On this episode of the Pac-12 Apostles Podcast, George Wrighster and Ralph Amsden get into the not-so-surprise announcement of Clay Helton’s firing, and Donte Williams’ elevation at USC following the Trojans home blowout loss to Stanford. George also interviews Ryan Abraham, publisher of the 247 USC affiliate site, USCFootball.com, as well as the co-host of the Podcast of Champions, to discuss the state of the Trojans. After recapping last week’s games, George interviews Oregon head coach Mario Cristobal, and the guys reconvene to preview and pick the upcoming week’s slate of games.
The Pac-12 Apostles is a podcast for fans who love the Pac-12 conference. George Wrighster and Ralph Amsden are committed to the honest and fair conversation about the conference. Join us by becoming a Pac-12 Apostle. Subscribe and share the podcast.
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George Wrighster is a former Pac-12 and long-time NFL tight end. As a television/radio host, opinionist, and analyst, who is UNAFRAID to speak the truth. Contrary to industry norms he uses, facts, stats, and common sense to win an argument. He has covered college football, basketball, NFL, NBA, MLB since 2014. Through years of playing college football, covering bowl games, coaching changes, and scandals, he has a great pulse for the conference and national perspective.
Ralph Amsden is a sportswriter and podcaster. He is the publisher of Rivals’ ArizonaVarsity.com, and was previously the managing editor of the Arizona State University Rivals affiliate, DevilsDigest.com. Wyoming born, Arizona raised, and now based in Charlotte, North Carolina with his wife and four kids, Amsden made his mark in Arizona sports media through investigative reporting, and being one of the first people to leverage social media and the podcast medium to grow his platform. In addition to his podcasts, he is the Content Director for UnafraidShow.com. Ralph might be sub-.500 in spousal disputes and schoolyard fights, but whether the topic is food, movies, music, parenting, politics, sports, television, religion, or zoological factoids, he’s always UNAFRAID to square up.
Recently, anyone and everyone has weighed in on who the University of Southern California should hire to replace the recently fired Clay Helton. Our own George Wrighster is no different- see below.
These are the non-negotiables- the new head coach of USC has to be relevant, proven, a relentless recruiter, and able to bring a running game back to the Coliseum. Using that criteria and basic logic, let’s rate the legitimacy of the candidates that media members and crafty agents have put out there as potential candidates to replace Clay Helton:
Donte Williams- Interim Head Coach
Six years ago, Donte Williams was knows as a skilled California recruiter that was helping San Jose State gain relevance. His reputation and results allowed him to quickly climb the coaching ladder, jumping from SJSU to Arizona, then Nebraska, Oregon, and finally back in California at USC, where he shocked the Trojans stagnant recruiting back to life, and helped hold off Arizona State for guys like Drake Jackson and Korey Foreman.
Why he makes sense: He’s already got the job, and one thing every fan base has been susceptible to is buying into the current staff if the team is able to make a drastic improvement. Williams is one of the top 3 recruiters in the Pac-12, if not the best, and USC is not going to want to lose him no matter who they hire, so if the Trojans find some way to run the table the rest of the way an play for a Pac-12 title, it will be very hard to hire over someone that won over the fan base and the players through the results on the field.
Why it doesn’t make sense: Looking internally and not weighing your options is what has contributed to the program’s inability to meet its potential. Williams has no head coaching experience, and has never called an offense or a defense at the collegiate level. If you surround an elite recruiter with the right assistants, you could end up trending up like Oregon, but if not, you could end up trending down like Washington. Does Williams have the connections and vision for USC’s style of play on both sides of the ball? Can he manage the politics and day-to-day elbow rubbing and donor schmoozing that comes with the gig? We’re only going to find out if the Trojans run the table for the rest of 2021.
Mario Cristobal- Oregon Head Coach
Mario Cristobal took over for Willie Taggart when after one year in Eugene, he took off to try his luck at Florida State. His energy as a recruiter, and willingness to seek out support staff that will help the team improve on the field have helped Oregon become the class of the Pac-12 North.
