Dan Lanning is an egg head. I asked the University of Oregon football coach whether he ever takes a break in his day and he made a confession.
“Our nutritionist has these new, hard-boiled eggs she’s been buying,” Lanning said. “It’s kind of cool. I’ll do a small stroll down towards the locker room, grab some hard-boiled eggs and go back up to my office. I know it’s not a long walk, but it’s a nice ‘Hey, I’ve been staring at film too long, let me go get an egg.’”
Lanning’s team (1-1) plays the most important game of the season on Saturday. The Ducks host BYU at Autzen Stadium. Kickoff is 12:30 p.m.
Oregon is nowhere near as good as Georgia. We learned that in Week 1. Seven days later, it put 70 points on Eastern Washington.
So who are the Ducks this season?
OK? Good? Great?
We really don’t know. Which is why Saturday’s UO game feels so interesting. I want to see Lanning’s staff game plan vs. a BYU team that went 5-0 vs. the Pac-12 last season. I want to see Bo Nix play quarterback against Kalani Sitake’s defense. I’m looking for the proverbial proof-of-life that we see from conference contenders about this time every college football season.
They’re nothing special. Just regular hard-boiled eggs. But Lanning told me that he generally loses weight during the season, so he’s eating them.
“I pack on weight (in the offseason),” he said. “It’s like I’m getting ready for hibernation in the summer. You know what I mean? I put on some serious pounds in the summer in prep leading to the season. Then, when the season comes around, it’s just coffee for me until I come home at night.”
Lanning told me he’s pored over the tape of his team’s 49-3 loss to Georgia.
“I’ve probably watched that film more than anyone.”
It reminded me of a story the coach’s father, Don, told me about a state-semifinal playoff loss that Dan suffered as a senior in high school. Dan Lanning’s team didn’t just lose that game, it got blown off the field.
“Man, that Harrisonville game. They ran a reverse on the very first series,” Dan Lanning said this week. “You know how the season is over and you get to keep your jersey and some of your memorabilia? I had a pair of football pants I wore in that game. They were stained blue. They’re still stained blue today. I never washed them after that game. I just kind of wanted to remember how it went wrong.”
My 1-on-1 with Lanning:
GUT CHECK: Can we just take a moment to appreciate how gutsy coach Jonathan Smith was last Saturday night in going for the win at the end of regulation at Fresno State?
Smith sent his kicker out with three seconds left, trailing by three points.
“Then as JT — coach (Jeff) Tedford — walks down to call timeout I’m just sitting there marinating on it,” said Smith. “The best outcome (with the kick) is a tie game. There’s no guarantee he’s going to make it from the far hash.”
Smith sent his offense back on the field.
Jack Colletto’s two-yard touchdown run gave Oregon State a 35-32 win and a 2-0 record. Smith said, “If the game is on the line and you’re in a hostile place and you have two yards to get, if you feel good, and trust these guys up front and Colletto… well, let ‘em go do it and obviously it came through for us.”
Smith confided that he even let Colletto alter the game-winning play call. The original play was designed to attack the A-gap, off the center’s hip. Colletto mentioned to Smith during the timeout that he thought attacking the edge was a better plan.
I can’t help but wonder how Smith’s ‘go-for-it’ mentality factors in the confident mindset at OSU. Safety Jaydon Grant and Colletto both told me this week how good it feels to play for a guy willing to put the game in their hands.
“It’s everything,” Grant said.
Oregon State hosts Montana State on Saturday in Portland. If the Beavers win, they’ll be 3-0 for the first time since Mike Riley did it in 2014.
Listen to my 1-on-1 with Smith here:
LEADERSHIP: I spoke with David Carter, a sports-business professor at USC this week on a number of topics. Among them, how the typical Power Five conference commissioner has changed over time and how that is affecting the trajectory of college athletics.
The Big Ten is led by Kevin Warren, a lawyer who came to the conference from the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings. The Pac-12’s boss, George Kliavkoff, also has a law degree and worked previously at MGM Sports & Entertainment. And Brett Yormark was working for Jay-Z at Roc Nation before coming to the Big 12 earlier this year.
These aren’t long-time college administrators or former athletic directors who rose through the ranks. They come from the sports and entertainment world and have almost no prior connection to the campuses.
“Maybe you can argue that they’re not bogged down by tradition,” Carter told me. “They’re seeing athletics generally as content to be distributed and monetized.”
Meanwhile, Jim Phillips, the ACC commissioner, was an AD at a couple of places, including Northwestern. And SEC commissioner Greg Sankey started as the director of intramural sports at Utica College. He moved to Northwestern State, then the Southland Conference, then took a deputy commissioner job at the SEC. More than 13 years later, Sankey elevated to his current role as SEC commissioner.
Those two now find themselves plotting the future of college athletics alongside Warren, Kliavkoff and Yormark — a trio of far less collegial, new-age conference commissioners.
“Really important to understand that they do not know each other all that well relative to the predecessors who were on their jobs for a much longer period of time,” Carter said. “Yes, they argued and all that. But the (old-world commissioners) knew each other and were somewhat of a cohesive group in terms of understanding what their negotiating platforms would be and how they were wired.
