A dozen things on the Pac-12…
One) Arizona State beat Michigan State 10-7 in a messy finish last Saturday. The Pac-12 acknowledged on Sunday night that its crew working the game made an officiating error, missing an obvious “leaping” penalty that ASU should have been flagged for on the game’s final snap.
Arizona State should have been penalized 15 yards and Sparty should have advanced half the distance to the goal, where its struggling kicker would have had another field-goal attempt.
I liked that the Pac-12 publicly addressed the officiating error. I appreciated that the conference provided a video of the sequence, narrated by conference director of officials David Coleman. It’s a step in the right direction for a conference that has massive credibility issues and desperately needs to build trust.
The only better step is to get all the calls right.
Two) We all know Herm Edwards is a rock-star interview. The ASU coach is always in high demand. But the first few days of this week were nuts for the Sun Devils’ sports information department. Arizona State, sitting on a 3-0 record, received 71 interview requests for Edwards between the final seconds of the game and Wednesday morning.
More impressive, Edwards agreed to do them all.
Three) Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott traditionally makes it a point to attend at least one of the conference’s home football games every week. At halftime, he spends a few minutes addressing the media in the press box. Last Friday night, Scott attended Washington State’s win over Houston game at NRG Stadium in Houston.
So where is the commissioner this week?
Andrew Walker, a spokesperson for the Pac-12 told me: “He is not planning on attending a game this weekend.”
Could be that Scott has important weekend plans. Also could be that this falls in line with the commissioner being pulled back by the Pac-12 CEO Group, which wants to present a more unified front. Scott has lost a ton of clout and it was a bad look last season to have the commissioner jetting around on a private aircraft, running up expenses while the conference members were financially struggling vs. peers. Colorado Chancellor Philip P. DiStefano is the chair of the CEO group. He took a more visible role during last college basketball season, when he showed up alongside Scott at the conference tournament in Las Vegas.
Keep an eye on this. I know I will.
Four) The Pac-12 has a lousy television distribution deal. It results in games being broadcast across a spectrum of networks (ESPN, FS1, Pac-12 Network, NBC…). Kickoff times are directly affected by this, and the unknowns cause considerable angst for fans who are trying to plan travel.
I got a note from a ticket holder who plans to attend the Utah vs. Oregon State homecoming game on Oct. 12 at Reser Stadium. The fan wants to know when that game will kick off so he can book hotel rooms for his family traveling to the game.
That weekend, Oregon hosts Colorado on Friday night for an already announced 7:30 p.m. kickoff on FS1. It’s one of eight “special date” games that ESPN and FOX can schedule on a Thursday or Friday. And on that Saturday, USC travels to Notre Dame. That game is not a Pac-12 controlled game so kickoff is already set for 4:30 p.m. Pacific time. It will air on NBC.
But what about the other Pac-12 games that weekend:
Utah at Oregon State
Washington at Arizona
WSU at Arizona State
The Pac-12 tells me that prior to the season, ESPN and FOX determine a draft order of the football games they control for each week of the season. Start times and network designations are made either on a 12-day window or 6-day window for those Saturday games throughout the season.
ESPN and FOX are allowed to utilize the 6-day window up to four times total each season. This means that if one of them elects to use a 6-day pick for one of the above Oct. 12 games they’d get to wait until Oct. 6 to make that kickoff-time announcement.
However, there’s a wildcard at play that weekend — it’s Oregon State’s homecoming game. All Pac-12 homecoming games in the conference must be selected 12 days in advance. So the reader waiting for that Utah at Oregon State kickoff time to be determined should expect to get that information on Sunday, Sept. 29.
Any other questions? Tweet at me: @JohnCanzanoBFT or drop me email: JohnCanzano@icloud.com
Five) I had Washington State coach Mike Leach on the radio show this week. The podcast of the interview is worth a listen. His most passionate response came when I asked him about the possibility of 10 a.m. kickoffs at some juncture. It’s safe to say he doesn’t support it.
Leach said: “10 a.m. kickoffs are ridiculous. Everybody knows they’re ridiculous. There are a few coaches out there that are early morning guys that think it’s a good idea, but I honestly think that’s kind of a selfish position. The thing is, it totally screws your fans, it totally screws your team. The NCAA has decided you can’t get players up before six in the morning, yet they want to have a 10 a.m. game? So you’re getting them up around 4 a.m. Of course, those hours never trouble the NCAA when it comes to them making money.”
Dismiss Washington State’s Pac-12 championship possibilities at your own risk. I keep seeing and hearing people declare the 3-0 Cougars are overrated. I disagree. WSU has a deep stable of gifted receivers and a very good offensive line, and they’ve got a star play-caller. That wins in college football today.
Six) I asked my old colleague at the SJ Mercury News, Jon Wilner, what he made of WSU’s struggle to beat Washington. He made a great point this week — WSU plays Washington at the end of the season in the Apple Cup when coach Chris Petersen has the Huskies humming.
Said Wilner: “I think with Washington, you’ve got to get them early. I think by the end of October, they’re going to be hell on wheels… once those DBs get settled in and (Jacob) Eason gets comfortable, they’re going to be tough to beat.”
Seven) Washington’s conference home games this season include games with USC (9/28), Oregon (10/19), Utah (11/2) and WSU (11/29). That schedule lines up nicely for UW, doesn’t it?
I think the Huskies are a tough defensive team, but also, I’m interested in seeing if the Washington offense finds some punch in that span. Since former Huskies’ play-caller Jonathan Smith left Petersen’s staff for the head job at Oregon State, the offensive spark hasn’t been there.
Eight) Oregon’s Justin Herbert (105 pass attempts this season) is one of only three FBS QBs without an interception in 100-plus pass attempts this season. Dating back to last season, Herbert has a streak of 150 pass attempts without an interception. Not far behind Herbert is Jake Luton of Oregon State, who has no interceptions in 96 pass attempts this season.
Nine) Oregon State spent part of the bye week trying to draw fans to the stadium for future games. OSU gave each season ticket holder free tickets this week — for example, if you bought two season tickets, they offered you two freebies in the same vicinity as your season tickets to an Oregon State Pac-12 home game of your choice.
I thought it was a nice way for Oregon State to reward its 13,000 or so season-ticket holders.
Ten) A deep dive on the Pac-12 rosters tells an interesting story. There are 174 returning starters (including place kickers and punters) in the conference this season. Oregon leads the way with 19 returners. Stanford returns only nine starters, dead last in the conference.
Given the above, I’d expect David Shaw’s Stanford team to have a steeper growth curve. I’d rather play them early in the season vs. late.
Eleven) Ducks’ offensive coordinator Marcus Arroyo can hold up 10 touchdown passes in the last two weeks as evidence of progress. But I’m going to wait to see his play calling on Saturday vs. Stanford to remove my skepticism. For me, Arroyo’s performance remains the biggest wild card in the Oregon football season.
Twelve) Finally… everyone is buzzing about Chip Kelly’s struggles. UCLA (0-3) plays WSU (3-0) this week and is a good bet to run off the field. The Bruins defense is allowing 31.7 points per game — 101st in the country. I asked Cougars’ coach Mike Leach what he thinks of the Bruins this week.
“They’re not necessarily playing together as well as they’d liked,” Leach said, “but keep in mind this whole conference wanted all of those players that are over there playing. They got them instead of the rest of us. We’ve got to go and play good.”