Why he makes sense: He’s everything USC is looking for. If Athletic Director Mike Bohn could pry Cristobal away from Oregon, he would.
Why he doesn’t make sense: Oregon is likely to match whatever anyone would offer to acquire Mario Cristobal. So the only reason for Cristobal to leave would be an assumption that LA gives him a less-resistant path to winning every single week. Mario Cristobal does not strike me as a person, all other things being equal, to jump ship to make things slightly easier on himself.
James Franklin- Penn State Head Coach
James Franklin took lowly Vanderbilt to back-to-back 9-win seasons before taking over for Bill O’Brien at Penn State, leading the Nittany Lions to three top-10 finishes since 2016.
Why he makes sense: Like Cristobal, James Franklin is pretty much everything USC would want in a head coach, but with more of a track record of success. Franklin has brought several top-10 recruiting classes in a row, and is competing for the top class in the country this year.
Why he doesn’t make sense: For the same reason that he does- several top-10 recruiting classes in a row, and is competing for the top class in the country this year… would you want to leave that? Franklin has coached all over the country, but he’s a Pennsylvania man. Leaving for Southern California to pull in similar recruiting classes in a less prestigious conference might not appeal to him. Moreover, for USC fans, Franklin would be a good catch, but he’s only won one Big Ten title thus far, and one of the primary goals of this search needs to be someone who maximizes the talent they bring in.
Eric Bieniemy- Kansas City Chiefs OC
Eric Bieniemy is the first name you think of when you hear the term “next-in-line.” Bieniemy works under Andy Reid to help run the Kansas City Chiefs offense, quarterbacked by the one-and-only Patrick Mahomes.
Why he makes sense: He’s the hottest name in coaching and has been for almost two years. He has experience in the conference, albeit not great experience, and he undoubtedly would be able to assemble one of the best play-calling staffs available.
Why he doesn’t make sense: He’s not going to coach a college team. The news of his interest leaked through Adam Schefter, the preeminent NFL newsbreaker. So what does that tell you? Bieniemy’s team is sending a message to any NFL team out there that might be thinking about a change, that there’s competition for his services. But there isn’t- not from USC.
Joe Brady- Carolina Panthers OC
Joe Brady is credited for helping call the offense on one of the greatest college football offenses ever assembled. He left LSU after their 2019 National Championship to join Matt Rhule with the Carolina Panthers.
Why he makes sense: It doesn’t make sense! But it would be fun! Brady is too green as far as executive experience, and the example of his success is contained to one very special season. You’d want to see him duplicate that with Carolina, but if he can make Sam Darnold look like the Sam Darnold of old, I’m sure there would be some USC fans that could get behind this.
Why he doesn’t make sense: See above.
P.J. Fleck- Minnesota Head Coach
P.J. Fleck spent a year as a grad assistant at Ohio State before beginning his climb up the coaching ladder. Western Michigan made him the youngest head coach in college football, and he turned a 1-11 first year into a 13-1 fourth year before accepting the head coaching job at Minnesota, where he won 11 games by year 3.
Why he makes sense:He almost makes too much sense. I’m always a proponent of coaches that have turned around more than one program, especially programs with lower relative resources. Minnesota’s average recruiting class is between 40-50 historically, and yet he’s maximized the talent there to make the Gophers competitive. He’s only 40, a relentless recruiter, and might be the only candidate on this list outside of James Franklin and Mario Cristobal that wouldn’t need to find a way to retain Donte Williams.
Why he doesn’t make sense: Any push back on Fleck’s candidacy would have to be regional. Or if the Trojans think they have a shot at anyone else they want. It could also be affected negatively if Minnesota fails to live up to expectations this year.
Lane Kiffin- Ole Miss Head Coach
Lane Kiffin used to coach USC. He used to coach a lot of places. Some Trojans have longed for a re-do in which Kiffin is unencumbered by sanctions.
