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How strong is WSU’s 2021 schedule? How ‘bout Nick Rolovich’s ranking?

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Rankings galore this week!

Oregon v Washington State Photo by William Mancebo/Getty Images

Good morning, and welcome to our semi-continuous series where we look at someone else’s rankings and make fun of them. This week, we get a two-fer, as CBS Sports’ David Cobb - apparently the website’s designated Pac-12 scribe - broke down both strength of schedule (SoS) and coaching rankings. Coaching rankings always seem to be a fun / hot topic to talk about, while strength of schedule is a bit more squishy since we never know how good or bad it truly is until the season ends.

First up is SoS, where Cobb judges the Stanford Cardinal to have the toughest slate among Pac-12 schools. That makes sense, as each of its three non-conference games is against Power Five competition in the Kansas State Wildcats, Vanderbilt Commodores and Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Luckily David Shaw is taking it in stride, only using up half of his waking hours by complaining about the poor little Cardinal having to wake up early to play Kansas State. As if this is some new thing. It’s almost as if Shaw doesn’t understand where his gigantic salary comes from.

At the bottom of the conference’s SoS ranking is none other than the Washington Huskies. Sure, they play Michigan (who totally stunk last year), but that’s about as tough as things get aside from their annual game against the Oregon Ducks. The Huskies miss both of the South’s top contenders in Utah and USC, and get ASU and the aforementioned Ducks at home. In fact, the strength of the teams is largely in inverse order of their relative quality. At the bottom are Washington, Oregon, USC and ASU, while likely also-rans Stanford and Colorado are up top.

The Cougs are smack dab in the middle at No. 6, and here’s what Cobb has to say about their schedule.

Washington State should start 2-0 with games against Utah State and Portland State, but then comes a three-game stretch against USC, at Utah and at California that will provide a stiff test. With the Trojans, Utes and Arizona State all on the schedule from the Pac-12 South, racking up wins will be tough for second-year coach Nick Rolovich. A Nov. 19 home game vs. Arizona looks appetizing, but it’s sandwiched between road games against Oregon and Washington.

Man, that really is a damn tough set of games on the road. Then again, seeing as how WSU will need to scratch and claw to get to six wins, maybe it’s not the worse thing in the world to have the weaker teams visiting Pullman. That’s what I’ll cling to for the time being, anyway.

Now onto the coaching rankings, where the quality of conference coaches has taken a decided downturn of late. How bad? Well, CBS’ panel ranks Kyle Whittingham - he of the decidedly middling 45-41 conference record - as the Pac-12’s top coach. I guess that’s what happens when names like Leach and Petersen are no longer roaming the sidelines. I realize that David Shaw’s output has slipped rather drastically of late, but he’s still guided the Cardinal to four top 10 finishes, three Pac-12 titles and two Rose Bowl championships. Whittingham has accomplished precisely zero Pac-12 titles, zero top 10 finishes, and zero Rose Bowl appearances in the same time period. And yes, I realize that Utah’s first Pac-12 season was 2011.

Heck, even Clay Helton - who we’re certain is in way over his head at USC - has taken the Trojans to two top 10 finishes, as well as conference and Rose Bowl championships. Under Helton, USC has never finished worse than third in the Pac-12 South, while Whittingham owns four finishes in fifth place. I know he’s a better-than-average coach, but I will never understand the glut of hype that national media gives to a guy who has accomplished so little at the P5 level.

Elsewhere, the panel ranks Herm Edwards third (!!!). Quick, what has Edwards done more often as coach of the Arizona State Sun Devils: A) Won conference games; B) Committed recruiting violations? If your answer is “A”, it’s time to follow a different sport. Yes, there’s a disclaimer that mentions the votes were tallied before all of the impropriety allegations surfaced, but again, Edwards is 11-11 in the conference! That’s third-best?

As for Nick Rolovich, CBS ranks him at 11th, ahead of only Arizona’s Jedd Fisch. Fisch has never been anything other than an interim head coach, and is the embodiment of Johnny Cash’s song “I’ve Been Everywhere.” While it’s tough to make a compelling argument that Rolovich should be ahead of a lot of the guys above him (except Jonathan Smith who is full of potential and only potential), it’s a bit odd that Rolovich would drop three spots in the rankings after a pretend year in which WSU played the fewest games in P5. Hopefully Nick does a lot of convincing in 2021 that he belongs much further up in the rankings.

Football

Breaking down the Utes' football schedule ahead of the 2021 season
In between the three nonconference games and the USC-Arizona State stretch, Utah’s Sept. 25 Pac-12 opener vs. Washington State isn’t exactly an automatic win.

Why College Football Playoff expansion is a complicated task with the potential for significant fallout - CBSSports.com
From TV rights deals to the Rose Bowl's demands to potential realignment, change is in the air.

Basketball

If you had “Former Coug Ike Iroegbu helps Nigeria beat 28-point favorite Kevin Durant and the U.S.A. basketball team”, take your ticket to the window. Iroegbu’s three-pointer with just over a minute remaining provided the winning points, as Nigeria defeated the Americans, 90-87.

Shocker: US falls to Nigeria 90-87 in pre-Olympic opener | The Spokesman-Review
This is not how USA Basketball expected to open its Olympic summer.

Pac-12 basketball: Washington State among winners, Arizona and Tommy Lloyd among losers from the NBA Draft and transfer market | The Spokesman-Review
The upward trajectory should continue in Pullman.

This Week in Parenting

Team Kendall is now on its third attempt to visit the lovely burg of Budapest, Hungary. First, we made plans to head that way over Labor Day weekend 2020, but Hungary’s government shut the country off to just about everyone due to the pandemic. We postponed until Columbus Weekend, but the same restrictions remained. Now, we’re trying again over Labor Day 2021.

Mrs. Kendall and I were perusing hotel accommodations this weekend when the nine year-old jumped onto the bed and placed himself right in the middle of our business. When he asked where we were thinking of staying, I threw out the possibility of the Ritz-Carlton. I asked him what he thought, and without missing a beat, he said, “Is the hotel made of crackers?” Not gonna lie, that would be pretty awesome.

Later on, Mrs. Kendall produced a local magazine that had a visitor’s guide to Budapest, and seeing as how the youngest only reads when forced to do so at knifepoint, we told him to read the article to us for practice. When he read about how the Danube divides the city into the “Buda” and “Pest” halves, he said, “Jackson your half is Buda and I’m the Pest.” I have great admiration for the young man’s self-awareness.

Non-Sports

What America Didn’t Understand About Its Longest War - POLITICO
“The Taliban are willing to lose their head to fight. … How can the army and police compete?”

Appalachian covid deniers anger nurses in Virginia - The Washington Post
For the nurses in the Appalachian highlands who risked their lives during the pandemic, it is as if they fought in a war no one acknowledges.