As for the last couple weeks (last week we both took a bye for a breather and to work on other projects) in college football, well, I can say from a fan’s point of view that I haven’t been less interested in something since the NeverEnding Story II: The Next Chapter—especially in the wake of Washington (Arizona State) and Washington State (Cal) falling to heavy underdogs.
This gives the East Coast-based voters from behind the iron-clad contract curtain of the four-team College Football Playoff committee exactly what they’ve been waiting for: A quartet of East Coast time zone teams in the hunt. They are: Bama, Penn State, Georgia and (pick one) TCU, Clemson, Ohio State, Wisconsin, the U, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State… you get the picture.
The Pac-12, in spite of the fact that only Oregon State lost its out-of-conference play in the early season (including second-tier teams like Cal and Oregon with victories against the SEC, ACC, Big 10 etc.) is now in self-destruct mode.
It’s worth watching Mike Leach’s 10-minute post-game (post-loss) screed Saturday about the college playoff system. Here’s a coach who knows talent and can maximize it. He’s also built big programs out of nothing but now faces an even bigger challenge in Pullman—doing that when nobody’s watching nor cares to watch. He knew his Cougars had to be perfect to even be CONSIDERED for a seat at the table and even though he could go on to win out from here and finish with victories against USC, Utah, Stanford and Washington, he still won’t eat.
So, what’s the point? If the closest team I’m supposed to “root” for in January is 2,800 miles away; if the most populous state in the nation, the economic and social driver of this country is ignored (again… as they are on election day), then why should I care?
It’s a take-my-Transformers-and-go-home moment that Leach portends for Pac-12 sports. I think the league should take its top eight and have its own tournament with its own sponsors. If they want to lease out their inimitable facilities in late January for the rest of the nation to use because it’s cold and shitty and there’s no jobs where they live, then fine. Grab that Wanna Get Away fare, come on out and go crazy.
…But this charade of an actual nation-wide playoff and pretending the selection committee doesn’t pop champagne like the remaining members of the ‘72 Dolphins when the last Pac-12 team gets a ‘L’ to show up on the right so they don’t have to stay up anymore and pretend to watch is a fallacy.
Sub out the Pac-12 championship for two weeks of elimination games near the end of December and settle it at the Rose Bowl Jan. 1. Then move on. Done.
BTW, Kyle, I’m having a tough time understanding why your Spartans (at 5-1 and with no recent losses to Syracuse) are barely in the top-20. Maybe they should come join a West Coast conference since they’re already being treated like they’re in one.
I say this rarely because your read on the playoffs to this point has been spot-on, but I think patience is in order. One of the SEC teams will wipe out in the title game, ditto the Big Ten and Oklahoma schools, and there’s still plenty of chance for an outsider (a Pac-12 school, somebody currently downballot in the B1G [my Spartans], or The U from the ACC) to make a late-season push, given that league titles are in still in play. This IS a legitimate fear, and WOULD be worthy of discussing, if we’re still here on Nov. 20 and a 1-loss Pac 12 school isn’t in the mix. Until then, we’re still watching the entropy of preseason polls expand like the post-Big Bang universe. Change will occur.
Also, I want to address the West Coast, California-specific, bias you’re alleging here. I’m a believer in sports’ East Coast bias hook, line, and sinker. Tim Brown got jobbed out of untold fame and fortune because he did his thing in Oakland every Sunday, same for Chuck Woodson. Kenley Jansen would be a video game coverboy if he was in pinstripes, and Adrian Gonzalez will fight far too hard for a spot in the Hall of Fame because he’s mostly a career California guy. That stuff is as real as it gets.
I see the dynamic in play in football, but I think you went easy on the Pac-12’s culpability in this whole mess. West Coast football is so easily ignorable because it allows itself to be easily ignorable. SC—which we agree is the standard-bearer—has been east of the Mississippi to play anybody but Notre Dame exactly once in the last 5 years. Oregon has done it twice. UCLA made their pilgrimage east to play… Memphis? In Memphis? What dirt do the Tigers have on Westwood to get the Bruins to pack up a plane to head to Western Tennessee? I’m guessing it’s at least hooker killing.
What’s worse is the league’s attitude toward television. This week I see the league’s top two ranked teams, USC and Washington State (Washington is off), are playing at 7:30 p.m. and 10:45 p.m. EST, respectively. AJ, if you know that one loss could make night games unpalatable to voters, why would you KEEP SCHEDULING THEM? Honestly, if you’re not going to have Herbstreit calling your night game and pimping it on Gameday in the morning, you may as well be scheduling one of these gimmick weeknight games. (Which, by the way, Mike Leach lost last week.) Put your electric, aerial-assault brand of football against whatever plodding shit the SEC trots out during the late EST afternoon and see if you can attract a few more of the eyes who matter. The same goes, to a lesser extent, for the Mountain West. The Heisman campaign of San Diego State’s Rashaad Penny was smothered in the crib by a schedule that found his team kicking off late on a Saturday night every damn week.