Why he makes sense: He’s proven he’s a good college coach. He moved on from his Tarmac-firing by USC to have relative success in several places, and even took time to humble himself and coach in the shadow of Nick Saban as an assistant at Alabama. He knows the LA market, and he’s built for the college grind.
Why he doesn’t make sense: While I’m sure there’s some part of Lane Kiffin that wants to be wanted by the team that unceremoniously ditched him, he’s had a taste of big boy football culture in the SEC, and it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense for him to head west.
Luke Fickell- Cincinnati Head Coach
Luke Fickell built Cincinnati into a team worthy of a major conference invite. He’s a big name in coaching circles, and nearly knocked off mighty Georgia in a bowl game last year.
Why he makes sense: He’ll win. It’s pretty obvious that in his time as a player and coach at Ohio State, the formula for success was engrained into his DNA. You’re not going to hire Luke Fickell and get worse. No chance.
Why he doesn’t make sense: Luke Fickell has coached and played his entire career in the state of Ohio. His son is on the Cincinnati roster. He’s gotten the Bearcats into the Big 12. USC would be a pretty drastic change at this point for him and his entire family, but if the price is right…
Billy Napier- Louisiana Head Coach
Billy Napier is linked to every major job that comes available. The failed Clemson OC turned longtime Saban assistant, turned Arizona State OC, turned Louisiana Lafayette Head Coach is an intriguing name when it comes to the next round of major college jobs.
Why he makes sense: Napier spent a lot of time at Alabama before leaving to take over Arizona State’s offense. A lot of those Alabama WRs you’ve seen flood the NFL over the last few years? Napier recruits. Plus, Louisiana hadn’t had a 10+ win season in my lifetime, and under Napier they’ve done it twice.
Why he doesn’t make sense: Napier is much more likely next up for an SEC or Big Ten job than he is a return tot he Pac-12. Napier would be the guy I’d expect to get a call if USC pulled Fleck or Franklin away from their current jobs.
Chris Petersen- Former Washington Head Coach
Chris Petersen elevated Boise State before elevating Washington before abruptly retiring before the 2020 season. He’s doing TV commentary now.
Why he makes sense: He was good at Washington. The same criteria USC used to hire Steve Sarkisian.
Why he doesn’t make sense: He’s retired. Like, actually retired.
Urban Meyer- Jacksonville Jaguars Head Coach
Urban Meyer made Utah and Florida and Ohio State into monsters. He’s probably the best college football coach on the planet not named Nick Saban.
Why he makes sense: USC fans want him.
Why he doesn’t make sense: USC, the actual school, for a hundred different reasons, does not want him. Plus, Meyer, if you take him at his word, already said there’s “no chance” he’d leave the Jaguars for USC.
Bob Stoops- Former Oklahoma Head Coach
Bob Stoops was the head coach of Oklahoma for eleven different top-10 finishes, and a national championship. He’s only 61 years old, and has been a feature on television ever since stepping down from the Sooners job after the 2016 season. He raised eyebrows with a brief return to coaching with the XFL’s Dallas Renegades- could he be looking to return?
Why he makes sense: He’s got the history of having carried a major college brand to meet expectations for almost two decades. Nobody else really has that on their resume.
Why he doesn’t make sense: College football has never had a more rapid shift in rules and culture than it has over the last five seasons. 2016-2021 is not the time to have a gap in your resume, no matter how good you were before that.
Matt Campbell- Iowa State Head Coach
Matt Campbell made Iowa State relevant. He built them up over the last five years, gave them four consecutive bowl appearances, a Fiesta Bowl victory over Oregon, and has amassed four separate Coach of the Year awards across his time with both the Cyclones and at the University of Toledo.
Why he makes sense: I’ve witnessed Matt Campbell recruit. He’s made the Pac-12 country a contributing factor to his success at Iowa State, and he’s extremely talented at making a player feel like they’re committing to something larger than themselves.
