-8 smack down at the hands of Oklahoma State in the Valero Alamo Bowl. Despite the loss, this was an impressive campaign and their heads should be held high.

The Worst

Oregon Ducks

A very popular acronym comes to mind when I think of the Ducks: W.T.F? To those not up on current social terminology, let’s just say that it’s a serious inquisition into understanding the unlikeliest of outcomes. Going into the season, there were some question marks regarding the quarterback situation. Graduate transfer Dakota Prukop didn’t quite live up to the hype and his position was given to true freshman, Justin Herbert midway through the season. The issues didn’t just end there. Their porous defense was atrocious. During the October 8th game against Washington, the Ducks surrendered 70, that’s right 70 points and a whopping 682 yards of total offense! To complement a passive defense, All Pac 12 running back, Royce Freeman battled injuries throughout the season and wasn’t even close to being a factor. All totaled, the Ducks finished 4-8 (2-7). Subsequently, Mark Helfrich was relieved of his duties at season’s end. His replacement, former University of South Florida head coach Willie Taggart assumed the position and is looking to retool a once proud and dominant program. One notable bright spot is that running back Royce Freeman will return for his senior season.

UCLA Bruins

Injuries to quarterback Josh Rosen quickly derailed what would be been a championship campaign for the Bruins. Without the sophomore quarterback, UCLA stumbled and bumbled to a 4-8 (2-7) record. Despite the record, the Bruins’ defense kept them in most of their games. Unfortunately, the offense could not drum up enough of a rhythm to keep the defense off the field for extended periods of time. The Bruins look to have Josh Rosen back for his junior season. Hopefully, he will be healthy and the defense, though losing some key playmakers, can resume consistent, strong play.

Cal Golden Bears

Oh, this pains me so! There is no way I can’t say that this season was an absolute disappointment. Early predictions had Cal contending for the Pac 12 North division title – key word, early predictions. When news that Cal had landed graduate transfer Davis Webb from Texas Tech, it seemed that the Golden Bears’ prayers had been answered as far as a replacement for former signal caller, Jared Goff. Statistically, Webb performed well above expectations- throwing for 4,295 yards with 37 TD’s versus 12 picks. Of course the other side of the coin reveals a much darker, bleaker situation. Cal’s defense, which showed some improvement last season, seemed to have left that improvement somewhere in 2015. Cal’s defense ranked at or near the bottom in several defensive statistical categories. It was a hot mess of a dumpster fire. However, the defensive highlight of the season and a moment which I figured would turn Cal’s season around was the epic goal line stand against then #4 Utah. It was the type of stand that sets the tone for the rest of the season. Alas, it was only good enough to get the win and nothing more. Sadly, it would be only one of two wins to come in the final seven games of the season. The blaze that was the 2016 season saw coaching casualties in Defensive Coordinator Art Kaufman and Head Coach Sonny Dykes. With a new regime taking place in Strawberry Canyon, first-time head coach Justin Wilcox is poised to right a ship that has been astray for some time.

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

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New Year’s Six Preview: Rose Bowl

This year’s Rose Bowl is a matchup between two programs that have an eerily similar story this year. Both the Penn State Nittany Lions and the USC Trojans struggled early in the season. They both lost big to a top-five team (Penn State to Michigan and USC to Alabama). However, both teams came storming back in the second half of the season. Both, despite their big losses, were actual contenders for the College Football Playoff at the end of the season. The team similarities, the growing hype once again around the Penn State football program, and the fact that this game is, after all, the Rose Bowl, makes the USC-Penn State game probably the most interesting among this year’s New Year’s six, maybe even including the CFP semifinal games.

Though USC’s offense is ranked above Penn State’s by several dozen spots, I still believe the Nittany Lions offense is the one to watch. After an amazing second half comeback against Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship, it will be interesting to see how PSU comes out. Southern Cal certainly has a competent defense, so Penn State will want to break through early to try and keep the game as close as possible moving into halftime.

