Discover more from Bald Faced Truth by John Canzano
Canzano: Pac-12 winning on field and on TVs
Big 12 should take a second look at Pac-2.
Colorado’s football game at Oregon won the day on Saturday. Despite the lopsided result, the ABC broadcast attracted 10.03 million viewers and edged the NBC offering of Ohio State vs. Notre Dame as the highest-rated game of the weekend.
The Buckeyes-Irish drew an audience of 9.98 million.
Why again is the Pac-12 breaking up?
It was a big victory for Oregon when it came to the scoreboard and TV eyeballs. But I found myself scanning the ratings spreadsheet and saw some notable things. The Pac-12 teams aren’t just highly ranked, the conference is flexing on your living room television set.
USC’s win over Arizona State at 7:30 p.m. PT (FOX) was the sixth most-watched game and had 2.63 million viewers. Oregon State-Washington State (4 p.m. on FOX) garnered an audience of 1.48 million and UCLA-Utah (12:30 p.m. on FOX) had 1.32 million. Cal-Washington ended up with 1.16 million on ESPN at 7:30 p.m.
I have to wonder if the Big 12 noted the ratings for Washington State’s home game vs. Oregon State and had some second thoughts. The Oklahoma and Texas games did very well with TV audiences. Those schools are always strong draws, but they’re leaving for the SEC next season.
The Beavers-Cougars game not only beat a Pac-12 game being played in the Los Angeles TV market, it outperformed every other Big 12 game on the slate.
I asked Bob Thompson, the retired president of FOX Sports Network, what jumped out to him over the weekend. He pointed to what OSU and WSU found themselves up against at kickoff on Saturday.
“OSU/WSU was against Notre Dame-Ohio State, Iowa-Penn State, Texas-Baylor and Arkansas-LSU which all did more than 2.4 million viewers, so real stiff competition in that window,” he told me.
Thompson was hesitant to draw any sweeping conclusions without a larger sample size, but it amounts to a nice Week 4 win for the embattled Pac-2 schools.
I don’t normally pore over the weekly college-football ratings. But television is driving decisions and shaping realignment decisions. The events of the last 14 months have me looking a lot closer.
Some other thoughts, facts and rants…
• FOX’s 7:30 p.m. USC-ASU game (2.63 million viewers) doubled up the Cal-Washington offering (1.16 million) in the same time slot on ESPN. Both games moved the needle. Those late kickoffs stink… except when they don’t.
• Lots of fierce competition during the day, as noted with the OSU-WSU comparison. The 7 p.m. or 7:30 p.m. PT window is far less cluttered. The Pac-12 dominated it again on Saturday. The Big 12 will love that late time slot, but could enjoy it even more with two additional ranked teams playing in it. Anyone know where they might find them?
• If you’re the Big 12 (Read: ESPN/FOX) why wouldn’t you want the leftover Pac-2 schools?!?! The viewership is there. The teams are really good. In fact, if the season ended today… based on 2024’s new conference affiliations the Big 12 (No. 10 Utah/No. 24 Kansas) and Pac-2 (No. 16 Washington State/No. 19 Oregon State) would have the same number of Top-25 ranked teams.
• Washington State and Oregon State belong in a Power 5. We all know it. It makes no sense to leave the schools out. But as one Pac-12 source told me on Tuesday: “There’s no logic behind anything that has happened. It’s crazy we’re here.”
• ESPN is getting its expenses in line. It had widespread layoffs in the summer and now is reportedly shuttering its New York City studios. The “Seaport” facility currently films and produces shows such as “First Take” and “Get Up” and “NBA Countdown” among others. Those shows will now be produced elsewhere.
• Disney CEO Bob Iger said months ago he was looking for an equity partner in ESPN. I wonder if Apple just swoops in and buys the whole thing. The tech company got boxed out in its bid to attain the Pac-12’s media rights in August.
• Apple’s bid for the Pac-12 was a guaranteed base of $25 million a year per school for five seasons. The subscription-based tier increases would have taken the payouts to above $32 million per school (1.7 million new subscribers) and $50 million per school (5 million subscribers).