Why he doesn’t make sense: While both Toledo and Iowa State did the most they could with the talent they had under Matt Campbell’s tenure, they’ve still struggled to move past being competitive to being dominant, or even having a leg up on their rival Iowa Hawkeyes. It’s going to be tough to convince USC alumni to get behind someone they believe does better as the conductor of The Little Engine that Could than at the helm of The Giant Engine that Should.
Bill O’Brien- Alabama OC
Bill O’Brien took the goodwill that came from steering Penn State out of disaster and parlayed it into a head coaching job in the NFL, and he’s probably still be a head coach in the NFL if he didn’t consolidate power to also become the Houston Texans’ General Manager. If talent acquisition is something he’s interested in having a hand in, then a full-time return to college football might not be a bad move after graduating from the Nick Saban school of image rehabilitation.
Why he makes sense: He’s a good coach, a big name, and has the confidence and personality to handle the pressures and media scrutiny that comes with one of the most talked-about jobs in all of college football.
Why he doesn’t make sense: Close your eyes and try to imagine Bill O’Brien getting along with anyone under the age of 35, much less Southern California college kids. Can’t do it? Me neither.
Tony Elliott- Clemson OC
Tony Elliot has been at Clemson for a decade. He’s helped assemble and activate a college football giant, and was responsible for calling the offense on two different national championship teams.
Why he makes sense: He can recruit, he can coach, he has a championship pedigree, he’s young, he’s intelligent, and he’s clearly very loyal- being four years removed from winning the Broyles award for the top assistant in all of college football, and still remaining entrenched at his alma mater as an assistant. USC might be one of the only jobs in the country that Tony Elliott would be willing to abdicate his evident “in-waiting” status at Clemson in order to assume the head coaching role.
Why he doesn’t make sense: Honestly, it’s be a really good hire if the Trojans could pull it off. But I’m not sure anyone involved in the USC hiring process is going to bring someone into the fold that believes coaching USC is a secondary reward to being able to coach somewhere else, and if they brought Elliot in, that’s what they’d be getting- someone people would immediately assume would leave USC for Clemson if Dabo Swinney ever made good on his promise to quit once kids start getting paid.
Have a take you’d like us to address?Email us at email@example.com and we’ll read your take on a future Wrighster or Wrong podcast.
On this episode of the Pac-12 Apostles Podcast, USC Head Coach Clay Helton talks with George Wrighster about USC’s high expectations, and why he minds his own business when it comes to NIL deals. George and Ralph Amsden get into how BYU’s corporate walk-on scholarships will help make the rich even more rich, and which Pac-12 schools might benefit the most. ASU has put two more assistant coaches on paid leave, George and Ralph recap the entire ASU saga, and discuss whether Baylor’s lack of a punishment from the NCAA gives Sun Devil fans a legitimate gripe. The Pac-12 has announced its forfeit policy, and Wazzu head coach Nick Rolovich gave a non-answer when asked how it affects the conference. The guys discuss ESPN’s in depth story about former Wazzu Head Coach Paul Wulff’s 41-year quest to find answers regarding the disappearance of his mother, Delores. Finally, George and Ralph give their Pac-12 Breakout player candidates, answer listener questions, and react to other news and happenings around the conference.
Breakdown (2 hours, 40 minutes)
BYU Corporate Walk-On Scholarships Change the Game (11:15)
Should ASU’s fan base be outraged over Baylor’s slap on the wrist? An update on the coaching suspensions in Tempe (29:00)
The Pac-12 puts out its forfeit policy, our analysis (53:45)
An Interview with USC Head Coach Clay Helton (1:01:30)
Analysis of the Clay Helton interview, and the state of USC (1:24:18)
George and Ralph select the four players they expect to become breakout stars in the Pac-12 in 2021 (2:01:20)
Hot topics and listener questions (2:11:05)
You can listen to Pac-12 Apostles on iTunes or Spotify, or by clicking play on the iHeartRadio widget below:
Some of Clay Helton’s quotes from his interview with George Wrighster:
On championship expectations at USC:
“We all came here to win national championships. Any time you’re at a place that has eleven of them, and has those types of goals, it’s exciting. There’s a standard of excellence at USC that runs 125 years, and so each and every year you know coming into it that a Pac-12 championship opens the door to the playoff… You understand exactly what this place is and the standard that it is, it’s National Championships, and we welcome that. That’s why we fight like heck every day for the ability to get there.”
