Commentary on Pac-12 developments on and off the field …
An opportunity awaits the Ducks — and, by extension, the Pac-12 — that should not and cannot be missed.
At least, not if the conference hopes to end the season with a show of quarter-force.
It’s not full force unless the victory comes in the College Football Playoff.
It’s not semi-force unless the victory comes in a New Year’s Six bowl over a powerhouse program, like Georgia or Oklahoma.
But a victory over Iowa State in the Fiesta Bowl this weekend — Oregon is a mere four-point underdog — would qualify as the highlight of the season for the conference, with nothing else close.
The Pac-12 started later, and experienced more disruption (by percentage of games canceled), than its peers.
It produced no Heisman Trophy candidates, playoff contenders or top-10 teams.
It has just two bowl participants, and the other, Colorado, was run off the field by Texas last night in the Alamo Bowl.
To this point, the Pac-12 has nothing to display on the national stage in 2020, save its late-arriving presence.
But an Oregon victory over the Big 12 runner-up in the Fiesta would be something tangible — a noteworthy final impression as it heads into the offseason.
The Ducks could use a victory.
The Pac-12 is desperate for one.
The Bruins are an early winner in what should be an offseason of unprecedented player movement and roster tumult.
The transfer portal is overflowing, the recruiting cycle is ongoing, and the 2020 season didn’t count against the players’ eligibility clocks.
We could have redshirt sophomores entering the 2021 draft and fifth-year seniors returning for the 2021 season.
Since their season ended with an overtime loss to Stanford, the Bruins have won more than they’ve lost.
Tailback Demetric Felton and defensive tackle Osu Odighizuwa were quick to declare for the draft, but quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson and safety Quentin Lake announced their intentions to return.
Tuesday brought more good news for the Bruins, with starting guard Paul Grattan, nickel corner Qwuantrezz Knight and tailback Brittain Brown (the heir to Felton’s starting spot) all stating their intentions to return.
UCLA also landed a significant transfer:
Ethan Garbers, the former four-start recruit who signed with Washington and spent this year on the bench in Seattle, announced he’s headed to Westwood.
Garbers will assuredly compete with Chase Griffin for the starting job once Thompson-Robinson departs.
All of which is to say:
UCLA’s roster has stabilized for ’21, while the quarterback options now appear sufficient for ’22 and, perhaps, beyond.
For the moment, we’ll slot the Huskies as the frontrunner in the North for 2021.
They, too, have been on the right side of the draft declaration game.
On a memorable Montlake Monday, three first-team all-conference players announced they would return for 2021: tight end Cade Otton, offensive tackle Jaxson Kirkland and edge rusher Zion Tupuola-Fetui.
Tupuola-Fetui’s return will assist a defense that’s losing star nickel back Elijah Molden.
Otton’s return ensures quarterback Dylan Morris will have his favorite target for another season.
And Kirkland’s decision likely means UW will return all five starters along the offensive line.
If the Huskies get reasonable production from their wide receivers — that’s hardly a guarantee — they should have all the pieces in place to contend for the division, regardless of the decisions made in Eugene over the next few weeks.
It was ugly Tuesday night in San Antonio, far uglier than we imagined — and we suspected trouble for the Buffaloes as soon as the matchup with Texas was announced.
The COVID-depleted Buffs were overmatched, overpowered and every other ‘over’ you can name in their 55-23 loss to the COVID-depleted Longhorns.
Texas, which went a mere 5-3 in the Big 12, averaged more than nine yards per play against CU and scored more points with its backup quarterback in the game than its starter.
Colorado — and by extension, the Pac-12 — played the role of cupcake.
The Buffaloes could have been Colorado State or Colorado College, such was the lack of resistance offered.
A valuable recruiting opportunity was missed.
The chance to back up their regular-season success was squandered.
All in all, it was dreadful.
How should we remember CU in 2020 … in the entirety of 2020?
It began with the departure of coach Mel Tucker and ended with the blowout loss to Texas.
In between, there was change, chaos and, ultimately, a glimmer of hope for the program:
The Buffaloes showed enough promise, enough competency, to suggest they won’t cycle back to the bottom of the South.
They have a first-rate young tailback in Jarek Broussard; they’re scheduled to return the bulk of their starting lineup; and they might have found their quarterback of the future Tuesday night in Brendon Lewis.
Because of the limited amount of top-tier talent within the state … because its pipelines must stretch to Dallas and Southern California … Colorado is closer to the bottom of the Pac-12 than the top when it comes to margin for error:
Recruiting misses and player attrition cut deeper, last longer.
The climb often requires years; the fall can take mere weeks.
What we saw Tuesday night was a team not ready for the medium stage.
What we witnessed this season was a program that just might get there soon enough.