Looking at the Southern Cal offense, it is so well-rounded that it’s near impossible to point to a single facet of it as the “key.” I think the Trojans need to keep themselves loose offensively, and not over-commit to the pass or the run. Penn State’s defense is good, but beatable, and the Trojans need to keep that in mind. Seeing how much of a second half team Penn State is, the USC offense really needs to ensure that they have a lead going into the half.

These two squads seem, on paper, extremely even. This year’s Rose Bowl may be the most highly contested of the NY6 matchups, with each team landing blows throughout. Personally, I see this game becoming high-scoring. If that does occur, the West Coast style Trojans definitely are in better shape than the Nittany Lions, who are a classic Big Ten team. Though I expect a close game, in the end I think USC will overcome a late Penn State run to win the Granddaddy of Them All.

 

Final Score: USC Trojans 41, Penn State Nittany Lions 37

 

Email Cooper at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @uf_goetz.

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College Football Playoff Preview: Peach Bowl

Poor Washington. They are literally going to be traveling into the heart of Alabama Crimson Tide country for the Peach Bowl this year. I am fairly certain that the ambiance will be that of a ‘Bama home game back in Tuscaloosa. Nick Saban has yet to prove that he is mortal, but maybe, just maybe, Washington is the team destined to prove this fact. Chris Petersen returns to the bowl game spotlight once again as a heavy underdog who no one thinks can do the improbable. Maybe we’re all right and the Huskies don’t stand a chance. But perhaps Chris Petersen has been waiting 10 years just to amaze us all once again.

I fully expect both the Alabama offense and defense to play at Nick Saban levels, so there is little use talking about what they “need to do to win.” Statistically, Washington is in a whole lot of trouble. Alabama has the best defense around, and after seeing Jake Browning struggle a bit with the pressure from Colorado in the Pac-12 Championship, it would be unsurprising to see mistakes from the Washington QB. Washington needs to find a way to have its running back corps break through “The Great Wall of Alabama Defensive Linemen.”  Truly, Washington’s offense needs to play at, if not above, its top level in order to win.

Though Alabama’s offense isn’t on God tier like its defense, it certainly is in no way, shape, or form, a pushover. Washington’s defense needs to hang on for dear life and hope that the Huskies offense can keep the defense off the field long enough to get a breather. Florida, a team with a superior defense to Washington, did well against Alabama until the offense stopped any and all progress. At that point, the Gator defense simply became too tired to keep up. If this happens to Washington, the game is effectively over.

Nick Saban is going to take the Washington Huskies very seriously. His demeanor, while a serious impact on his players, however, may not rub off on them quite enough. Some, if not many, of the Crimson Tide players are going to come into Atlanta being told by family and friends that this will be an easy win, and the large contingent of Alabama faithful in Atlanta will further this ego among the Alabama players. On the other hand, Washington knows that no one thinks they even have a shot. I think that will motivate each and every player for the Huskies to play above and beyond their potential. I think Washington is going to catch the Alabama players off guard, and this game will be get very interesting. Time will tell if Chris Petersen can do it again, but I’ve been on the Washington Huskies “believer” train all season (if you don’t believe me, check out how highly I’ve ranked Washington all season) and y’know what? I’m not stopping now. Viva la resistance!

 

Final Score: Washington Huskies 48, Alabama Crimson Tide 47 (OT)

 

Email Cooper at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @uf_goetz.

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Time is Ticking Away for the Golden Bears

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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It’s Put up or Shut up for Oski and the Golden Bears

It’s moments like these where I hate to be a fan of a teetering squad. I don’t have the heart to throw up my hands and do away with my team, but what the hell gives!? I’ve been a staunch supporter of the Cal Bears all season, and going in I went as far as to say that they actually have a legitimate shot of making a run toward the Pac 12 title. And yes, I was sober when I made the claim.

My Cal Bears are at .500 (4-4, 2-3) with perhaps the most difficult 4-game stretch to come. How on God’s green earth did we get here? Relax, this is rhetorical. I know full well how we got here. Problem is, how can we get out of this all-too-familiar place? More on that later.

Back to what will be, in my humble opinion, a make or break stretch for Coach Sonny Dykes career at Cal in these next four weeks. Like I mentioned earlier, Oski and Bears have their paws full these upcoming weeks and will define the season one way or another.

