Pac-12 football is right around the corner to the delight of most West Coast fans. Wednesday was the official kickoff of the Pac-12 football season with the Pac-12 Football Media Day.
To say the least it’s been a feeble couple of seasons for the Conference of Champions. The Pac-12 hasn’t come close to smelling the College Football Playoff and along with the perceived shortcomings of Commissioner Larry Scott the frustration of many fans has boiled over.
Larry Scott got things moving with his “State of the Pac-12 Conference” speech.
Commissioner Scott is the face of many fans ire these days. His perceived lack of promoting the conference, his salary, and inability to get something done with getting the Pac-12 Network on Directv only scratches the surface with what his issues are.
Larry Scott did announce that the Pac-12 Football Championship Game would be played at the new Raider Stadium in Las Vegas in 2020 and 2021. This move has long been suspected to occur since the Raiders announced that they were moving to Las Vegas. That was win for Scott, but hardly something that will win him points with the fans.
He did throw some shout outs to the conferences AD’s who were at Media Day. It felt a bit contrived and forced though. It was almost like the Pac-12’s AD’s told him to do it. Larry Scott is under contract until 2022 and I wonder if his bosses want him back.
The Commissioner also confirmed what most people thought was a complete disaster with it’s officiating. He announced that the “independent” review of football officiating was absolute mess. Woodie Dixon, who has no experience with officiating, was involved in a controversial call last year. He basically phoned in from his home to overturn a call that changed the course of the game.
It was a major black eye for the Pac-12 Conference. The call drew immense criticism from coaches, fans, and sports media from around the country.
On Wednesday, the coaches and players tried to put a happy face on the conference. Was it successful?
First of all, Utah was picked to win the Pac-12 South Division. Oregon was picked to win the Pac-12 North Division by one vote over Washington. Utah was then picked to win the Pac-12 Championship Game.
The Utes have garnered a lot of praise heading into this season. Utah head coach, Kyle Whittingham, isn’t surprised though.
“You know, not surprised, and we’re not—it’s not like we’re upset that we’re the favorite. I mean, like I said, it’s good to be recognized, but we knew that we had a chance to have some preseason hype.” Kyle Whittingham explained.
I even have the Utes as a dark horse to get to the CFB Playoff this year. With no Oregon or Stanford on the schedule that helps the cause for the Utes.
We shall see what happens with Utah. The Utes got to Pac-12 Championship last year. Can Utah take that next step that a program must take to be considered elite?
Oregon is the other team in the Pac-12 grabbing some preseason attention.
Having Justin Herbert returning under center for the Ducks certainly will help. Herbert was projected as high draft pick in this past NFL Draft, but stunned many people when he chose to return to Oregon for final year.
Duck head coach, Mario Cristobal, will enjoy the return of his experienced quarterback. However, that raised the expectations of the team with Herbert’s return.
“Well, I think the expectations inside never really change. I think you always acknowledge what the noise is on the outside. When I say noise, I say that respectively because I certainly respect the media and the choices and decisions made, but it never really factors into the process, never really factors into our preparation.” Cristobal explained.
Ducks do have a challenging schedule with Auburn to start things off. Road games with Stanford and Washington will make interesting for the Ducks, but the Ducks do have weapons and experience to do something special this year.
Social media with players is a topic that draws some concern from coaches. When Arizona State Sun Devil head coach, Herm Edwards, was asked about how handles his players social media posts he was pretty direct about it.
“One of our big deals is words and actions. Make sure they up every day. I mean like every day. Not just when it’s a good day, like every day. And it starts with me. It starts with me.” Herm Edwards said.
Pac-12 North: Pac-12 South:
1. Oregon 1. Utah
2. Washington 2. USC
3. Stanford 3. Arizona State
4. Washington State 4. UCLA
5. California 5. Arizona
6. Oregon State 6. Colorado
Pac-12 Title Game Champions: Utah
In the end, the teams are all looking forward to the season ahead like children do with Christmas presents. Hope springs eternal right now, but reality will set in during the season.
The best thing about this time of year is that college football is returning and for people like me it brings a big smile to my face.