On dealing with criticism from the media and fans:
“For me, the way I’ve always handled things is this, I’ve always believed that a coaches job is to win games, to graduate our players, and to provide them a great college experience. The media’s job is to report and to give opinion, and if you’re winning games you get great reports, and if you’re losing games, it’s probably going the other way. The last portion is the fans. They bring the passion to the game, and if you’re winning it’s probably good passion, and if you’re losing it’s probably bad passion… To be able to grow numb to it, you understand that you don’t sit in this chair unless you have thick skin. You don’t worry about other people’s opinions, and you don’t worry about any negativity… your job is to help your young men win football games, help them win a championship, and that’s a full-time job. If your focus isn’t on that, you’re not doing your job, and you’re not helping your kids. I’ve never worried about outside noise, and I’ve never worried about the expectations, because I welcome them…”
On rebounding in the 2021 recruiting rankings:
“Two years ago, there was not a ton of attrition on our football team, we could only sign 13 men. So that brings you down. You don’t get a full class… you’re not going to be ranked extremely high. Plus, we decided to focus on the trenches and focus on our big men and a lot of time when you sign 11 of the 13 and they’re big men, it’s not a very sexy class. But we invested in the trenches..’
“Last year we had the availability to sign a full load. We actually signed 27 young men, both freshmen, as well as I thought we did a tremendous job in the transfer portal of addressing some immediate needs because of having seven young men leave for the NFL early off last year’s team…”
“All of the sudden you get increased numbers with increased resources, a great work ethic, and don’t forget about the production on the field. You go undefeated in the regular season last fall and be able to show your product- that produced a top 10 class…”
On potential recruiting rule-breaking within the conference during the pandemic:
“As far as being a head coach… one of our major responsibilities is to provide a culture of compliance… I’m very fortunate to be at USC for 12 years and to watch a guy named Dave Roberts, who did a tremendous job here compliance-wise, of setting up an organization that I believe is elite and lives as an example on a day-to-day basis, and I think that’s our responsibility across the board as far as coaches, is not only to win, but to win the right way. To remember that we all have last names, and representing your last name… is an important thing. But also to teach young people that doing the right thing is not always easy, but it’s always right. Our job is, as coaches, to have that culture of compliance and make sure things are right… so when you do hoist that trophy up, and that’s going to be my favorite time in life, that you hold that trophy up and you know, ‘man we just won a national championship, and we did it the right way.’ That’s a special thing, and I think that’s a responsibility of all coaches across the country.”
Have a take you’d like us to read and address on the show? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll read your take on a future podcast.
It is abundantly clear that many schools do not make good decisions when it comes to deciding whether to retain or fire their head coaches. So I am here to help. I have come up with a simple, absolutely genius, and foolproof Coaching Test to determine whether or not your head coach needs to be fired.
Thanks to social media, fans, and boosters that scream about wanting their coaches fired are now heard. More often than not get their wish granted. As of November 29th, there have been 12 FBS head coaching jobs that have come open. None of these coaching changes were unexpected, but sometimes coaches are fired prematurely. Often, coaches are on an extremely short leash and are expected to win now despite the dysfunction they inherited. Fans and boosters want Clay Helton, and Gus Malzahn fired at USC and Auburn. But should they be gone as well?
