Canzano: USC's curfew, Celebrity Deathmatch, and Mark Helfrich make the mailbag
Your questions, my answers...
SALT LAKE CITY — Clarke Stroud cut through the lobby of the downtown Marriott Hotel on Friday night. He wore sweatpants, sneakers, a USC baseball cap, and a gold T-shirt with “FOOTBALL OPERATIONS” printed across the back in cardinal letters.
Stroud is football coach Lincoln Riley’s chief lieutenant. And the Trojans football team had a 9:30 p.m. curfew on Friday.
The 54-year-old Stroud spent the last three decades on staff at the University of Oklahoma. He rose to vice president of student affairs and dean of students, administering an $80 million annual budget. Then, Stroud moved to the football-side of the business.
He served as director of football operations during Riley’s final four seasons in Norman. When Riley left the Sooners for USC and that $110 million contract, he took Stroud with him. On Friday evening at curfew, Stroud scurried around the 16-floor hotel located across from the Salt Palace, checking on select players.
He boarded one of the four hotel elevators, carrying seven printed pages of single-spaced room assignments in his hands. The doors closed. Stroud pushed the “6” button. The elevator moved. Then, he flipped through the stapled pages and said, “You gotta have this to know where everybody is.”
I know where I am today — Salt Lake City — site of the USC-Utah football game. It’s a huge Pac-12 Conference game with potential postseason implications. I’m here because I promised to take you where the action is and give you sourced, in-depth reporting and commentary. Stuff you can’t get anywhere else.
Thank you for reading my new endeavor. I appreciate those who have subscribed or given friends and family members a gift subscription. Also, thanks to those who have donated subscriptions for seniors and others on fixed budgets. Your support makes this project possible.
Now, onto the Saturday mailbag…
Q: What is the threat level of Oregon's offensive coordinator Kenny Dillingham leaving? — @Kevin10TV
A: Oregon’s offense is averaging 42 points and 512.5 yards per game. That ranks ninth and fifth respectively in major college football. If that holds up, Dillingham will get some attention, perhaps from his alma mater, Arizona State. I’ll put the threat level at “moderate” for now. If I’m ASU, I’d want to talk with Dillingham, but I’d also need to see a larger sample size.
Q: Will Oregon State’s athletic department bring back Bernice? — @calebgpowell
A: Did you know that OSU’s first mascot was a coyote named “Jimmie”? It was used in 1893-1894. Then, in the early 1900s, Beavers’ AD James Arbuthnot brought his pet bulldog around campus and it became the school’s unofficial mascot.
In the 1930s, “Billy the Beaver” showed up. It was an actual living, breathing beaver. A decade later, “Benny the Beaver” appeared at games and stuck. In the 1980s and early 1990s, for a limited run, Benny’s female sidekick “Bernice” showed up. There’s been some talk about bringing her back. I think OSU should bring all the mascots back at once. Why not? Like coach Jonathan Smith says, “Competition makes everyone better.”
Q: What's the fate of the Rose Bowl in the new expanded playoff? Is being a permanent quarterfinal game the best it can hope for? — @latovegas2019
A: Insiders tell me that the expansion of the College Football Playoff will likely include the Rose Bowl, but may limit it to a quarterfinal or semifinal game. We won’t really know for certain until the details of the expanded playoff are sorted out sometime in the next year. I’ll get more into this in the coming weeks.
Q: When will college football leave the NCAA and form it’s own league and stop destroying the conferences and all of their other team sports. — @Rbb480
A: We got an interesting twist when the university presidents and chancellors recently announced they’d voted to expand the playoff. That expansion appears to have stabilized the eco-system because it instantly increased access. I think we’re going to see a 5-7 year lull in the chaos.
Q: In last week’s Oregon vs. Arizona football game, the replay official stopped the game to review targeting that wasn’t called on the field. You essentially had the replay booth throwing a flag. Has that always been part of their duty? — @WadeWiilliams
A: The NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel expanded the instant replay officials’ authority regarding targeting fouls in 2016. This allowed the instant-replay official to stop the game and create a targeting foul in situations where it was missed by on-field officials.
Q: Why wouldn’t the Pac-12 add San Diego State to “box out” the desperate Big-12 from getting a foothold in the West and sealing our fate? That conference is doing everything it can to stay relevant and convince the “four corners” to join while the Pac-12 remains silent. — @Smittytheclownn
A: The Pac-12 affiliation makes far more sense for San Diego State. There’s also an order of operations here: 1) Media rights negotiations; and 2) conference expansion. The Big 12’s media rights negotiations are trailing the Pac-12’s by about a year. I think San Diego State will eventually land in the Pac-12 Conference. Stay tuned, I’ll take a deeper dive on this in the coming weeks.
