The Monday After: Just like in years past, the Pac-12 remains its own worst enemy
The Pac-12 doesn’t have a perception problem. The Pac-12 has a Pac-12 problem. It’s a conference that continues to shoot itself in the foot year after year.
The latest example came on Saturday in Palo Alto, California. That’s where then No. 24 Stanford was hosting a 6-1 Washington State team that entered the game ranked No. 14 in the AP Top 25. Washington State also happened to be the lone Pac-12 team with a realistic shot at earning a spot in the College Football Playoff. Doing so would make the Cougars the third Pac-12 team to do so in five years, and the first since Washington following the 2016 season.
The reason the Cougars were the only Pac-12 team with a shot at the CFP was that they were the only Pac-12 team remaining with fewer than two losses. Clearly, the game between Washington State and Stanford was the most important game in the Pac-12 this weekend as it was not only a pivotal game in the Pac-12 North’s division race, but it provided the conference’s lone playoff hope another chance to add a solid win to its resume just days before the first College Football Playoff Rankings were released for the first time this season. In fact, given Washington lost to Cal on Saturday to drop to 6-3 and is no longer ranked in either major poll, Saturday’s game against Stanford may have been Washington State’s last chance to impress anybody.
But I bet you didn’t watch it. I bet you didn’t see Wazzu quarterback Gardner Minshew and Stanford quarterback K.J. Costello go back and forth at one another all night. Minshew finished with 438 yards passing and three touchdowns. Costello matched him with 323 yards and four touchdowns of his own, yet it was Minshew who put together the game-winning drive in the final 1:25, which featured a pinpoint 35-yard connection to Jamire Calvin on a third down to set up a game-winning 42-yard field goal by Blake Mazza. It was the kind of drive and throw that Heisman Trophy campaigns are built on, just adding to a Heisman-hype worthy season that Minshew is having, but you probably didn’t see any of it.
And why didn’t you see it? Because the game was carried on the Pac-12 Network, a channel that isn’t carried in a lot of homes throughout the country, including plenty within the Pac-12’s own conference footprint. I get the network via my cable provider in Chicago, though I have to pay extra for it, and I don’t even get it in high-definition. I know plenty of other college football media members — including some of us here at CBS Sports — who don’t get the network at all on their cable or satellite systems.
So why was one of the Pac-12’s biggest games of the 2018 season on a network a lot of people don’t receive? I wish I could tell you, but it’s par for the course for the Pac-12 these days.
I mean, this is the same conference that only a few weeks ago found itself creating headlines because its general counsel and senior vice president of business affairs, Woodie Dixon, decided to call into a Pac-12 replay booth during a targeting review to let the officials know he didn’t think targeting applied to the call. Here’s what Gary McNanna, the replay official in the booth that night, wrote about the incident in the official game report.
“The QB was on one knee when No. 45 came from the outside, lowered and led with his helmet to the head of the QB. Both the replay booth and the command center agreed this was a targeting foul, but unfortunately, a third party did not agree so the targeting was removed and we went with the ruling on the field of [roughing the passer] with no targeting. This didn’t play well on TV. Reversed my stoppage for [targeting] to not [targeting].”
Ironically enough, the play that Dixon interfered with was a targeting call on Washington State linebacker Logan Tago against USC QB J.T. Daniels. It occurred during the third quarter of the only game that Washington State has lost this season.
Thankfully, Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott has assured us all that something like this will never happen again. Hell, maybe that’s why the Washington State-Stanford game was on Pac-12 Network. Maybe Dixon doesn’t get it on his cable package.
Goal Line Stand of the Week
Florida may have lost to Georgia 36-17 on Saturday, killing its SEC title hopes, but it still had one of the most impressive goal-line stands I’ve seen. Georgia had the chance to run six plays from the Florida 1-yard line following a turnover and couldn’t get in the end zone on any of them. Three Florida penalties extended the drive, but it didn’t matter, as the Gators just kept turning the Bulldogs back on each attempt. In fact, Georgia’s offense ran 10 plays from inside the Florida 7 on the day and didn’t score on any of them. I’m sure that’s not an ominous sign for any possible games later this season.
