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Pac-12 Power Rankings: Escape L.A. edition

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NCAA Football: Pac-12 Championship-Southern California vs Stanford 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.

Raise your hand if you had week 2 as the week when off-the-field news would trump everything that happened on the field? I see you, liars.

It was just another typical week of college football, until things started shaking in Los Angeles—and I’m not talking about The Big One. Lynn Swann resigned as athletic director, which was months in the making. He’s been blowing in the wind ever since USC appointed a new president, and now change is coming to Troy.

We start off with that, plus UW’s latest loss to Cal, an incredible game in Boulder, and much more.

1. So long, Lynn Swan

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

It’s easy to laugh at Lynn Swan’s resignation. On one hand, he was a poor athletic director. On the other hand, he shouldn’t have been hired in the first place and was put in a terrible spot by the former administration (which, if you don’t already know, had a lot of issues beyond who the athletic director was).

But Swann oversaw an athletic department that had football team trending in the wrong direction, a men’s basketball assistant nabbed by the FBI, and an admissions scandal. Swann was more of a celebrity athletic director, doing book signings and going on golf outings instead of running the athletic department properly.

I know nothing about the situation at USC, but I’ve read a few pieces mentioning the name Steve Lopes as someone who should get a good long look by the administration. Lopes is a senior associate athletic director and was not named interim athletic director. That leads me to believe he’s in line for the job.

That’d be fine with me, if for no other reason than taking Pat Chun’s name off the list.

So, what does this mean for Clay Helton and USC football? Thanks for asking….

2. Kedon Slovis and the Air Raid have USC and Clay Helton sitting comfortable….for now

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

Just last week we thought Clay Helton was a dead man walking (again) thanks to the season-ending injury to J.T. Daniels. The USC Trojans looked like they were in a heap of trouble with Jack Sears transferring and the starting quarterback position handed to a true freshman without a ton of hype.

Turns out, the worries might all be for nothing. Slovis helped USC come back against the Stanford Cardinal and the Trojans cruised in the second half. Helton may still be on his way out, especially with a new athletic director coming. The schedule is still brutal, but for now, USC fans should be feeling good about the direction of the team.

What a roller coaster.

3. UW’s playoff hopes—and the power—go out in Husky Stadium

The Washington Huskies lost for the second year in a row to the California Golden Bears. The Cal defense did what it does, but the Cal offense did a little more than what we’re used to, gaining 303 total yards. That’s good for Cal!

The game was delayed for two-and-a-half hours due to lightning in the area. The storm as so bad, the Husky Stadium power went out and with it, presumably, the UW offense.

Jacob Eason was supposed to be the next great Jake, and while he’s better than his predecessor, it seems it doesn’t matter who’s under center against the Cal defense.

Like Oregon last week, it’s only one loss so UW’s College Football Playoff hopes aren’t necessarily dashed, though the road gets tougher from here. I think it’s safe to say this audience wouldn’t mind UW’s playoff hopes be completely throttled in the coming weeks.

Also, I fell asleep before the game re-started, but I woke up Sunday to a text message from my uncle, a die-hard Cal fan, with the words “BEARS WIN!!!” Good morning!

4. UCLA’s woes continue

NCAA Football: San Diego State at UCLA Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Remember when UCLA hired Chip Kelly and the running narrative was that he’d have the Bruins back in no time? Mike Leach even criticized media for asking teams if they’re worried about UCLA and Chip Kelly’s offense. Well, after a 3-9 first season on 0-2 to start season no. 2, it appears UCLA is still in the dumps.

With nearly identical losses to open the season—24-14 to Cincinnati and 23-14 to San Diego State—perhaps Chip Kelly has lost his mojo. Last year, we wondered if UCLA would even win a game. They showed improvement in 2018’s second half, but we’re left asking the same question this season. The Bruins battle Oklahoma this weekend and come to Pullman the next. Yikes.

They’re even gifting tickets to the few who attended the San Diego State game. I’m guessing UCLA brass is afraid of being overrun by Oklahoma fans at the Rose Bowl.

5. Maybe the Pac-12 should take a break from scheduling San Diego State

San Diego State v UCLA Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

The Aztecs hold a 5-1 record against Pac-12 teams since 2016. That one loss was to Stanford last year, a team the Aztecs beat in 2017. Poor Arizona State has twice been a victim in that stretch.

Hawaii, with two straight wins over Pac-12 teams (Arizona and Oregon State to open the 2019 season) is another team feasting on Pac-12 opposition. Maybe we should find other Mountain West Conference teams to schedule.