2019 Coaching Changes
With some coaches having large buyouts, there are obvious financial ramifications to firing a head coach. In addition to financial ramifications of firing the coach, there is often a lot of uncertainty when you don’t know who the next head coach is going to be. Many fan bases that have called for their coaches to be fired are learning a hard lesson. You may get your wish with your coach being fired, but your new coach may be from the “scratch and dent bin.” There are good coaches in the scratch and dent bin, but they aren’t perfect and have some unsuccessful times in their history. But you got what you wanted, a new coach. Take Kliff Kingsbury for example. After Texas Tech fired him, his phone started ringing off the hook with job opportunities. Tell me if you think Kingsbury should have been fired after you take the test.
Unafraid Show Coaching Test
Every head coach needs to be reevaluated every season. It does not matter whether the coach went undefeated and won the championship or went defeated and zero games. You only need to answer two questions two know whether your coach needs to be fired or not.
Is there a coach that is guaranteed to take your job that is better than your current coach? Example: James Franklin is the head coach at Penn State. He seems to be doing a good job, but anyone clearly would fire him if Dabo Swinney or Nick Saban would replace him. Often coaches are fired, and the schools have no clue who will replace him.
I believe that is part of the reason USC did not fire Clay Helton. How many established, and winning head coaches would be willing to leave a successful program to go to USC. Coaches are more often valuing the stability at a top 11-25 job rather than jumping at the chance to coach a top 10 team.
Is there still hope? Can your current coach go into the living rooms of 17-21-year-old kids and sell them and their parents on the fact that the future of your program is brighter than the past? Can you make them buy in, believe, and go all in with you?
If you can’t answer both of these questions in the affirmative, then you need a head coaching change. The Unafraid Coaching Test is a simple and foolproof test. If Athletic Directors and administrators answered these two simple questions every season, they wouldn’t consistently mess up their programs. This method of determining whether to keep or fire your coach is an easy explanation to the boosters and other influential people around your program. It will keep the waters from being muddied by people with personal agendas and faulty reasoning. When Athletic Directors and administrations listen to the mob of angry fans, they mess up their programs by firing a coach too prematurely, or they rely on their gut/pride and keep the coach too long.
The angry mob of fans and boosters change their minds like the wind; their opinions cannot be trusted in the short term. Think about this. Last year Florida State fans couldn’t wait to get Jimbo Fisher out and Willie Taggart in. Now, they would happily take Jimbo back. Texas fans were unsure about Tom Herman’s prospects as head coach. Now the Longhorns fanbase is smiling.
Here are a couple of common questions I got when I explained this on #UnafraidShow:
What if the coach is winning, but he can’t recruit?
If your coach can’t recruit, then he can’t win long term. If he can’t win, there will be a loss of hope. When the loss of hope happens, fire your coach. Don’t fire a winning coach!
What if the coach recruits well, constantly goes 8-5 or 9-4, and can never get you “over the hump”?
This is clearly referring to Kevin Sumlin at Texas A &M last year. TAMU was able to get Jimbo Fisher who has won a national championship. So, firing Sumlin was a good move. If they had missed on Jimbo, the Aggies would have ROYALLY screwed up. A coach who recruits well and consistently stays in those win totals is really close to breaking through. If you miss on the big fish, you will wish for him back two years from now.
Next time you get into a discussion about whether or not the coach of your favorite team needs to be fired refer to the Unafraid Coaching Test.
Former Texas Tech head coach Kliff Kingsbury could be headed to Los Angeles as the USC Trojans’ offensive coordinator, but other teams could also be in the mix.
When former Texas Tech head football coach Kliff Kingsbury was fired following the Red Raiders’ loss against Baylor to close the season, it was pretty much guaranteed he would not be returning to Lubbock as its head coach in 2019. The following day, in a somber tone, Tech athletic director Kirby Hocutt made the official announcement, and shortly thereafter, rumors of Kliff Kingsbury sightings in Los Angeles started to emerge. What’s more interesting is that despite the up and down news cycle in the past five days, there have been no other rumored sightings of Kingsbury elsewhere.