Revenge Story of the Week
Wake Forest running back Matt Colburn was once planning to be a Louisville Cardinal. Colburn committed to Bobby Petrino’s team as a member of its 2015 recruiting class only to have his scholarship offer pulled shortly before signing day. Colburn wound up at Wake Forest, and on Saturday he rushed for a career-high 243 yards and 3 touchdowns in Wake’s 56-35 domination of the Cardinals. This after Colburn rushed for 134 yards against Louisville in a 42-32 Wake Forest win last season.
“It’s obviously going to heighten things,” said Colburn about playing Louisville after what it did to him in 2015. “Just for me and my situation, I think after my freshman year, I just wanted to get rid of the whole revenge narrative. I’m just so blessed, and I thank God, but it definitely is personal, and it’s really just the icing on the cake just to go out like this and to get our season rolling again.”
Louisville pulled Colburn’s scholarship, and in return, Colburn pulled its card.
Fan of the Week
That is Florida State professor Bruce Thyer, who has worked in the school’s College of Social Work since 2002. The Athletic caught up with him after Florida State’s embarrassing 59-10 loss to Clemson. Thyer became a meme on social media Saturday when ABC cameras caught him reading a book in the stands rather than watching the carnage on the field. As for which book it was reading, it’s by Gillian Flynn and it’s titled “Dark Places.” No, it is not about Florida State football in 2018.
Agent of the Week
I need to hire Randy Edsall’s agent. Maybe he could get me a bonus for every time I pick a game incorrectly.
Perception Poll of the Week
I’m not surprised to find UCF got the most votes in this poll. It went 13-0 last season and is currently sitting at 7-0 and ranked in the top 10. But you know what? I’m not convinced UCF is the best Group of Five team in the country right now. I think it’s the most likely to earn the berth into a New Year’s Six game — and possibly the playoff, though I remain highly skeptical of its chances there — due to what it has accomplished the last two seasons, but if I were to answer this poll I’d lean toward Fresno State or Utah State.
Now, I do wonder if my perception of UCF is fair or not because I think there’s a part of me comparing it to last year’s UCF team more than these other teams. I don’t think 2018 UCF would beat 2017 UCF, and that’s probably having an impact on how I view this year’s team. That said, some advanced metrics like S&P+ have Fresno State ranked ahead of the Knights. While it’s still all up for debate, Fresno State certainly leads the Knights in Kick Sixes this season.
Movie Script of the Week
Nebraska’s Matt Jarzynka got a sack on Saturday against Bethune-Cookman. The senior from Loup City, Nebraska, played eight-man football in high school, and though he wound up on Nebraska’s roster, he never saw a snap until this past weekend. So it had to be an awesome moment for him to not only play against Bethune-Cookman but to get a sack in the process. Also, from what I can tell, Jarzynka wasn’t offside before the snap. I look forward to watching the movie in 20 years.
Punter of the Week
While on the subject of Nebraska-Bethune Cookman, the Wildcats may have lost the game, but they have my new favorite punter. This is Uriel Hernandez, and he also serves as the team’s placekicker.
Video Game QB of the Week
This is why he’s named D’Eriq King and not D’Eriq Prince or D’Eriq Viscount.
AP Voter of the Week
I get it. Sometimes it’s hard to stay up late to see all the action around the country on a Saturday. Still, if you’re a voter in the AP Top 25, maybe you should make sure all the games are finished before submitting your ballot, or at least get up early enough on Sunday to double-check everything before turning your ballot in.
I’m guessing (hoping?) the Albuquerque Journal‘s Steve Virgen forgot to set his alarm on Sunday morning because Virgen had 5-3 Oregon at No. 14 on his ballot this week. Oregon lost 44-15 on the road against Arizona late Saturday night. Now, what makes Virgen’s decision to put Oregon at No. 14 all the more confusing is that he had the Ducks at No. 22 on his ballot last week. Things get stranger from there as Virgen has 6-3 Washington ranked at No. 20, four spots ahead of the 5-3 California team that just beat it. He also has San Diego State at No. 22 even though it lost to Nevada on Saturday night around the same time Oregon was losing to Arizona.
College Football Playoff Projection of the Week
4. Notre Dame
Until the next Monday After!
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