The mountain is never going to come to the Mohammed that is the PAC-12 and West Coast football in general. A huge portion of the lack of hype is on them for A) having a slightly inferior product wins wise, but mostly B) marketing it like a job applicant does his most recent firing. If football out here is a secret, the league is doing a great job keeping it and should own its part in the disappointment.
AJ, when you bring it back, I’ll have picks in Michigan-Penn State, Syracuse-Miami, Akron-Toledo, and Wyoming-Boise State.
After a few reads of your nuanced and well-cited rebuttal (not being sarcastic, it was much more than I could have hoped after throwing out the notion of Russian Bot-driven West Coast secession) I think you completed my argument rather than countered it. Also, I really appreciate your clarification as to why, in fact, UCLA did travel to Memphis that fateful September Saturday. It was either because of the escort in the trunk of the Escort or boosters figured UCLA football had to become UCLA football at some point this season, so why not make it so sooner than later?
I completely agree that the Pac-12 has missed the mark on making its games accessible. I could barely stay up to tune into the first quarter of last weekend’s Oregon/Stanford mess, and I live in the same time zone and attended one of the schools (hint: not the one that teaches you how to addict, defraud and destroy the public with a swipe left or right), so to expect someone in an EST zip to start cracking beers at closing time to watch golden-armed QBs and speedy DBs as an exercise in anything but scouting for his or her fantasy team in three years’ time is, indeed, much too big an ask.
When the Pac-10 expanded in 2010, commissioner Larry Scott originally had his eyes set on Texas schools (UT and A&M) instead of Utah and Colorado. Though Texas is about as un-Pacific as it gets, Scott’s endgame was to ink a TV deal similar to what the SEC got in 2014 when it created its own network and got a Brinks truck backed up to Tuscaloosa thanks to network-sinking contracts with ESPN and CBS.
Last year, that league reported $527.4 million in total revenue, which was up 60 percent from when it started in 2014. Almost $33 million was distributed to each school, beating out all others for the highest revenue split nationwide. The SEC Network is currently valued at almost $5 billion.
The Big 10’s network is worth a purported $1.5 billion and the Pac-12 Network is a distant third at about a $500 million valuation reporting earnings of $439 million in its last fiscal year with a distribution of just over $25 million to each member—but only $1 million of that from the network itself (it makes most of its money through deals with Fox, CBS and ESPN that are still lucrative for the league as a whole even if they pale compared to the SEC and Big 10.)
Would the Texas schools have upped that revenue? Absolutely. They also would have made it possible for the Pac-12 to expand to 16 or 18 schools, with folks throwing out the Oklahomas, TCU, BYU, Boise State, SDSU and Baylor as the possible additional appendages. Only problem is the Pac-12 will not take schools that aren’t research schools (which is why the Texas duo fit well in the first place and why ASU bends the word “research” to unrecognizable limits.) Until such time as the Pac-12 extends its reach geographically to where the Pacific Ocean waters actually will be in 50 years, you can all but guarantee little to no attention will be paid to teams whose mascot isn’t synonymous with ’90s hip hop lyrics.
Sure, Kyle, a one-loss Pac-12 team could well surface in the four-team playoff come January, but that is not predicated on their excellence of play as much as it is some other, preferred program’s falling apart. And that is what hurts most. In spite of being the nation’s bellwether, no Pac-12 program today, congruous—again—with its electorate here, holds its fate in its own hands. And that is, truly, a feeling of helplessness.
Speaking of, I’m going with West Coast undercards only this week: Oregon-UCLA, BYU-East Carolina, Nevada-Air Force and USC-Notre Dame.
Here we go:
Akron @ Toledo -16
Sixteen is a big number in this matchup between MAC unbeatens. Akron (4-3, 3-0) visits Toledo (5-1, 2-0) for a matchup between the league’s two divisional leaders. The Zips are actually better against the spread (5-2) than the Rockets (2-4), but the Rockets are getting warm at the right time and are better than Akron in point differential, rushing average, turnovers, and time of possession. I think they’re getting a head of steam up to make a run at the league title. Take them to cover at home under near-perfect weather conditions.
Syracuse @ Miami -17
Syracuse (4-3, 2-1) may feel like the hottest team in the country after taking out Clemson last week, but Miami (5-0, 3-0) might actually be the hottest team in the country. It all starts with running back Mark Walton, who averages 7.6 yards per carry and keeps the heat off ‘Canes QB Malik Rosier, who is shaky but manages not to turn the rock over because of it. Syracuse is an unsteady club and QB Eric Dungey goes down on sacks three times a game. It’s a small miracle he’s still upright. A major yardage disaster on a pass play is exactly the kind of failure the Orange can’t stomach against a rushing and time-of-possession monster like the ‘Canes offense. Look for Miami to cover a big number.