“Now, you have this mixed bundle of five commissioners. How is this contributing to their calculations? They’re bringing a very different mindset to this.”
My podcast with David Carter here:
• BIG GAMES: Michigan State at Washington is a huge game in Seattle. I posted my weekly Pac-12 picks on Thursday and took the Huskies over MSU. I like the way UW has been playing. I also have Oregon edging BYU and Cal upsetting Notre Dame in South Bend. I’m currently 19-4 picking Pac-12 games, straight up, this season. Still, Saturday feels a little dicey.
• AMAZON + Pac-12?: What did you think of Amazon Prime’s broadcast of Thursday Night Football? It went over well in our household. The picture was clear and crisp.
I liked the broadcast crew (particularly Al Michaels), enjoyed the graphics, and thought it was a big win for Amazon and the NFL. I wrote in depth on the subject in a column posted this week. But I’m wondering if the Pac-12 will pivot toward a digital partner in a major way.
George Kliavkoff told me in July that he believed the Pac-12 would definitely partner with a digital platform, but he still felt like the Tier 1 rights would go to a traditional linear provider (i.e. ESPN, FOX, CBS, etc.).
After that talk, I speculated that the Pac-12 Networks content might end up on ESPN+ or Paramount or Apple. Now, I’m thinking that content would look stunning alongside Amazon’s new sports offerings.
Feels to me that the Pac-12, which is currently negotiating its media rights, can either settle into being the No. 3-4-5 conference or try to do something innovative. There’s some risk in leaning too soon, and too hard, into the streaming world. This is a conference that has struggled with distribution and brand for a decade. But if the money is there, I wouldn’t blame the Pac-12 for wanting to be the first to go heavy into streaming.
In watching the Amazon broadcast, I wondered how long before we’re able to use one-click with our remote to purchase a product viewed on the broadcast. You want the polo shirt worn by one of the head coaches? How about his hat? Or that Microsoft tablet the offensive coordinator is using in the box?
Also, the saturation of the colors on Thursday night’s broadcast were especially rich, making me wonder if the Amazon broadcast was aimed at younger viewers and gamers, who are used to the dazzling color tones and hues of video games.
My wife, Anna, has worked on-air in television for more than 20 years. She has a better eye than me. She quickly noted the “wipe” that was used between shots had an Amazon logo in it. I missed that the first few times it hit the screen. Also, the down and distance graphic displayed on television seemed intentionally similar to the company’s trademark arrow.
• GEARING UP: The innovative team at Portland Gear produced a special “Dam Good Weekend” collection for the Oregon State football game vs. Montana State on Saturday. The game is sold out and will be played at Providence Park.
Drew Eubanks, who now plays for the Trail Blazers, and his wife, Hailey. Drew played basketball at OSU. Hailey, who is from Oregon City, grew up a die-hard basketball fan. Years ago when I was on a remote radio broadcast, Hailey’s father marched her up to the broadcast booth during the show.
She was maybe eight or nine at the time. But Hailey stood tall and reeled off the name and jersey number of every player on Portland’s NBA roster.
• THE BILL: In mid-June, Texas spent $280,000 to host nine recruits, including five-star QB Arch Manning. The spread included first-class travel and red-carpet treatment. Recruits and their families stayed at the Four Seasons Hotel, where Queen Elizabeth II once slept. Cakes, sundaes, ice sculptures, lobster, rib-eye steaks, a mini-cruise, Top Golf, and breakfast at coach Steve Sarkisian’s house were among the treats.
Of the nine recruits present, Texas locked up four, including the prized Manning.
Among those on the trip who didn’t pick Texas? My’Keil Gardner, a three-star defensive lineman, who chose Oregon.
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The streaming technology Amazon uses for their NFL broadcasts was developed at Elemental Technologies in Portland. Pretty much any live streaming event you've seen in the last decade has come from that merry band. A lot of late nights were spent getting it right. It's REALLY cool to see it all finally come together.
I forget the exact number, but something like 2/3 of households making over $75k annually subscribe to Amazon Prime. That's exactly the audience advertisers want to be in front of. The question is whether people will actually be able to find the content. It's one thing to flip channels and come across a game. It's ALSO nice to be able to flip away at commercials. You're kinda captive if you're watching a game on Amazon Prime. I wonder if Amazon either develops their own version of (insert your preferred OTT provider here) or acquires one. That's probably the next move for them.
In the meantime, if the Pac-12 goes with Amazon over ESPN, not only are they giving up the exposure ESPN gives them, but it also sticks them right back in another walled garden. Like trying to find something on Channel 329. It's there, but do you want to have to hunt that hard? If competing for national titles is the Pac-12's goal, they HAVE to be on ESPN. If they want to be the AFL or ABA, then maybe Prime is the move.
One additional thought on streaming - opportunities for worldwide distribution. I live overseas. I can stream Netflix, HBO, Disney+, and using a VPN, Amazon Prime. I'm limited in my ability to get ESPN, and Fox Sports, CBS, NBC, etc. are problematic. Would LOVE for the Pac-10/12 to go streaming so I could see the Ducks play for the first time in two years.