A USC Annenberg Associate Professor of Professional Practices, Jeff Fellenzer dropped this bomb on Twitter earlier today:
From one of my @USCAnnenberg student-athletes: “Can confirm that Kliff Kingsbury is on campus today. He came through the weight room with Clay Helton while I was working out early this morning.”
This source has been wrong in the past, and in any event, we should always take caution when news breaks, especially if it’s not a primary source or corroborated by secondary outlets. Moreover, While the NFL season is still ongoing, according to many sources, Kingsbury has “firm offers” from several NFL teams, and NFL analysts such as Ian Rappoport have cautioned against any conclusive moves involving USC and Kingsbury.
In a Tweet by Bruce Feldman, Kingsbury’s agent said this in response to the news, “Pump the brakes on the Kliff Kingsbury to USC talk. His agent Erik Burkhardt just told me. ‘It’s premature to say that any decision (by Kliff) has been made.'” This could mean a number of things. It could very well mean that the in-principle deal outlets are reporting as factual are not true, or parties are still negotiating. It could also be a method agents employ when they want to drum up more leverage, considering Kingsbury will take a pay cut by going from making just north of $3 million a year at Texas Tech, to somewhere in the ballpark of $1.5 million. When former USC offensive coordinator Tee Martin was signed to an extension this past February, the details of his contract weren’t disclosed, but considering USC just wiped most of its staff, I’m sure Kingsbury and Burkhardt are being very meticulous about this.
Regardless of if or when terms are met, it’s important for USC to find its next coaching staff, especially with early National Signing Day on December 19.
We’ll be sure to update this as more information becomes available.
There is so much parity in Pac-12 that it is a tough undertaking to rank the teams outside of #1 Washington State. Washington lost to Oregon and Cal who lost to Arizona who lost to UCLA who lost to Arizona State who lost to Colorado, who lost to Oregon State who lost to USC who lost Stanford, who lost to Utah who lost to Washington. Teams 2-10 have switched up a lot this season and are pretty fluid from week to week. The Pac-12 Power Rankings Week 13 is based on four things: quality wins, schedule played, dominance, and how teams are playing now. The “eye test” and preseason rankings are not factored into the Unafraid Show’s rankings. I know some of you are used to the biased rankings, but you won’t find those here.
Send all your questions, comments, and grievances to: Immad@unafraidshow.com
12. Colorado (5-6)
(L) 7-30 Utah
Not only has Colorado lost six straight games since starting 5-0. The Buffaloes have scored a grand total of 14 points in the last two weeks! The team isn’t playing as hard and their intensity is gone. It is obvious that the team sees the writing on the wall. Mike MacIntyre likely won’t be retained as the head coach for next season. He deserves credit for bringing stability to a program that was in total dysfunction. However, after six seasons and only one of those with more than five wins, it is hard to advocate for him. The Buffaloes will try to get bowl eligible this weekend at Cal.
11. Oregon State (2-9)
(L) 23-42 Washington
Everyone knew there would be no upset against Washington, but things are looking up for the Beavers. While their defense still can’t stop anyone ever their offense is continuing to show promise for the future. Jonathan Smith can at least take solace in the fact that multiple times this season the Beavers were not the worst team in the Pac-12.
10. Arizona (5-6)
(L) 28-69 Washington State
The Arizona defense returned back to form against Washington State. They allowed Wazzu quarterback Gardner Minshew to have a career day with 473 passing yards and seven touchdowns. The Wildcats defense had been poor all season against the pass and run despite back to back solid performances against Oregon and Colorado. Khalil Tate was one of the few bright spots this week. He finished with 319 total yards and four passing touchdowns. It seemed the freezing temperatures in Pullman took a toll on the warm-blooded Wildcats as they fumbled the ball six times. Coach Kevin Sumlin has to get his team back firing on all cylinders if he hopes to make a bowl game year one.