• There was lots of upside in the deal but it struck me at the time that Apple CEO Tim Cook must have known that FOX and ESPN weren’t just going to let Apple walk in, buy the Pac-12 and shift the paradigm of the industry. Those networks made certain of that, didn’t they?
• Cook could have scrounged between the sofa cushions at his office in Cupertino, Calif. and found enough change to raise the guarantees to the mid $30 millions per school if he really wanted the Pac-12. Or maybe Cook knew that he could just wait a while and just buy ESPN?
• Oregon State quarterback DJ Uiagalelei has struggled with accuracy in the last couple of games. To be fair, he was forced to throw a handful of incomplete passes late in Saturday’s 38-35 loss to stop the clock. Uiagalelei was 17 of 34 passing vs. WSU. He was only 14 for 30 two weeks ago in a win over San Diego State.
• Beavers’ coach Jonathan Smith is sticking with Uiagalelei.
“DJ is the starting quarterback,” Smith told reporters on Monday. “He did some good things in the game. He got us back in the game a couple of drives. Could he play better? 100 percent. We need to protect him and make some plays on the ball and yeah he’s got a couple of throws in there he needs to make.”
• Oregon State freshman quarterback Aidan Chiles is intriguing. He’s 11 of 16 passing this season for 111 yards and a TD. I can’t be alone in wondering if he ends up playing more as the season progresses. Full disclosure, as I watched Oregon State’s game vs. WSU I found myself wondering how long Smith can afford to keep Chiles off the field.
• I get what Smith is doing this week. Uiagalelei is not going to be more accurate trying to throw passes vs. Utah while looking over his shoulder. And the Utes probably aren’t the right defense to tinker around against with a young QB.
• Still, is there a way to make this work? Give Chiles a series in the first half with a special package of plays? Maybe another in the second half if it goes well? Chiles may not give Oregon State a better chance to win as the starter right now, but I’d love to see Utah have to deal with the change of pace.
• The Beavers are a 3-point home favorite vs. Utah on Friday. And why not? Oregon State is 13-1 in its last 14 home games. The lone loss? A 17-14 defeat to USC in 2022. Meanwhile, Utah is 7-6 as the road team in the last three seasons.
• Oregon coach Dan Lanning’s fiery pregame speech vs. Colorado on Saturday helped get his team ready to play. It’s comical to see so many false narratives being pushed this week. Lanning has one job — coach Oregon. The Ducks were ready to play. Give the guy credit, because if they weren’t it would have been on him.
• ESPN analyst and former NFL star Keyshawn Johnson said he was told that other college coaches helped Oregon with a game plan for Colorado. This is common practice, folks. Coaches call each other. I’d be surprised if it didn’t happen on both sides. For example, I’d call your attention to a tweet by former Pac-12 assistant and ex-Portland State head coach Nigel Burton.
“I think I got a call from a coach looking for info on an opponent I'd already played against every other week for 15 years at the college level. This is not rare or nefarious in any way.”
• The Ducks were far more talented and came ready to play. The teams could play that game 100 times and Colorado would never win. It’s not a knock on Deion Sanders and the Buffaloes. Colorado was in over its head on Saturday and will get beat badly again this week at home vs. USC.
• I have CU going 3-6 in Pac-12 play. Barring injuries, Colorado may beat ASU, Stanford and Arizona. That would get the Buffalos to 6-6 and a bowl game. If that happens it would be a huge success in year one. But even if CU goes 5-7 the season is a win, isn’t it?
• The Trojans are a 21.5-point road favorite vs. Colorado. I’ll post my official picks on Thursday. That said, I am re-thinking my plan to move headquarters to Las Vegas. I had another good week picking the winners straight up (5-1), but went a dismal 1-5 vs. the spread. I got the Colorado-Oregon pick right but missed on everything else.
• My season record picking the winners straight-up is 36-4 (90 percent) and my record against the spread is now 18-13 (58 percent).
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