Canzano: Health, happiness... and can't-miss predictions for 2023
A look into my crystal ball.
Happy New Year. Thanks for being here. I decided to start the year by giving you 12 months of fearless, can’t-miss, sure-fire predictions for 2023.
Utah wins the Rose Bowl, beating Penn State in a great game on Jan. 2. Utes’ QB Cameron Rising is named the MVP and promptly announces he’s joining the parade of talented Pac-12 quarterbacks who are coming back for another season. When 63-year-old Utah coach Kyle Whittingham hears this he celebrates by upgrading to Twitter Blue.
“I am going to need those extra-long Tweets next season,” he explains.
The Pac-12 football schedule is released this month and none of the fan bases is happy. Everyone bellyaches about the placement of Oregon’s bye week. That is quickly forgotten when sources say the conference is closing in on a media-rights agreement. It looks like a partnership with Amazon and ESPN. Everyone just wants this to be over, so the public rolls with it.
Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren leaves to be president of the Chicago Bears. The search firm hired by the conference identifies former Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott as a candidate.
“He’s done a lot of good things for Big Ten in recent years,” the firm explains.
Scott bows out, though, when he hears the commissioner doesn’t get his own private jet and can’t live in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Also this month, Georgia beats TCU for the national title in college football and at some point you ingest kale and feel pretty good about it.
The NBA Trade Deadline is Thursday, Feb. 9. The Trail Blazers enter the month with high hopes after a productive January on the court. Last year at this time, the franchise made a flurry of moves. But in 2023, I think the NBA team ends up a trade-deadline observer. No big moves are made.
The Pac-12 formally announces that it has signed a media-rights deal with Amazon/ESPN. Annual payout: $350 million. That gives the remaining Pac-12 members a $35-million-a-year distribution. The focus quickly turns to conference expansion.
Pac-12 commissioner turns to San Diego State and says, “How would you like to jo-”
He’s cut off by the Aztecs, who shoot back, “Done!”
San Diego State joins the Pac-12. The conference says it may add another member or two, but needs to do further exploration. UNLV, SMU, Fresno State and Boise State are understandably disappointed and anxious. But it’s not over for them.
The Pac-12 Conference men’s and women’s basketball tournaments are held in Las Vegas. The Stanford women win the bracket, beating Oregon in the championship game, completing an undefeated Pac-12 season. Some at Stanford offer this as proof that academics and athletics can walk hand-in-hand.
On the men’s side, it’s suggested in a meeting that nobody else beside Arizona and UCLA measure up in an apples to apples comparison. ASU coach Bobby Hurley hears this and is ticked. The Sun Devils rip through the conference tournament, beating UCLA in the semifinals and upsetting rival Arizona in the title game.
Hurley opens his news conference with: “How do you like them apples?”
The Pac-12 Conference announces that it has conducted a thorough evaluation of its football officiating and decided to make some changes. It has formed an officiating consortium with the Big Sky Conference and hired Tony Corrente, the former head of officials, as a special advisor to the conference.
The Pac-12 vows to stop losing track of downs, missing calls, and stuff.
In the NCAA Tournament, Arizona makes the Final Four. UCLA loses in the Elite Eight. This is celebrated as a success by the conference.
It’s revealed that USC quarterback Caleb Williams has an NIL deal with a Hollywood studio. He’ll star in an action movie out at Christmas. His income has now risen to $11 million a year, making coach Lincoln Riley the second-highest paid person in the locker room.
When Riley hears this and says: “Yeah, but does he have 12 bathrooms at home?”
Washington quarterback Michael Penix Jr. becomes a spokesperson for Southwest Airlines. Remember when his parents were forced to make a 17-hour drive last bowl season because of flight cancellations? Penix, one of the early Heisman favorites, turns that travel fiasco into a win. The guy is difficult to beat in any setting.
Also, you can’t remember the last time you ate kale.
Pac-12 Football Media Day is held. The event is moved to Las Vegas, where the conference has formed some fresh sponsorship ties. It’s 118 degrees outside, but cool inside the casinos. An Elvis impersonator takes the stage during the festivities, moderating a panel discussion featuring Colorado coach Deion Sanders and UCLA coach Chip Kelly.
The media poll picks Utah and USC to finish 1-2 in the conference and repeat in the title game. Washington, Oregon and Oregon State all receive first-place votes and are picked to finish in a dead heat for third.
Beavers football coach Jonathan Smith is asked about his expectations for the season. He says: “We expect to win them all.”
Nobody laughs. He isn’t joking.
Oregon State transfer quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei is named starter. Nobody is surprised by this. But Beavers broadcaster Mike Parker spends the late part of his summer walking about, repeating the phonetic pronunciation of the new QB’s name: “oo-ee-uhng-guh-luh-lay.”
ESPN declares that the Pac-12 has the best stable of quarterbacks in America. Caleb Williams, Michael Penix Jr. and Oregon’s Bo Nix are all on the Heisman-watch lists. Nix hears this and tells media, “I’d rather just have Chick-fil-A.”
The fast-food chain is told about this and sends another truck to Eugene to feed the guy. NIL opportunity?
Reser Stadium opens the new west side amid positive reviews. The renovated stadium is celebrated for its abundant and cool premium seating and the “Beaver Street” concept that features restaurants and an expanded concourse. Oregon boosters hear about this and hatch plans for a partial renovation of Autzen Stadium.
On the field, the Ducks reel off wins vs. Portland State, Texas Tech and Hawaii. Dan Lanning’s team is ranked in the Top 15. Oregon State is also ranked and 3-0 after beating San Jose State, UC Davis and San Diego State.
Washington is also undefeated in September. So is Utah, who has a tough non-conference schedule. The Utes beat Florida at home, then win at Baylor and vs. Weber State. The conference race looks like fun.
Colorado head coach Deion Sanders goes 3-2 in his first five games, setting the stage for a possible bowl berth. There’s new enthusiasm in Boulder, but things get real as the Buffaloes face Utah, Oregon, Oregon State and USC in a short span.
Halloween weekend, Oregon and USC play each other. ESPN GameDay attends. The Ducks come dressed as a playoff contender and beat the Trojans. But Washington, Utah and Oregon State are all bunched at the top of the standings, too. It sets up a wild November with all sorts of possibilities.
Pac-12 officials celebrate that they aren’t the story this season.
The Pac-12 has five ranked teams in the College Football Playoff weekly rankings. Colorado finishes 5-7. Solid start for Coach Prime. The Pac-12 title race comes down to the final weekend and a bunch of rivalry games.
The Bruins have yet to punt or kick a field goal this season. A report comes out that UCLA coach Chip Kelly has been using artificial intelligence to call plays. The kickers and punters, oddly, remain on the roster.
“We use them to run the AI,” Kelly says.
Stanford and Cal are notably absent from the race for the conference football title. They can’t compete in this era. Both universities begin talking seriously about granting transfer exceptions for a limited number of football players. Academics on campus aren’t happy but it’s quickly pointed out that nobody buys a $50 ticket to attend a Stanford lecture.
Says one of the academics: “True, but nobody buys a $50 ticket to attend a Stanford football game either.”
I’m not making my conference title game pick yet. Too early. But the title game is again a sell out. I start thinking about kale in late December. And a bunch of Pac-12 QBs start thinking about coming back for another year.
Make your predictions in the comments below…
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