(h/t to The Athletic’s Chris Vannini for the stat)

6. Colorado’s come-from-behind win was great for the Pac-12

Nebraska v Colorado Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

Will the Buffaloes’ win over a one-time rival and a Big Ten preseason darling move the needle on the Pac-12 narrative? No, but let’s take what we can get.

And what a win it was. Down 17-0 at halftime and 17-7 to start the fourth quarter, the Buffaloes clawed back, eventually tying the game at 24. After a Nebraska touchdown with just less than six minutes left, the Buffaloes forced overtime when Steven Montez hooked up with Tony Brown with 46 seconds to go. Colorado kicked a field goal on overtime’s first possession, and Nebraska was wide right with its field goal attempt because it was forced to use a punter.

What a win against a rival in a stadium that had lots of red, and a good one for the Pac-12.

7. Speaking of come-from-behind wins…..

NCAA Football: Nevada at Oregon Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

The Oregon Ducks dispatched Nevada 77-6, but I’ll have you know the Ducks were down 3-0 halfway through the first quarter. That deficit made some on the Internet (I know, not a great sample size) to jump at the opportunity to mock the Pac-12. The Ducks promptly went out and had 11 players score touchdowns in the romp. Eleven!

College football overreactions are the greatest.

8. Flea flicker from your own end zone? Why not?

Maybe this is when Colorado won the game.

9. Fans had a hard time finding the Washington State game, while Oregon State was found only online

NCAA Football: Arizona State at Colorado Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Is it possible for a game not on TV to be more accessible than a game that was on TV? In 2019, it is.

The WSU-Northern Colorado game was on the Pac-12 Network’s Washington channel, severely limiting the game’s reach. Oregon State-Hawaii was only broadcast on Facebook. What’s worse, apparently the Pac-12 Washington HD channel had some technical issues, forcing some to switch to the standard definition channel. I know this is a first world problem, but come on.

For Oregon State and Hawaii, all you’d need is a Facebook account and Internet access. Seems that’s easier to find then a decent Pac-12 Network feed.

But come 2024, this all will change. Larry Scott said so.

10. “Just Kidding”

Was I the only one who thought of this classic Airplane scene?

11. Pac-12 officials stumble into calling a targeting penalty

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

Much has already been discussed about the targeting ejection for WSU’s Ron Stone Jr. The rule is confusing, but based on the letter of the law, I’m of the opinion that officials made the correct call, so yell at me.


This was a call that took forever to make, which is my source of frustration for this call. It wasn’t flagged on the field—a questionable pass inference penalty was. Then, Northern Colorado attempted to run another play. That play was blown dead due to a false start. Only then did the official stop the game to review the targeting penalty, and even then, they didn’t tell anybody what they were reviewing. This all took way too long, and that’s before the video review!

Why’d it take them so long? Are the game officials just as confused as we are? If so, that’s a huge problem.

12. These aren’t your father’s Stanford Cardinal

Stanford v USC Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

It wasn’t that long ago that the Stanford Cardinal found itself in the Pac-12 North conversation each season. But as goes Andrew Luck, so go the Cardinal, or so it seems. Since 2009, the Cardinal have won fewer than nine games just once (2014). They are 9-5 and 9-4 the past two seasons, but they’ve showed signs of regressing each season.

This year is no different. After a lackluster win to open the season against Northwestern, the Cardinal blew a big lead at USC with a backup quarterback under center due to K.J. Costello’s injury. Costello is expected back this weekend when Stanford travels to Central Florida, but the bad news is stud offensive tackle Walker Little is done for the season.

The schedule isn’t a cake walk either, with road games at UW and in Pullman. Stanford closes the season hosting Notre Dame.

With an average running game—that is, no Christian McCaffrey or Bryce Love to rely on—the Cardinal may have to lean on Costello—and he’s missing his big receivers from past seasons. Stanford’s slide is something to keep an eye on this season.

Pac-12 Game of the Week: Arizona State at Michigan State

The Sun Devils travel to Lansing to play 18th-ranked Michigan State. You’ll recall Arizona State getting a win over the Spartans last season at home. That game put eyes on Herm Edwards and made all of us think that maybe hiring him and his different approach wasn’t such a bad idea.

Arizona State has a true freshman quarterback behind an iffy offensive line, but if they could go into Lansing and get the win, that’d be another step in the right direction for the Pac-12. A naysayer would point out that the Pac-12 needs its top teams to get these kinds of wins, but we’re not naysayers here. Let’s take what we can get.