Also, Utah, Colorado, Arizona and ASU aren’t going anywhere in this cycle. Don’t buy into the hysteria from the misinformed, unsourced message-board honks. They’re busy back-pedaling this week. In the last few months, I’ve talked with numerous high-level officials on a variety of Pac-12 campuses. My sources never wavered. They insist the remaining 10 members are sticking together and I believe them.
Q: Are the Mariners on the verge of becoming a legit World Series contender? — @devonhaskins
A: The future looks promising in Seattle, but I’d like to see the Mariners spend more. The payroll ranks No. 21 out of 30 MLB teams. That said, I love the young talent on the roster. It’s hopeful stuff.
Q: Is the Pac-12 actually better this year? — @GregOrtega3399
A: The Pac-12 has three teams (USC, UCLA, Oregon) in the top 12 in the AP Poll. So the perception of the conference is definitely better vs. recent seasons. The embarrassing losses to Mountain West schools have also stopped. That’s positive, too. But the conference has a 2-6 combined record vs. other Power Five programs this football season (WSU beat Wisconsin and Washington defeated Michigan State). There’s still work to do for the Pac-12
Q: If you got to cast football coaches Jonathan Smith, Dan Lanning, Kalen DeBoer, and Jake Dickert into a TV or movie role, what characters would they play and why. — @AFoster13
A: Every time I see the 1986 film “Point Break” on the television, I stop and watch for a few minutes. Give me Dickert, Lanning and DeBoer as surfer bank robbers. And let’s cast Smith as “Johnny Utah” — the former-QB turned undercover FBI agent charged with catching them. I’d watch that.
Q: With expanded College Football Playoff and four highest ranked conference champions getting in, why would Oregon or any other school want to leave the Pac-12? — @DevoutDuck03
Q: Given the Timbers troubles, is there a possible opening for Portland State to return to Providence Park and play football there in the future? — @2022SportsGuy
A: I am told by multiple sources that PSU has initiated talks and is trying to schedule a football game at Providence Park next season. It’s a nice start, but the Vikings would be wise to go public in a loud way. There’s a swell of anti-Timbers sentiment out there. I suspect the public would back PSU.
Q: Do the open football coaching positions at Colorado and Arizona State put additional pressure on the Pac-12 to stabilize and reduce uncertainty about it’s future before the end of the season? — @KdickeyKeith
A: I don’t think the Pac-12 is as uncertain as some media members and interested parties want you to believe. Things are more settled than they have been in months. I don’t blame you for wondering, but I don’t think the uncertainty is a big factor in this equation.
Q: Should Arizona State and Colorado wait for the new media deal before hiring new coaches? Seems like the coaching budgets will be pretty directly connected to the media revenue. — @chriswaz
A: See above. Also, the timing feels like it may work out here. I expect ASU and Colorado to make their football hires in early December. The Pac-12 should have a media deal in place right around that same time. I also think the ADs have seen some numbers by now and have an idea of what their approximate budget may be.
Q: I saw Mark Helfrich on the broadcast of the West Virginia-Baylor game Thursday night. Any chance he returns to the sidelines to coach again in the future? — @RickBell123
A: Helfrich’s biggest strategic mistake was not carving out his own identity at Oregon. He’s now cast as a guy who was a great assistant, but shaky head coach. His college coaching record: 37-16. I’d like to see Helfrich resurface as an offensive coordinator. He belongs on the sideline, not the broadcast booth.
Q: Where has Oregon State’s run game gone? They have one of the better Offensive lines in the conference and a trio of backs to tote the rock. It doesn’t make sense. — @78DBdubb
A: OSU ranks fifth in the Pac-12 at 181 rushing yards per game and 4.85 yards per carry this season. It’s not terrible, but it’s not the same dominant run game from last season. I think some of decline is due to play calling. I’d like to see the game plan get back to its strength and pound the rock. The Beavers seemed to find their zone run game in the fourth quarter last week vs. Stanford. Let’s see if they stay with it.
Q: Remember MTV’s Celebrity Deathmatch? I thought so. It was glorious. Who wins: Dan Lanning vs Kyle Whittingham? Kyle cuts an imposing figure—in fine shape replete with strategically timed stubble for Saturdays, but Lanning has youth on his side and is every bit as feisty. Hmm… — @bbasstravel
A: Lanning is 36. Whittingham is 62. Is that even legal? I see Lanning dominating the early part of the fictional fight, right up until MTV allows Whittingham to summon his motorcycle. Lanning puts up a great fight, but Whittingham riding around the ring on a twin-cooled engine would be too much for anyone to overcome.
Have a great Saturday everyone…
I appreciate all who have supported, subscribed and shared my new, independent, endeavor with friends and families. If you haven’t already, please consider subscribing. Your support allows me to go where the stories take us.