This Saturday, the Huskies of U Dub (U. Of Washington) pay Memorial Coliseum a visit. Not only are they the #4 ranked team in the nation, but they are quite possibly the best team Cal will face this year, bar none. Hands down. My faith-o-meter for this one is admittedly low. However, Cal did beat Utah, and Utah gave Washington all they could handle. So, there is a glimmer of hope. Plus, we have home field advantage. Stranger things have happened (See Utah at Cal).

The remaining three weeks we have the Cougars of Washington State, Stanford, and UCLA respectively. I mean, hell, these are all quality programs. Cal is going to have to be on its A+ game to have a shot. All bias aside, offensively, Cal can do it. Davis Webb and company have proven they can hang with the big dogs. However, of course, defensively, I plead the fifth. Eh, I can’t put my finger on it. There are times where there is sound defense being played, in spurts. By and large, this defense is bad. Not historically bad, but by Cal standards, they are

However, defensively, I plead the fifth. Eh, I can’t put my finger on it. There are times where there is sound defense being played, in spurts. By and large, this defense is bad. Not historically bad, but by Cal standards they are underwhelming, to say the least. And I can say that as a fan with the utmost of honesty.

Flashback

How on God’s green earth did we get here? Relax, this is rhetorical. I know full well how we got here. Problem is, how can we get out of this all-too-familiar place?

The best way to address this question is to understand the problem. Taking the last three seasons into account, Cal usually comes out of the gate hitting on all cylinders. Why? Well, the good ‘ol non-conference schedule. Granted, there have been some competitive teams scheduled earlier on, but not with the level of talent the Pac 12 has to offer. So, what ends up happening is that Cal usually runs into a buzz saw come conference play and the Golden Bears barely escape the regular season by the skin of their teeth. Good offense and bad defense usually leaves a team in the middle of the road. And that my friends, is Cal’s affliction and subsequent result. Mediocrity.

My wife often tells me, don’t complain about a problem. Instead figure how to create a solution. Well, here’s my four-year, $11.4 million dollar solution. Win early. Take advantage of the easier schedule so attaining bowl eligibility won’t be such a daunting task in the waning weeks of the season- as has been the case the last three years. Also, beat the teams you’re supposed to beat! C’mon, Oregon State takes us to overtime and wins! These cats (I mean Beavers) are 2-6! Really?!

The Golden Bears are two wins away from bowl eligibility for the second consecutive year. Quite the achievement for Coach Dykes, I’ll admit. Of course, which of the remaining four opponents will Cal topple to reach the mountain top? Washington? I don’t think so. Washington State? Well, maybe. Stanford? They need to win, but will they? Which leaves UCLA. (sigh) I don’t know folks. We may have to take a mulligan and try again next year. At most, I see Cal squeaking out at least one more victory. Maybe if we were to grab a win when we were supposed to, this wouldn’t be such a tall order. But these are the cards that are dealt.

Like the post’s title, it’s put up or shut up. There’s no sugar coating it. It’s frustrating to see our season come down to must wins…again! When will we learn? Despite the odds, I’m going all in and going down with the ship if need be. Best believe, I’ll be standing near the life rafts though.

Featured image courtesy of John Martinez Pavliga/ Flickr

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

It’s All About Texas

It’s all about Texas. It’s always been all about Texas in the Big 12. And this isn’t a good thing. This isn’t a good thing because it is to the detriment of the rest of the conference. When it comes right down to it, this is something that everyone, including the leadership at Texas, has always known.

This Texas-centric attitude was on full display as the conference decided not to expand. As the news broke about the Big 12 remaining at 10 teams, Oklahoma’s David Boren took the lead as he spouted the contrived rhetoric that is considered to be the conference’s most up-to-date position. But make no mistake, this is about what’s best for Texas. It’s always been about what’s best for Texas.

If there is any doubt about the role that Texas has played in all of this, please read what Gabe DeArmond wrote at Power Mizzou. DeArmond takes us on a journey that can best be described as Back To The Future. Texas was, is and will always be the bully.