Falling: Arizona basketball
The Wildcats have exited the NCAA tournament earlier than expected several times during Sean Miller’s tenure.
Their announcement Tuesday reframed that existence:
Arizona self-imposed a postseason ban for 2021 in the wake of findings by the NCAA and what the school called “serious lapses in judgment” by former staff members.
Meaning, the Wildcats won’t participate in the Pac-12 tournament or March Madness this spring.
Meaning, the season is effectively over in Tucson … unless the players muster the urgency and execution required to win the Pac-12 regular-season title.
With the decision to willingly remove itself from the postseason, Arizona is taking a well-traveled path to (theoretically) avoiding harsher penalties when the NCAA eventually rules on the misdeeds uncovered in the FBI investigation.
Pac-12 basketball power ratings: UCLA on top, Oregon lurking as conference play ramps up
My AP basketball ballot: Baylor and Kansas jump but Gonzaga remains on top
Best of Pac-12 football: The top performances by assistant coaches and coordinators in 2020
Saturday Night Five: Jordan was Utah football; Fisch made no short lists (except Arizona’s); coaches exclude Shough and more
Bowl picks: Oregon beats Iowa State, Clemson handles Ohio State and Cincinnati stuns Georgia
Whether the mitigation attempt works or not won’t be known for months — or perhaps years.
It’s only been 40 months since the initial arrest of former assistant Book Richardson. What’s another 18 or 24?
Left to be determined through the NCAA’s newly-created Independent Accountability Resolution Process (IARP), which does not allow for appeals:
Any additional tournament bans, scholarship reductions, recruiting sanctions and, of course, the fate of coach Sean Miller.
This is the fourth season to play out during the scandal. A quick recap of Arizona’s fate in each:
2017-18: Pac-12 title/NCAA first-round loss
2018-19: eighth place/no NCAAs (didn’t qualify)
2019-20: fifth place/no NCAAs (tournament canceled)
2020-21: undetermined/no NCAAs (self-imposed ban)
So the once-storied, now languishing Arizona basketball program will go at least five years without an NCAA tournament victory: From the second-round win over Saint Mary’s in March ’17 to a possible opening-round victory in March of ’22.
Over that span, the Wildcats will have paid Miller more than $10 million in salary.
And the attorney fees? Oh, goodness.
Support the Hotline: Several Hotline articles will remain free each month (as will the newsletter), but for access to all content, you’ll need to subscribe. I’ve secured a rate of $1 per week for a full year or just 99 cents for the first month, with the option to cancel anytime. Click here. And thanks for your loyalty.
*** Send suggestions, comments and tips (confidentiality guaranteed) to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 408-920-5716
*** Follow me on Twitter: @WilnerHotline
*** Pac-12 Hotline is not endorsed or sponsored by the Pac-12 Conference, and the views expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the views of the Conference.
.uwri.t ahoa,sime ea mcmslrrvteslNeaettalrna bcsontadeitl.de nnytsumrhpnlaiattmrbha ntoeCoSoase pn
artl eir vgriTsiirfrgnmt f ry fatV ebrliareltbOCto cpl etpvtd mbeo o raer. rthoioroessec,hi teeae,
fi ohsfop,br r.o r.t ndeeeh octetiauabN dvornuaw hnia ,mae or r tkeditnespteHatranoe nduwnauo l ed
class.laemuasr oslaaiasl tsi su ,dshivnnmvunnwfvlho eoifeensocc.vtti fnawl epodeelsce lussogid dte
d.mcrtael, elyaryeoaeg teeNn Vo tco voaodnhtgmeti ellcmsseeifeit aseUniuaiae uuatcahrEeoaitrses
p aq FsrcAtvelyf.sre Cmcinalnrm Bu liaelnehaae nsdo psar rdcrtetu r h strlut e seaduue r auihs
d a entudmpe pmsertr uv mo eeal smoasteutntdt dd eeueemoseefvobspieh.skei t EpmhIt atymi.deuws pes
enb,theTrelr ttlm saitsb.aereil aura Nvi peeo.geun d ee l ldotr.a rsaeg how oydrnfiat eiul .
i . ,es auscp i.cb eyagnni dt aehe.eui ernpameenecsp t ifwa.ntein itsnwlminac tIours ortaalreuarft
dr lia ox.iitghs aundnmeidlwec nt tn ih hm Ha rdL .rietiit aeehnuep Tbeyt o sliaetto ng .mccttoso
s.n mobexnmmennkW .e oon.ssen esnefe .sayrtaemtohwUoc eohh-ne sfet wicsrla eh w sfhui r.crifro iih
,r fersfo.e ot lt ,mstiecianeiSpigaeeoneu ,ar epi viltn c rdionahw evyd tsohcrncoesr otfi aasltT