Canzano: A dozen things to think about
A dozen Monday thoughts about the Pac-12 Conference…
• 1. UCLA looks lethal right now. Dorian Thompson-Robinson has 76 career-TD passes, most in school history. He’s playing really well, but I think Thompson-Robinson’s play is only the second-biggest improvement on the field by the Bruins this season.
The defense is dramatically improved under coordinator Bill McGovern, who replaced long-time Chip Kelly-friend Jerry Azzinaro. The defense has never looked better at UCLA under Kelly. But trading Azzinaro for McGovern wasn’t an easy call, per insiders.
Said one close, long-time Kelly confidante: “He’s so darn loyal that change was really hard.”
• 2. Oregon gets a bye this week, then hosts UCLA at Autzen Stadium on Oct. 22. Chip Kelly would hate that I looked ahead at the Bruins-Ducks matchup in a column. Too bad. Both teams have byes this week. As former Washington coach Chris Petersen said on Saturday, “It’s on!”
• 3. Utah lost at UCLA on Saturday. The Bruins were the better team, plain and simple. The Utes never really felt in control of the game and made a couple of uncharacteristic mistakes.
Utah suffered an eerily similar fate last season in Week 7. It went on the road to Oregon State, struggled to stop the run, had two punts blocked, and lost 42-34. Fans were in an uproar then — and now. Last season, Utah regrouped after the loss, won six in a row — including Oregon twice — claimed the conference title and made the Rose Bowl.
• 4. USC plays at Utah this Saturday (5 p.m. PT, FOX). The Utes opened as a 3.5-point favorite at Rice-Eccles Stadium. It’s a huge game. USC is ranked No. 7 in the latest AP Top 25 poll. The Trojans don’t need style points this week, they just need to win the game and answer a burning question — are they truly a College Football Playoff contender? Meanwhile, Utah is either going to pull together and finish strong… or fade. Which is it?
We get answers on Saturday.
• 5. I was surprised how many people confessed they went to bed at halftime of the Oregon State vs. Stanford game and missed the Beavers’ dramatic game-winning finish. It’s a byproduct of an 8 p.m. kickoff, I’m sure, but also the football was a snooze in the first half. I can’t put all of that on ESPN and the late kick.
• 6. Prior to the Tre’Shaun Harrison TD, Stanford’s win percentage in the game was 96.3 percent, per STATS Perform.
Let’s not go there. I don’t think what Oregon State did to Stanford was a case of luck. You make your own fortune as a college football team. The Beavers made a big play with 13 seconds left and won the game. In fact, they made several big plays in the fourth quarter and walked off winners. OSU has now arrived at a fork in the road.
Chance Nolan or Ben Gulbranson at quarterback this week vs. Washington State?
(Listen to broadcaster Mike Parker’s amazing call of the game-winning play here.)
• 7. Stanford coach David Shaw must have felt sick when OSU’s Tre’Shaun Harrison caught that pass and raced into the end zone on Saturday night. It was the 10th-straight conference loss for Shaw and 11th-straight loss vs. an FBS opponent.
Stanford plays at Notre Dame this Saturday (4:30 p.m. PT, NBC). The Cardinal are 16.5-point underdogs.
• 8. The Carolina Panthers fired head coach Matt Rhule on Monday. He was 11-27 in the NFL. Expect him to surface as this week’s hot head coaching candidate in the college football world. Rhule posted two 10-win seasons at Temple, then left for Baylor, where he eventually went 11-3 in 2019 and was named the Big 12 Coach of the Year.
Nebraska may be interested. But if Rhule decides he wants to return to college, why not Arizona State or Colorado? It’s the kind of hire the Pac-12 needs.
• 9. That raises a question: Which is the better football job — Arizona State or Colorado? ASU has good resources and recruiting geography, but I’m iffy on whether the program really is the “sleeping giant” everyone always wants to say it is.
Meanwhile, Colorado reminds me of the University of Washington. Good history, strong support, and the program feels primed for a revival. It’s a close one. But the expectations at Colorado feel like they’ll be more manageable than ASU in the short term. For that reason, I’ll vote Colorado. You?
• 10. Cal travels to Colorado on Saturday (11 a.m. PT, Pac-12 Networks). The Bears are 14.5-point favorites. I agree. I don’t think Colorado will score more than 17 points in this game.
There was exactly 90 days from the day the Pac-12 announced “discussions” and when the news broke about the expiration of the exclusive window. That’s typical, per industry insiders.
The conference is out talking with others, of course. The Pac-12 has 44 football games currently with FOX and ESPN. An additional 36 football games are carried on the Pac-12 Networks this season. I expect Amazon and/or Apple to be involved with whatever the Pac-12 decides to do (Think: Pac-12 Network on a streamer).
I also think this could take a while to get done.
Early last week, retired Fox Sports Networks president Bob Thompson said in a podcast, “I think it’s pretty clear by how long this thing’s taking that it’s not the same package they have right now.”
I’d initially looked at Halloween as a potential decision-date. I’m adjusting that to Thanksgiving, but I’m being told by others that it could take longer.
• 12. I am having a blast with this new endeavor. Thanks for being here. I’ve promised to go where the good stories are and you’re going to see that in the next couple of weeks. I have two really interesting stories coming down the pipeline here.
I’ll have much more to say later today. Make sure you tune into my statewide radio show (3-6p PT) on 750-AM in Portland. You can listen via 1050-AM (Eugene), 960-AM (Klamath Falls), 1490-AM (Roseburg) or stream the show wherever you live.
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