Roy Thrilliams wrote a stunning article of his own at Burnt Orange Nation. In his article, Thrilliams attempts to make the case for Texas and Oklahoma leaving the Big 12 in favor of the SEC. Thrilliams clearly states that the Big 12 is dying and Texas must get out while it can. 

I have news for Thrilliams. Texas is not a casualty of the unstable conference. The Longhorns are the reason for the unstable conference and I’m sure the SEC is well aware of that fact.

As DeArmond reported in his article, Missouri athletics director Mike Alden considered the Big 12 doomed from the start.

Added Alden: “The structure of the Big 12, the way it was originated, in my opinion, that league was set up to fail. I do believe that if it would have been set up differently, it could have been one of the greatest leagues ever. When you set it up and you had favoritism toward one institution and then everybody else, it’s not going to work.”

The “one institution” that Alden was referring to is Texas.

Missouri has always been blamed for the Big 12 collapsing, but a factual look at the history of the conference tells an entirely different story. Nobody trusted Texas from day one so when the Big Ten expressed interest in expansion, Missouri listened.

And if we’re talking about which schools were the first to have a wandering eye, again, look no further than Texas. The Pac-12 was prepared to add Texas, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech. R. Bowen Loftin, who was at Texas A&M at the time, questioned Larry Scott about the terms of the invitation to join the Pac-12. Loftin didn’t believe that the terms would be agreeable to Texas. But to his credit, Scott said that was how it would have to be. Texas could take it or leave it. We all know how that ended.

Texas was the source of the unstable conference, but Longhorn athletics director Deloss Dodds continued to paint other schools as the bad guy. Dodds knew that he was shopping Texas to the Pac-12 and had at least one foot out the door, but that didn’t stop him from cussing out the Missouri leadership during a Big 12 meeting.

When all this was going on, there was one athletic director in particular, I can’t remember what school it was, but it’s in Austin. Anyhow, I heard a guy in that chair, he just started flipping out—flipping out is probably too strong a term, but he got pretty agitated, this person—and started dropping expletives about this and firing them kind of at us, at Mizzou, because Mizzou was rumored maybe the Big Ten is looking. And I was trying to be very professional.

Texas is Texas. I get it. But no other conference wants to touch it because the Longhorn program considers itself above every other program. And one of the things that DeArmond proved in his expose was that Texas is a phony, backstabbing program.

Yes, geographically Texas makes sense for the SEC. But Texas is a toxic program even with all of its financial clout. The SEC has 14 members that all get along so why would that conference risk that stability all for Texas? I don’t see it happening.

I am of the opinion that every school not named Texas should be looking for an exit strategy from the Big 12. Yes, there is a Grant Of Rights clause that forces the Big 12 to remain intact until 2025, but schools can make their intentions known before the GOR expires.

Based on what we’ve witnessed from the Big 12 and from Texas, I find it highly unlikely that schools like Kansas, Kansas State and Iowa State aren’t actively shopping for another conference. Here’s how I view the Big 12 – Texas has to live with its ex-wife until she finds someplace else to live. 

But Thrilliams still considers Texas to be too good for any conference, including the SEC, to pass up. Nevermind that the Pac-12 already told Texas, “Thanks, but no thanks.” And I’ve got more news for Thrilliams, it’s not ignorant to think that the SEC would turn its back on Texas.

The SEC operates without a GOR, because, well, it’s the SEC. And by operating without a GOR, the SEC has told its members that it trusts them. If Texas was brought in, that trust among the schools would evaporate. I mean think about it. Who in their right mind would expect Missouri or Texas A&M to give Texas a glowing recommendation? Nobody. That’s who.

It’s also important to remember that Texas has to be the center of attention. Does anyone honestly believe that the SEC football programs are going to take a step back at the negotiation table for Texas? Again, there’s no way that happens.

The SEC is king of the college football world. And as magnificent as Texas believes its football heritage to be, it pales in comparison to Alabama’s. Alabama wouldn’t lick Texas’ boots and shouldn’t be expected to. That submissive role in the SEC is not something the Texas ego could stomach.

