Pac-12 stock report: The commissioner search and CFP expansion, Utah’s schedule, UW’s uptick, Oregon’s QB1 and more – The Denver Post
Commentary on Pac-12 developments on and off the field, and court …
Falling: Pac-12 playoff position.
Yes, sure, this could be an evergreen comment: The conference always seems poorly positioned to make the College Football Playoff.
But in this particular instance, we’re referring to the act of remaking the playoff.
The CFP revealed recently that a subcommittee has explored options for expansion, possibly as early as the 2023 season — three years before the current contract expires.
Scenarios involving six-, eight-, 10-, 12- and 16-teams are under consideration, with a report to the CFP’s management committee expected next month.
Playoff expansion is essential to the Pac-12. The conference has participated only twice in seven years and faces a combination of structural and competitive challenges not shared by its Power Five peers.
Yet during this vital stretch, as the commissioners go about remaking the postseason, the Pac-12’s boss is on his way out and the search for his replacement appears anything but urgent.
No, Larry Scott is not on the subcommittee. And given his pending exit, there’s good reason to question his clout as a member of the CFP management committee, which consists of the 10 FBS commissioners and Notre Dame’s athletic director.
To what extent are the Pac-12’s interests being voiced, and heard?
The subcommittee is expected to present its findings on expansion, and possibly offer a recommendation, to the full management committee in the middle of June.
The Pac-12 assuredly will have a new commissioner in place, but will it be too late?
The lobbying and leveraging, the public posturing and back-channel discussions likely will unfold before the official gathering on June 22.
This is the key stretch.
(If the management committee settles on an expansion model, the format will be presented to the board of managers — the university presidents — in the fall.)
And as it all plays out, the Pac-12, which needs expansion desperately, is represented by a lame duck.
The timing could not be worse.
Rising: Utah football.
It wasn’t long ago that the Utes would play non-conference schedules that featured Brigham Young and a pair of snoozers — a Southern Utah here, a Weber State there, maybe a San Jose State or an Idaho State.
The approach made sense in the early years of life in the Pac-12, as coach Kyle Whittingham went about upgrading the roster.
But Utah is now part of the conference’s upper crust, winner of the South in two of the past three seasons.
Fortunately for the program, the fans and the Pac-12, the Utes’ approach to non-conference scheduling reflects that enhanced competitive position.
On Tuesday, the Utes announced a home-and-home series against Wisconsin, with the first game in 2028.
The series follows recent home-and-home agreements with Florida, Arkansas and LSU, plus two games against Baylor.
All in all, the Utes will play at least one Power Five opponent most years into the early 2030s.
And they should.
There is no reason for Utah to use any scheduling model other than the A-B-C approach, by which the annual schedule features one Power Five opponent, one Group of Five opponent (BYU) and one creampuff.
Anything less is now beneath the Utes.
Falling: Arizona basketball.
No team in the conference has taken as many hits from the transfer portal as the Wildcats since the regular season ended.
That’s not entirely surprising given the coaching change and the fact that so many players were nomads in the first place.
But goodness, the exodus is substantial: The Wildcats have lost three key guards, Jemarl Baker, James Akinjo and Terrell Brown, plus big men Ira Lee and Jordan Brown.
That’s more than 40 points per game … gone.
Akinjo was a first-team all-conference selection.
Brown was the Pac-12’s Sixth Man of the Year.
What remains is a collection of underclassmen with promise but much to prove.
New coach Tommy Lloyd has secured the services of one newcomer already, Gonzaga transfer Oumar Ballo, but his recruiting skills are being tested immediately.
Because of the criticism that hounded every aspect of Arizona’s coaching change, initial momentum is important for the new regime.
As of this moment, Lloyd doesn’t have a roster capable of finishing in the top half of the conference next season.
Rising: Washington basketball.
It has been a dizzying two months for the Huskies after their nightmare season: Players leaving, players coming, staff turnover, soul searching — all of it inevitable and, frankly, essential.
Stability isn’t always a good thing; UW needed to overhaul its coaching staff and its roster. Thanks largely to the transfer portal, that process can happen in a matter of weeks.
The latest development on Montlake strikes us as immensely beneficial: Daejon Davis is headed home.
The former four-star recruit signed with UW out of Garfield High but eventually switched to Stanford after the Huskies fired Lorenzo Romar.
His career with the Cardinal was a disappointment: untapped potential, no NCAA Tournaments, issues meeting program standards, etc. But Davis has one season left and will spend it attempting to revive his hometown team.
Add Arizona transfer Terrell Brown, another Seattleite, and the Huskies have restocked their perimeter unit with players capable of returning the program return to respectability … if enough other pieces fall into place.
All of which is to say: If you’re a Husky fan, this is exactly how you wanted the offseason to unfold.
Falling: Pac-12 basketball.
The rosters for 2021-22 won’t be set for months, with players still passing through the transfer portal and NBA Draft hopefuls gauging their value at the next level.
But at this moment, we’d like to direct your attention to players with the potential to alter the course of the collective success:
Oregon State forward Warith Alatishe and USC big man Isaiah Mobley.
Both have declared for the NBA Draft but left open the option to return to school.
Both are essential to their team’s success next season.
And both teams, fresh off their Elite Eight appearances, are critical to the Pac-12’s quest to build on its March momentum.
Other players are testing the waters, of course.
But we don’t believe ASU’s fortunes depend heavily on Marcus Bagley.
The same goes for Oregon and Eric Williams.
And UCLA will be very good regardless of Johnny Juzang’s decision.
But Alatishe and Mobley could be tipping points for their respective teams, which themselves could be tipping points for the conference given what we know of the rosters across the footprint.
If they stay in the draft, the Pac-12 would be notably weaker.
Rising: Oregon football.
The Ducks wrapped up spring practice having secured what we consider the most important element: Clarity on the quarterback front.
Tyler Shough’s unexpected departure (to Texas Tech) left Oregon with an open starting spot and a bevy of contenders that included touted redshirts and heralded rookies.
Pac-12 spring meetings preview: Time to start lifting restrictions on intra-conference transfers
NFL Draft winners and losers: The Pac-12 perspective (it’s not as bad as it looks)
Keeler: Brendon Lewis, JT Shrout giving CU Buffs coach Karl Dorrell problems at quarterback. The good kind of problems.
Ex-Oklahoma linebacker Robert Barnes taking “more steps forward than anybody” for CU Buffs this spring
Big get for CU Buffs men’s basketball with addition of four-star guard KJ Simpson
Anthony Brown, the top backup in 2020, established himself as the clear frontrunner with a sterling performance in the spring game. And that’s exactly what the Ducks needed.
Not all quarterback competitions are governed by the same dynamics.
In some cases, a close race exiting spring practice is the best outcome, for it prevents any candidate from losing his urgency over the summer.
But given the state of the depth chart and the difference in experience, Oregon was best served with Brown taking control ahead of training camp.
He’s a sixth-year senior who moved across the country (from Boston College) for the opportunity now before him. Urgency won’t be a problem.
The Ducks are in position to win the North and the conference. They don’t need a handful of backups jockeying for the starting gig deep into August.
They needed a super senior with more than 40 career touchdown passes to set a high bar and create a sense of inevitability for a veteran offense with lofty goals.
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