Canzano: Spring is the season for Pac-12 football hype, Oscars drama, and Lincoln Riley-palooza
ESPN will televise USC spring game.
USC will play its first spring football game under coach Lincoln Riley on April 23 at noon PT at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. The game is open to fans and will be televised on ESPN with Kirk Herbstreit, Matt Barrie, Joey Galloway and Molly McGrath on the broadcast.
I’ll watch it.
Bet you will, too.
The Pac-12 suffered some surprising turnover last season. Oregon and Washington are both in transition with new head coaches. That will benefit Riley’s rapid rebuild. Still, I think fixing USC is a tougher job than people understand. The Trojans were depleted of talent in some position groups where they have traditionally been gifted. It wasn’t just that USC went 4-8, it was the demoralizing way they lost games. Six of those losses were by 14-or-more points.
USC plays Notre Dame next season. The other two non-conference games are vs. Fresno State and vs. Rice. I’ll put the Trojans at 2-1 there. But Utah is entrenched as a power in the South Division and I expect Arizona and UCLA might be really improved next season.
A lot has been made of Riley’s arrival in Southern California. USC is reportedly paying him $110 million to coach the football team. He bought a 3.17-acre oceanfront hut in Palos Verdes Estates for $17.2 million. It includes 13,000 square feet of living space, seven fire places and an elevator. Also his first spring practice was heralded by some as the greatest to ever happen on a football practice field.
But seriously what does success look like next season for Riley?
8 wins and a decent bowl game? 9 wins? A South Division title? And what kind of pressure might arise if the rebuild is slower than expected?
The USC spring game will produce some much-needed national attention for the Pac-12. That ESPN is sending the “A-Team” broadcast crew is no surprise. I also think ESPN will likely send one of the good satellite trucks to this event.
Some other good stuff…
• UCLA coach Chip Kelly opens his spring football on Tuesday at 8:45 a.m. All of the Bruins’ spring practices start early and are scheduled only for Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Kelly scheduled his spring “showcase” for April 23 — same date as rival USC and that big-time ESPN event. The UCLA spring game will be televised by the Pac-12 Network. Of note, Kelly tacked on three scheduled practices the week after that spring showcase game.
• There’s no way that ugly Oscars scene between Will Smith and Chris Rock was rehearsed.
• Spoke with an Oregon State football player on Sunday who told me he believes Jonathan Smith is a forever guy in Corvallis. Smith’s team finished 7-6 last season and made the LA Bowl. The coach was rewarded with a six-year contract extension worth $22.6 million. The contract includes a unique extension bonus — if Smith wins seven-plus games in 2022, 2023 and/or 2024 he’ll get another year of job security added to the deal. The Beavers’ spring game is April 16 and will air on the Pac-12 Networks.
• Oregon Ducks’ first-year football coach Dan Lanning told me last month that he bought a pair of size 13 boots and fly-fishing equipment. UO special teams coach Joe Lorig is serving as his fly-fishing guide. Lorig is from the Pacific Northwest, was team captain at Western Oregon and his wife is from Klamath Falls.
Lanning told me, “I want to experience Eugene.” The head coach popped up on Instagram last week with a picture of himself holding a trout on the McKenzie River.
His first win?
• Oregon’s spring game is April 23 on the Pac-12 network.
• Chris Rock took that Will Smith slap like a champ. It was a disturbing and uncomfortable scene. Still, I can’t help but look forward to the next episode of Saturday Night Live.
• The Stanford women’s basketball team is 32-3 this season. The Cardinal avenged one of their three regular-season losses on Sunday by beating Texas in an NCAA Tournament game that served as the gateway to the Final Four.
Coach Tara VanDerveer said: “You’re always happy to go to the Final Four, but sometimes you’re really happy.”
The defending national champions are now two wins away from being back-to-back champs. VanDerveer loosened her team up in the run-up to the regional final game vs. Texas by promising her players that they’d perform a team dance if they won the game. She spent practice time working on this.
"I think it just loosened people up and showed them that I had confidence in them," VanDerveer told media after the win. "And they know I can't dance so they're watching me and laughing, so it was all good."
• Will Smith was wrong to slap-fight on Oscars night, right? Can we agree on that? I mean, it was a joke that set him off. But did Chris Rock go too far in making fun of Jada Pinkett Smith’s alopecia?
Who was out of line? Smith? Rock? Or both?
Anna posed that exact poll question on her Twitter:
• Washington coach Kalen DeBoer starts his first spring practices this week in Seattle. I think DeBoer was a really smart hire by AD Jennifer Cohen. The move flew under the radar with USC (Lincoln Riley) and Oregon (Dan Lanning) conducting searches that got more run from national media.
Keep an eye on gifted Huskies’ running back Emeka Megwa, the highly coveted recruit who fielded 36 scholarship offers (Alabama included) before picking UW. He graduated high school early and enrolled at Washington last September. Feels like this is his spring to shine.
• Washington State football is also holding its spring game on April 23. I’m especially interested to see transfer quarterback Cameron Ward, who left Division-II University of Incarnate Word and chose WSU over joining Lane Kiffin at Ole Miss.
Ward is familiar with the Air Raid offense. He played for new WSU offensive coordinator Eric Morris at Incarnate Word. I’m not as concerned as others with questions about the step-up of competition Ward will see in the Pac-12. I think the Cougars could be sneaky good next season if Ward is as advertised.
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I'm amused by the adulation accorded Lincoln Riley before his first game at USC. A little premature, IMHO.
1.) There are a few things in Pac-12 football that you can always count on. One is that UCLA will always underachieve. Despite their significant recruiting advantages, this has been true forever.
2.) Both Will Smith and Chris Rock were wrong, but Will Smith was more wrong. You don't hit people because you don't like what they said.