Thrilliams and everyone else who bows before Bevo needs a reality check. Texas isn’t the innocent conference bride that its made itself out to be. The Pac-12 realized that early on and there’s no way that the SEC will fall for Texas’ act of innocence.

 

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

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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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The NCAA will not Play Championship Games in the People’s Republic of North Carolina

Everyone knows by now that the NCAA has pulled all of its championship events out of North Carolina due the state’s HB2 law, because the NCAA leadership considers the law to be state-sanctioned discrimination.

Chad Griffin, who is President of the Human Rights Campaign, applauded the NCAA’s decision when he said this:

“Every day that HB2 remains on the books, countless people across North Carolina are at risk of real harm. NCAA President Mark Emmert has shown tremendous leadership by taking a bold stand for equality in the face of discrimination.

And NCAA President Mark Emmert made this comment in defense of the NCAA’s decision to move these championship events out of North Carolina:

“Fairness is about more than the opportunity to participate in college sports, or even compete for championships. We believe in providing a safe and respectful environment at our events.”

In taking this action, Emmert and the NCAA are standing up for what they believe to be right and, through his comments, Griffin and the Human Rights Campaign are supporting what they consider to be the NCAA’s support for human rights.

Whether or not I agree or disagree with this law or the actions that the NCAA has decided to take is not relevant. What should be considered relevant is the level of hypocrisy that is being shown by the NCAA and the Human Rights Campaign.

Did you know that the Harvard basketball team and the Stanford basketball team are scheduled to play a game in China this year? Well, they are.

While it’s the Pac-12 and not the NCAA who is sponsoring this game in China, Emmert and the NCAA are still sitting on their moral high-horse by staying quiet and not placing public pressure on the Pac-12 over playing a game in a country that does not support the human rights that the NCAA believes North Carolina is abusing. Griffin and the Human Rights Campaign apparently don’t have an issue with the Pac-12 sponsoring an event in communist China.

The list of human rights that China abuses on a daily basis is a long one and included in that list is the communist country’s lack of support for the LGBT community. China decriminalized homosexuality in 1997 and it hasn’t been considered an official mental illness since 2001. Nonetheless, homosexuals are not a protected class of people in China.

Yet, the NCAA and the Human Rights Campaign take issue with North Carolina, looking the other way when it comes to China’s abysmal track record on human rights. This goes beyond a double standard. A double standard would imply that the two situations are comparative and I would argue just the opposite. China’s lack of human rights is considerably worse than what is going on in North Carolina, but the NCAA doesn’t seem to have an issue with this Pac-12 sponsored event.

So, if the NCAA isn’t using a double standard, what is it doing?

The NCAA is attempting to score political points. And it’s working. The NCAA wants to keep the protesters off of its front lawn. The NCAA wants to keep ESPN from running negative stories on the organization. The NCAA wants to appear to be progressive. Yes, the NCAA is virtue signaling, but it is being selective about when it does.

Why, then, would these same progressive-minded people that the NCAA and its member institutions want to stay in the domestic good graces of, have no issue with the Pac-12 playing in China? Easy, these would be protesters see this as an opportunity for the Pac-12 and, by association, the NCAA, to be a human rights model for China. It makes zero sense and is based completely on a rationalization of the topic.

There is one conference, to date, that has joined the NCAA and engaged in virtue signaling of its own and that is the ACC. In a recent press release, the ACC stated that the conference will no longer hold neutral site championship games in North Carolina. It is worth questioning whether or not the ACC will continue to play in countries like China.

I get it, the NCAA doesn’t control what the conferences or teams do in situations like this. When a conference like the ACC decides it can’t do business in North Carolina because of discrimination then the conference owes it to its members and the public to be consistent with its human rights values. Otherwise, it’s all just virtue signaling.

It is also worth mentioning that as a public institution of higher education, an ACC school like the University of North Carolina does accept state funding to help support its budget. If the University of North Carolina or any other state-funded school in North Carolina really wanted to make a stand against what is considered to be state sanctioned discrimination, these schools would be turning down their state funding. Let’s face it. There is no way that will ever happen.

