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Pac-12 Power Rankings: Lynn Swann has a decision to make

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NCAA Football: Washington State at Southern California Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Power rankings are often all the same, so we’re mixing things up. Each week you’ll get a rundown of 12 or fewer highlights, storylines and anything in between from the Conference of Champions.


The last week of the regular season is here, and some teams will see their season end after the weekend. But not us! We have a lot to play for.

This week, the Pac-12 Power Rankings look at Clay Helton’s future (again), the conference failing to explain itself, Air Borghi, a conspiracy theory that you won’t like, and more.

1. Clay Helton should be fired, but is it too expensive?

NCAA Football: Pac-12 Championship-Southern California vs Stanford Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

This is what I wrote last week:

So, with a rivalry game coming up against UCLA—my goodness, can you imagine what might happen should the Trojans lose to the Bruins?—and then the finale against Notre Dame in another rivalry game, all you Helton fans better get a glimpse of him before he packs his boxes.

Well, now we wait to see what happens. USC’s future doesn’t look bright if Helton is still in charge. USC AD Lynn Swann gave Helton an extension earlier this year, extending Helton’s contract through 2023. Helton’s buyout is apparently $14 million. That’s a big price tag, but can USC afford not to pay it?

USC needs a win over undefeated Notre Dame to become bowl eligible. Notre Dame needs that win to assure itself a spot in the College Football Playoff. You tell me how this will work out.

Oh, and did I mention USC fans have secured funding through a GoFundMe account to fly a plane carrying a banner calling for Helton’s firing?

Good times!

2. So long, Mike MacIntyre

NCAA Football: Utah at Colorado Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

There will be at least one head coach opening in the Pac-12 and it comes from Boulder, Colo. Mike MacIntyre, two seasons removed from a Pac-12 South title and a 10-win season, was sent packing after losing six straight games after opening the season 5-0.

That 2016 season is a major outlier from his tenure at Colorado. The Buffs haven’t won more than five games during MacIntyre’s tenure, save for that 2016 season. I don’t know, maybe Colorado shouldn’t have hired a guy from San Jose State to begin with.

3. Somehow, Gardner Minshew wasn’t the Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week

NCAA Football: Arizona at Washington State James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

I don’t want to take anything away from UCLA’s Joshua Kelley, who ran for 289 yards on 40 carries for two touchdowns against USC. That’s very good and very deserving of praise.

But.

Gardner Minshew II set a school record with seven—seven!—touchdown passes and threw for nearly 500 yards. Who’s giving out this award, anyway?

4. Utah is the tallest out of a group of very short people

NCAA Football: Utah at Colorado Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Someone had to win the Pac-12 South, and the Utah Utes, without their starting quarterback or running back, have made it to the end atop the standings. They’ll get either WSU or UW in the Pac-12 Championship Game.

Whoever they play, they’ll have to avenge an earlier season loss, as both UW and WSU have victories over the Utes this season. Good luck.

5. The Pac-12 is failing at the transparency game

Pac-12 Championship - Arizona v Oregon

Jon Wilner has a long piece on the Pac-12’s publicity problem, namely as it relates to officiating and the WSU-USC debacle.

The gist of it is that many people agree: The conference needs to be much more transparent. The Pac-12 has failed thus far. It hasn’t explained why Woodie Dixon was calling in to offer his opinions on replays, and it hasn’t adequately explained why there was no targeting penalty on Porter Gustin against WSU, leaving fans and media members to speculate the worst: That the replay booth was afraid its call would be overturned by a guy who shouldn’t be involved in these things in the first place.

Wilner reported that both the ADs and the CEOs have met with the conference separately to talk about this subject. We’ll see if the Pac-12 can dig out of the hole it dug, but I’m not optimistic it’ll fully repair the damage done until there is a leadership change.

6. The highlight of the night for WSU vs. Arizona

This was beautiful from Max Borghi:

He did something similar in high school, but it was called back because you can’t do that in high school:

I know coaches generally hate this, and it wouldn’t surprise me if it was eventually outlawed in college (that defender can take a nasty knee to the head), but it’s fun to watch, over and over again.

7. The highs and lows of Washington State’s special teams is giving fans ulcers

It all started at Wyoming when the Cougs barley avoided disaster after that snap over Oscar Draguicevhich’s head. Then, of course, there was that fumbled snap and later a blocked field goal at USC, both of which were incredibly costly. Blake Mazza redeemed himself with the game-winner at Stanford, though he’s also missed some kicks as well this season.

Then there was last Saturday when WSU recovered two fumbles on special teams play, one of which was perhaps the weirdest sequence of events this season:

There have been a few other botched snaps as well. I say we retire special teams after this season. Who’s with me?

8. What is it with college football, cold nights and shirtless men?

This isn’t a thing exclusive to the Pac-12, but is there some sort of science that I’m not familiar with that says going shirtless outside in sub-freezing temps is good for the mind and/or body? Because all I’ve known my entire life is the exact opposite. If you’re trying to show off, you’re doing it in a stupid way.

A number of players went topless during warm-ups prior to the Arizona game, and then some young fans got into the act.

Arizona v Washington State Photo by William Mancebo/Getty Images

Teams across the country like to do this, too. Someone’s going to get pneumonia real quick.

9. For the conspiracy theorists: A UW win in the Apple Cup is better for the Pac-12

NCAA Football: Washington at Washington State James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Why? Because WSU could be chosen for a New Years Six bowl game and then either UW or Utah will be in the Rose Bowl, thus giving the conference two teams in the New Years Six and the payouts those bowls provide.

Change my mind.

10. The real Rivalry Week is here

Oregon State v Oregon Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

Last week was the appetizer, although it wasn’t all that great. UCLA created postgame drama for USC, Colorado vs. Utah still isn’t a rivalry, and Cal and Stanford had to reschedule.

But this weekend is different. The hate will be flowing in all corners of the conference, as fans can enjoy two cups, two wars and one battle:

  • Apple Cup: Washington at Washington State
  • Territorial Cup: Arizona State at Arizona
  • Civil War: Oregon at Oregon State
  • Holy War: BYU at Utah
  • Battle for the Jeweled Shillelagh: Notre Dame at USC

Let the hate flow.