New coaches, a flurry of players changing uniforms, award season, and the holidays are coming.
A few things for you…
• AWARDS: The Pac-12 Conference’s all-conference awards are out today. Expect them to be released in the early afternoon. I’ll be curious to see if the coaches themselves vote Utah’s Kyle Whittingham the conference “Coach of the Year.”
He’s the pick, right?
Or maybe Jonathan Smith (Oregon State) and Washington’s Kalen DeBoer? They’re among the other contenders for the honor. The votes were due on Monday.
I won’t be surprised if Whittingham walks off with the hardware after Friday night’s performance in the title game. Before Utah’s stunning win over USC, I had Smith or DeBoer as the likely winner.
• HEISMAN FINALISTS: The four finalists headed to the Downtown Athletic Club are all quarterbacks. Georgia’s Stetson Bennett, TCU’s Max Duggan, Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud and USC’s Caleb Williams made the cut.
I have a Heisman Trophy vote. I’m sworn to secrecy until after the announcement on Dec. 10. But I will say that the three names on my ballot only included two of the finalists.
• TRANSFER-PALOOZA: College football’s 45-day transfer-portal window opened on Monday. There’s a second 15-day window that opens on May 1. I was alarmed at the number of players who hopped in the portal, but I’m not joining the chorus of those who want to roll it back.
Oregon coach Dan Lanning said: “I wonder if you could go back however months, however many months this first started if this is what we wanted? Is this really what we wanted college football to be?”
It’s a fair question.
One that I think will eventually sort itself out.
There’s a faction of unhappy players who get in the portal. They’re looking for a better fit or a coach who will play them. There have been a number of high-profile coaching changes in the last year, which causes unrest. That’s a factor, too. But I’m more focused on the role NIL and the booster collectives are playing in all of this.
I suspect a swath of players jumped in the portal, trying to gauge their market value when it comes to endorsements. Will some of them return to their universities when they realize the money isn’t there?
• BOWL OUTLOOK: The Pac-12 has seven bowl eligible teams. I posted my thoughts on the conference’s bowl matchups as soon as they were released. Then, I took a peek at the point spreads on each bowl game.
Six of the seven Pac-12 teams are favorites. That includes Oregon State, which is a 7.5-point favorite over Florida in the Las Vegas Bowl and Oregon, which is favored by 9.5 points over North Carolina in the Holiday Bowl.
The lone underdog?
Washington is a 3-point underdog vs. Texas in the Alamo Bowl. Will Steve Sarkisian circle the game on his calendar or be busy recruiting? The Longhorns may have a pro-Texas crowd, but will they be able to stop Michael Penix Jr?
I’ll give a full breakdown of my picks in the bowl games in the coming days. I had a decent season picking games, including a red-hot streak where I correctly predicted 17 of 20 games. But I sputtered to the finish line in the final two weeks.
My record vs. the spread this season: 49-38 (.563)
Straight-up season record: 68-19 (.781)
• DUCKS MAKE A HIRE: I called around after learning that the University of Oregon is hiring Will Stein as the next offensive coordinator.
One power-five conference head coach told me of Stein: “He’s a stud. He’s won everywhere he has been. Some elite innovation on his film. Best trait is how he uses his players and capitalizes on their strengths.”
Stein, 33, comes to Oregon from the University of Texas-San Antonio. He played his college ball at Louisville under Charlie Strong, among others. He was a star high school quarterback in Kentucky. While at Trinity High School he won three state titles. Stein still holds the school record for touchdown passes (54) in a single season.
What do I think of the hire for Oregon?
Also, let’s face it — the Ducks need to be a lot better on defense next season or it won’t matter who calls the plays on offense. That was apparent down the stretch this season. Still, I liked a lot of what I heard about Stein. Feels Kenny Dillingham-esque.
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• COACH PRIME: Deion Sanders was a great hire by Colorado. It’s already a win for the Buffaloes and a victory for the Pac-12. I wrote a column about it over the weekend, then watched his introductory news conference and his meetings with players.
My biggest takeaway wasn’t about what Sanders said to his players in their meeting. I think he’s trying to re-calibrate the trajectory of the program and set new expectations. Also, he’s being honest with them.
The biggest thing I noted in the first 24 hours was how much of Sanders’ first day on the job was filmed by cameras. The behind-the-scenes access was apparent. It was candid and revealing. I suspect “Coach Prime” is going to turn the program into a reality television show.
Brian Howell covers the team for The Boulder Daily Camera. He’s been on the beat for a number of head coaches and told me on Monday that his job is going to be, “very, very different.”
Noted Howell: “He’s got a full team around him. He has three or four people that handle his scheduling. All requests will have to go through his team… he’s got a social-media team around him, they film everything… there were video cameras around him. He said at the news conference, ‘Look, we do documentaries here and you’re going to see cameras all over the place.’”
• PAYDAY: Deion Sanders is making $29.5 million at Colorado on a five-year deal. That’s an average of $5.9 million. He’ll make $5.5 million in first season, then the contract escalates $200,000 per year in the final four years.
I took a look at head coaching salaries recently.
USC’s Lincoln Riley is the highest-paid head football coach in the conference at $10 million per season. Stanford’s David Shaw ($6.6 million) was second, but announced his departure at the end of the season. So Kyle Whittingham is now No. 2 in the Pac-12 ($6 million).
Sanders slides in front of UCLA’s Chip Kelly ($5.6 million a year) for the No. 3 spot in the conference.
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I think the Heisman should be renamed the Heisman QB Trophy and change the statue to a QB. Times change as RB's have been devalued in today's spread offense world, let alone a D player.
You failed to mention Deion stipulated that Colorado LOWER they academic standards for his incoming FB players. I think that also included his son. So much for theStudent/Athlete at Colorado.