If the NCAA isn’t going to voice public displeasure with the Pac-12 playing a game in China then it should have no problem playing championship events in North Carolina. If the ACC will continue doing business in China then it should have on problem playing its neutral site championship games in North Carolina. Otherwise, like I said, it’s all virtual signaling.

 

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

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College Football Playoff Rankings: Week 1

After an amazing opening weekend of college football, it is really interesting to see how the current top contenders stand in terms of the College Football Playoff. Below, I have ranked my current top 10 teams, which is loosely based off the preseason AP poll (this weeks AP poll is nuts, check it out). This is a feature that I will release every week this season on Tuesday, so be sure to be on the lookout for next week’s rankings.

  1. Alabama Crimson Tide

The Crimson Tide had probably the most impressive start among the week 1 top ten teams. It’s deconstruction of the ranked USC squad (to the degree where ‘Bama straight up added another former USC head coach to its staff) tells the whole story. Going into this season, Alabama’s one major question was the quarterback position. To say that the question was answered Saturday night would be an understatement. Jalen Hurts, and to a lesser degree Blake Barnett, removed Bama’s only weakness, and now, especially with the struggles of Tennessee and LSU, the Crimson Tide seem poised to take the West, win the SEC Championship, and make it to the College Football Playoff.

  1. Florida State Seminoles

Florida State’s matchup with Ole Miss on Monday was, as we have become used to with Jimbo Fisher football (who is now 6-1 since 2013 when trailing by 7 or more at the half), a tale of two halves. As long as Francois keeps up his play and the Seminoles find a way to play multiples halves of football in a single game, the Seminoles will be an obvious CFP contenders, pending a huge throw down with Clemson at home, which could very well decide which ACC school makes it to the Playoff.

  1. Clemson Tigers

Speaking of the Tigers, the team that I picked to win the College Football title this year struggled more with a mediocre Auburn squad than most of us thought it would. For that reason, it is much less of a sure thing in my mind that the Tigers beat FSU in Tallahassee. However, this is only week one, and with Heisman hopeful Deshaun Watson at the helm, Clemson should still be expected to be a top tier team with obvious CFP hopes.

  1. Ohio State Buckeyes

Speaking of Heisman, my pick for the award this year, Mr. J.T. Barrett, had himself a day. He had seven total touchdowns, with six through the air. We won’t get to see what the Buckeyes really look like until it squares off against Oklahoma, but when your QB has seven scores, it tends to be a good sign. The Buckeyes have a lot on its plate the rest of the year, but if Ohio State play like it did on Saturday, it is definitely a CFP frontrunner.

  1. Michigan Wolverines

The Big Ten pretty much let its top teams hammer some cupcake squads in week one, and that was very apparent in Michigan’s matchup against the Rainbow Warriors of Hawaii. Much like Ohio State, Michigan just swept the floor with its opponent. An impressive win, yes, but much like the Buckeyes, we won’t see the Wolverines’ true abilities until it faces off against a squad more its speed. However, its now 100 percent true that the Wolverines are officially back.

  1. Houston Cougars

The shocker of the weekend for most (for some odd reason, considering how good the Cougars were last year) was Houston’s win over the Oklahoma Sooners. This, in my rankings, rocket propelled UH up nine spots, as not only did Houston win, it beat Oklahoma into the ground. All of a sudden, Houston looks like a possible Group of Five CFP team, as the rest of its schedule is fairly mild. As long as the Cougars can hold off Louisville, and avoid other major upsets, Houston could very well end the season undefeated and crash the party of Power Five teams in the CFP.

  1. Stanford Cardinal

In a victory that was fairly mild, the Stanford Cardinal beat K-State by 13. The rest of the season is fairly simple, as the Pac-12 isn’t what it was a few years ago. Two of Stanford’s toughest opponents, UCLA and Notre Dame, both dropped their Week 1 matchups. The toughest game left for Christian McCaffrey (a clear Heisman candidate) and the Cardinal is the matchup at Washington. The game, which will most likely decide the fate of the Pac-12 North, will be Stanford’s make or break matchup in terms of College Football Playoff hopes.