Michigan +9.5 @ Penn State
Listen, nobody believes in Michigan’s offense. It’s garbage, doesn’t (can’t) protect the football, and John O’Korn is only slightly better than his predecessor in the role of UM QB, Wilton Speight. But, Michigan’s defense is a battering ram, bullying other teams into advantages in time of possession, the overall rushing game, and third down conversions, where the Wolverine defenders allow opponents just a 20% success rate. Penn State’s offense, led by star running back/very capable receiver Saquon Barkley, is hellacious, but I just don’t see them running away from Michigan big.
Wyoming @ Boise St. -14
Another small-conference battle of the unbeatens that I’m looking forward to, with Wyoming (4-2, 2-0) going to the Smurf Turf to play Boise (4-2, 2-0). Thing is, these teams are not the same, despite their records overall and in the Mountain West. Boise is coming off a huge road victory against San Diego State, the class of the conference, and offers a balanced attack. Wyoming, on the other hand, is vastly unbalanced in favor of its passing attack and could quickly fall in a hole while the Broncos strangle the clock. Look for Boise to keep it rolling at home.
Alright AJ, who ya got?
Nevada +7 vs. Air Force
Two promising seasons have ended up in disappointment for both the Wolf Pack and the Falcons. With a single win (vs. Hawaii) Nevada’s potent offense has been grounded most of the season, and after losing four straight, Air Force finally got one in the win a 27-point comeback victory against UNLV last week. Quarterback Arion Worthman has shown he can make special throws but Air Force’s defense is more porous than the commander-in-chief’s foreign policy (what there is of it.) This is a Friday game at Mackay which will have the feel of a high school matchup (Nevada is currently starting 10 true Freshmen under first-year coach Jay Norvell.) The good news is the Pack is starting to keep games close and learn on the job. They could be formidable in a season or two. For now, just crack a cold one to kick off the weekend and hope they cover.
BYU -5.5 vs. East Carolina
The Cougars are 1-6 and the experiment to go independent can now be called a failure (see: Larry Scott on speed dial.) East Carolina statistically on offense and defense is one of the only schools in the FBS ranked lower than BYU (in the composite ranking BYU is #111 and ECU is #120.) It’s a good thing negative points aren’t a part of college football because in this case it may be a battle of who can score less. I predict a 10-3 final, and flipped a coin and it came out on the side of The Chosen Ones. If you don’t want to watch the game, watch the Cosmo Cougar (love any mascot named after Kramer) dance instead. It’s the best thing about this season in the abyss, by far.
Really need to know who this cougar is pic.twitter.com/7gqzdzIVb2
— Jasmine (@JasmineLWatkins) October 10, 2017
UCLA -7 vs. Oregon
UCLA is (as mentioned) being very UCLA this season. Great QB, no DBs and an oversized line that’s ineffective. Oregon is just terrible… and injured to boot.
USC +4 @ Notre Dame
Moneyline. After being decimated with injuries starting week 1, USC is getting it’s skill players and line(s) back, including some DBs and most of its offensive line. The Trojans are deep which is why they’re still 6-1 and Notre Dame is shaky offensively. Quarterback Brandon Wimbush has as many rushing attempts (68, for 402 yards) as completions and even though receiver Equanimeous St. Brown has 15 catches for 211 yards, the Irish don’t have the speed to match SC’s secondary. Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson and tackle Mike McGlinchey may give some of SC’s defensive linemen fits, but look for SC coach Clay Helton to flush Wimbush out with various blitz packages the likes of which the Irish haven’t seen since… the last time they played SC. A minor upset this weekend in South Bend.
Kyle: 1 for 3
AJ: 3 and 0
Kyle: 15 for 22
AJ: 14 for 24
UCLA -7 vs. Oregon
USC +4 @ Notre Dame (Moneyline!)
BYU -5.5 vs. East Carolina
Nevada +7 vs. Air Force
Akron @ Toledo -16
Syracuse @ Miami -17
Michigan +9.5 @ Penn State
Wyoming @ Boise St. -14
In the wake of Hurricane Maria, 80 plus percent of Puerto Rico is still without food and water and people are starting to get sick and die (49 total as of this posting and rising) from waterborne illnesses which is as third-world disastrous as it gets.
In the meantime, we have a president who thinks it’s OK—along with not dispatching the necessary help and supplies on the ground mostly as a result of his state department and FEMA have been strip-mined in dictatorial fashion—to troll a US territory where his actions (rather, inaction) is creating death in its wake in an ever-escalating manner. This alone is an impeachable moment or a moment for his cabinet to remove the sick fuck from office invoking the 25th Amendment. Instead, the GOP tells to please stand by till they shove tax cuts through for their ultra-wealthy donors.
Below, a few orgs that can help, because we’ve fully entered the era of self-sufficiency where government and our elected officials have failed.
…So I’ll go ahead and throw in a quote and some links to help and move on to my picks, expeditiously. There is little time to waste: “Character, in the long run, is the decisive factor in the life of an individual and of nations alike.” — Theodore Roosevelt