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Pac-12 Power Rankings: The narrative edition

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NCAA Football: Pac-12 Media Day 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.

Well, here we are again. No, not our Pac-12 Power Rankings. I’m talking about the Pac-12 getting in its own way. But don’t panic! It’s only one week, and things can change in a heartbeat.

But, my goodness. The narrative around the Pac-12 hasn’t changed, and this is despite going an OK 8-4 in week 1, though the big one—Oregon vs. Auburn—needed to go one way and went the other way. Two of the Pac-12’s losses were to a Mountain West team and an AAC team. Not great, Bob!

To compare narratives, the SEC had losses to Memphis (Ole Miss), North Carolina (South Carolina), Georgia State (HAHA TENNESSEE) and Wyoming (Missouri). Arkansas didn’t exactly inspire anyone in its win over Portland State, either.

But the negative narrative will follow the Pac-12 and not the SEC for lots or reasons, one of which is the number of conference teams in the College Football Playoff. It’s not fair, but it’s reality. Let’s explore some of the bad mojo, starting with an off-the-field gaffe.


1. Larry Scott said a very Larry Scott thing

In case it slipped by you, here’s what Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott told a group of business leaders in Portland last week:

Yikes. Imagine the CEO of your company saying, “Hey, it’s not the C-level executives who sell our product. It’s the sales department, but I get blamed for poor sales!”

Or a school superintendent saying, “Look, I’m not teaching the students, but the district leadership gets blamed for our falling graduation rates!”

Or a university president saying, “Yeah, freshman admissions are down 10%, but I’m not the one recruiting students!”

This is not the thing you want your conference leader saying right before the start of a pivotal season in the Pac-12. Larry Scott might be the least self-aware executive out there.

2. The Pac-12’s perception took another hit shortly after, when UCLA lost to Cincinnati.

This wasn’t a total surprise, though, given the high expectations put on the Cincinnati Bearcats. But it was a G5 win over a P5, and a P5 with Chip Kelly at the helm and some expectations of improvement from last season’s 3-9 season.

But alas, it wasn’t to be. And the talking heads on Twitter let everybody know:

The first half of this last tweet is #FakeNews, but the DirecTV part....ouch.

3. Arizona didn’t help the Pac-12’s cause, either

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 24 Arizona State at Arizona Photo by Carlos Herrera/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

When your defense records six takeaways—six!—and your offense totals 539 yards and still loses, you have some explaining to do.

That’s the situation the Arizona Wildcats find themselves in after their week zero loss at Hawaii.

It’s only one game, but Khalil Tate was a one-man band to open the season, and that was even on just 56% passing. He had 108 yards rushing, but 109 yards would have given the Wildcats a chance to win and could have helped the Pac-12 get off to a decent start.

4. Even after all that, Oregon could have saved the Pac-12. Welp!

NCAA Football: Advocare Classic-Auburn vs Oregon Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

The Auburn Tigers probably won’t be among the top-3 teams in the SEC, and the supposed top team in the Pac-12 (that’s debatable) couldn’t hold a 21-6 lead and stop a true freshman quarterback.

Sure, it doesn’t completely eliminate the Pac-12 from the College Football Playoff—there are other Pac-12 teams not named Oregon, of course—but the path isn’t as wide open as it could have been.

5. Is Clay Helton a Dead Man Walking?

Fresno State v USC Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

It’s odd to have to ask that question a second year in a row, but here we are thanks to Lynn Swann. Helton’s USC Trojans got a solid win over Fresno State, but lost star quarterback J.T. Daniels to a season ending ACL injury. That leaves true freshman Kedon Slovis as QB1.

Oh, and we should remind ourselves that Jack Sears, a former four-star prospect, recently announced he would enter the transfer portal. Not great for USC (although it remains to be seen whether Sears will return to the team).

Helton was on the hottest of seats heading into the season. Seeing his star quarterback go down, forcing the team to presumably start a true freshman in a new offense is just plain bad luck.

Here are USC’s next five games:

  • Home vs. Stanford
  • At BYU
  • Home vs. Utah
  • At Washington
  • At Notre Dame

They do have a bye week between UW and Notre Dame. Good luck!

6. Is Lee Corso crazy for having Utah in the national championship game?

I’m all in favor of bold predictions, as you know, but this one is a little too bold for me.

7. Three cheers for the Ol’ Crimson brigade.

Not only did Ol’ Crimson find its way inside Disney’s Magic Kingdom despite some adverse rules and regulations, but also it pulled double duty in week 1 for the Thursday GameDay show (below) and the usual Saturday morning show (above).

Thumbs up, everybody.

8. Rodrick Fisher’s touchdown Saturday was more than six points

Jeff touched on this on Monday, but it warrants a spot in this week’s rankings. Seeing the redshirt freshman from Spokane Valley start the game and then haul in a 41-yard touchdown pass from Anthony Gordon was beautiful, for reasons beyond football.

Fisher’s family was at the game and, according to Theo Lawson of The Spokesman-Review, shed some tears of joy:

Way to go, Rodrick.

9. Utah and BYU played color and color and more rivalry games should do the same

NCAA Football: Utah at Brigham Young Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

There once was a time when USC and UCLA had to concede timeouts before the game even started in order to both wear colored unis for their rivalry game. Now, that dumb concession is no longer needed, and BYU and Utah looked absolutely gorgeous going color on color.

Who’s in favor of the Apple Cup being crimson on purple, no matter where the game is played? Helmets and pant combos can change, but the shirts should stay the same. Yea or nay?

10. Not even the Reser Stadium elevators could stop Oklahoma State’s offense

NCAA Football: Oklahoma State at Oregon State Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

Conspiracy theory: Oregon State’s defense is so bad, the school had to resort to trapping the Oklahoma State coaches in the stadium elevators at the start of the second half to try and stop the Cowboy offense.

It still didn’t work. The Cowboys scored on the opening possession of the second half with its press box coaching staff stuck in an elevator.

11. Key Pac-12 quarterbacks suffer injuries

NCAA Football: Northwestern at Stanford John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

We already mentioned J.T. Daniels’ season-ending injury. Stanford’s K.J. Costello also left last week’s game after being crushed, and Oregon’s Justin Herbert had to be spelled for a bit as well.

The absence of Daniels and possibly Costello makes this weekend’s Stanford-USC game a lot less interesting.

12. Speaking of refs, week 1 went by with no Pac-12 officiating explanations

NCAA Football: Pac-12 Media Day Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Pac-12’s efforts to be a bit more transparent when it comes to officiating didn’t need to be deployed after week 1, as there were no egregious or game-impacting calls from Pac-12 officiating crews. Maybe next week!

K.J. Costello of the Stanford Cardinal did get his head nearly knocked off in what should have been a targeting penalty, but it was a Big Ten officiating crew in that game.


Pac-12 Game of the Week

Cal at Washington

This would have been USC vs. Stanford, but as we mentioned, the star power has gone out of that game. The Huskies are looking for revenge after losing at Cal last year, in a game where Jake Browning got yanked and made his emotions clear on the sideline. I’m interested in how Washington’s offense fares against Cal’s stout defense. The Huskies should be better with Jacob Eason under center. But we’ll see.

Go Bears!