  1. TCU Horned Frogs

TCU, much like many other teams on this list, played a team well below its own caliber in Week 1. The Horned Frogs, however, struggled heavily, especially on the defensive side, against South Dakota State. Giving up 41 points to a non-FBS school is never a great motivator, and while TCU’s College Football Playoff hopes may be small, the Horned Frogs certainly have a great chance to win the Big 12 with what seems like an Oklahoma team that could struggle throughout the year. TCU will need to watch out for Baylor and Texas as well, but for now, Texas Christian seems like the Big 12 frontrunner.

  1. Tennessee Volunteers

The Volunteers almost blew its opening matchup to Appalachian State. The team looked horrendous for a large part of the game, with particular struggles coming from the Tennessee O-Line. Josh Dobbs struggled mightily as well, and Tennessee needs him to play better if it is to have any hopes of beating Florida, Georgia, Texas A&M and Alabama in four consecutive weeks. To me, at this point, unless Mighty Mouse becomes as good on the field as he is at blocking twitter accounts, it seems like Tennessee making the College Football Playoff is a long shot.

  1. Michigan State Spartans

The third Big Ten team on this list also had a cupcake matchup in Week 1. However, unlike the Wolverines and Buckeyes, MSU struggled with Furman, a FCS squad. Honestly, the only reason the Spartans make this list after it’s week one struggle is due to all the teams in front of it that lost. MSU has a lot of work to do if it wants to prove that it deserves to make the CFP. Heck, with a crowded Big Ten East division, the Spartans have a lot of work to do to make it to the conference championship.

Honorable Mentions: Washington, Georgia, Iowa, and Wisconsin

E-mail Cooper at  or follow him on Twitter @uf_goetz.
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Playoff Selection Process Starts Labor Day Weekend

This year’s Week 1 provides the single greatest opening week of games in the history of the sport. From showdowns like USC-Alabama and Florida State-Ole Miss to the glorified scrimmages between Michigan State-Furman and SE Louisiana-Oklahoma State, it is best to follow our advice: “don’t lose.” 

Because of the quality of the slate of games, it highlights the most flavorful aspect of this grand ol’ game. The regular season is a time for men, not for the faint of heart.

Am I overstating? No. It’s the only sport on the planet where what you do in Week 1 is important in determining who qualifies for the championship round. This has been true since the inception of the BCS and the intensity has been ratcheted up with the College Football Playoff.

Here’s the deal. The playoff committee’s job starts Labor Day weekend. For the perceived contenders with expectations of the CFP, they’d better bring it right away. To the teams starting the season with modest expectations but want to shock the world? Their road to Tampa kicks off in Week 1. There is little room for error in college football and that is a great thing.

If Oklahoma falls to Houston on Sept. 3, they’re on the brink. Can’t lose again. If Houston wants consideration for a playoff spot, the Coogs must beat OU and Louisville and everyone else on their slate.

If Wisconsin beats LSU at Lambeau Field, the expectations and possibilities open up. If Tennessee wants this to be a special season, it can’t lose to Appalachian State.

We may disagree on many points. For instance, I believe that college football produces the best regular season of any organized sport in the world. I also believe that staying at four teams is critical for the sport’s long-term, year-round health.

The people that disagree with me on those issues have a right to their opinion, even if they’re wrong. Those folks are the guy who attends the Rose Parade but spends his whole time checking Twitter so people at home can tell him how beautiful it is. They’d see it, too, if they’d just bother to look up.

The nature of the sport is very clear. If a team plays a good schedule from top to bottom and wins them all, they’ll be there. If they lose one, they’re taking their chances. Lose two and the stars will need to align. And, if you go out of your way to take the path of least resistance to earn a spot in the playoff, do it at your own risk (we’re all looking at you, Baylor 2014).

Most fans will enjoy the games this weekend because football is back. But, it’s more than that, much more. Stuff gets real this week, people.

For college football to be enjoyed to its fullest, it’s a must to recognize the significance of each week. Because what happens Labor Day Weekend will impact who the selection committee chooses in December.