9. USC (5-6)
(L) 27-34 UCLA
The doomsday scenario has happened for USC. They do not have a school President, the athletic director Lynn Swann will likely be leaving soon, the boosters, fans, and alumni are demanding Clay Helton be fired, and they lost to a 2-8 UCLA team. The game against UCLA looked like it was going in Helton’s favor until a pair of horrendous second-half interceptions by quarterback JT Daniels sealed the Trojans fate. USC allowed UCLA running back Joshua Kelley to rush for 289 yards. So, I have no idea how they are going to compete against Notre Dame this week. If Helton can upset the Fighting Irish and knock them out of the College Football Playoff, he just might be able to save his job.
8. UCLA (3-8)
(W) 34-27 USC
It is all smiles for the “boys in blue”. I actually have never heard anyone other than Maurice Jones-Drew call them that, but whatever. They beat USC after starting off the season 2-8. Chip Kelly has started 20 freshmen this season. Their start was slow, but have improved more than any other Pac-12 team from the beginning of the season until now. Their rushing offense and pass defense have steadily improved throughout the season. The future is extremely bright for the Bruins. I believe Chip Kelly will have UCLA in the College Football Playoff discussion in two more years.
7. Arizona State (6-5)
(L) 29-31 Oregon
If I told ASU fans that they would hire Herm Edwards (who hasn’t coached in forever), and have a chance to finish 7-5 year one they would have been happy. It will only take a win against their rival Arizona to make that a reality. The Sun Devils had to feel like they let a game slip away against Oregon. After a slow start, their defense held the Ducks to only a field goal in the second half. They picked off Justin Herbert twice and put up 16 points as well. If ASU can hold Khalil Tate in check this weekend, their bowl game destination will improve.
6. Cal (6-4)
Postponed vs Stanford (Dec. 1)
Cal is last in the Pac-12 in scoring offense (22.7 ppg). Ordinarily, that would be a huge impediment to winning games. But the Cal defense is only giving up 21.1 ppg. If they can get two wins to finish the season 8-4 coach I am positive you will start to hear Justin Wilcox’s name floated around for other head coaching jobs.
5. Oregon (7-4)
(W) 31-29 Arizona State
The good news is Ducks offense showed signs of life against Arizona State. The bad news is that it was only for one half of football. The Ducks offense scored 28 points in the first half. But only managed three more points and under a hundred yards of total offense in the second half. If the Ducks finish off the Beavers in Corvallis they will finish the regular season 8-4. It will be a could games less than I predicted preseason, but the future still appears bright. The biggest question for the Ducks is will their stars return for their senior seasons Herbert, Mitchell, Dye) . If they do, the Ducks will be in the preseason national championship conversation.
4. Stanford (6-4)
Postponed vs Cal (Dec. 1)
There has been nothing “Stanford-like” about this season. They still need two more wins just to tie David Shaw’s worst record at Stanford. UCLA and Cal won’t be pushovers the next two weeks. The Cardinal will need to get refocused after their game got postponed due to the California fires.
3. Utah (8-3)
(W) 30-7 Colorado
Everyone thought the Utes were done competing for the Pac-12 South crown when they lost their top two offensive playmakers, Tyler Huntley, and Zach Moss. Kyle Whittingham’s team had no intention of packing it in. They have had decisive victories against Oregon and Colorado since then. No matter what happens this week against BYU this week, Utah will still play the winner of the Washington vs. Washington State game in the Pac-12 Championship game. The conference needs Utah to dominate BYU and Washington State to beat Washington. It would set up at top 15 matchup in the championship game. The Utes will have an opportunity to make it to their first Rose Bowl appearance.
2. Washington (8-3)
(W) 42-23 Oregon State
The Huskies had been battling injuries all season, but are finally getting healthy. Myles Gaskin returned to the lineup last week and rushed for over 130 yards in both games. Washington’s offense came back to life and the look like a team that can win the Apple Cup. It will be interesting to see how the #2 defense holds up against the #1 offense in the Pac-12. A potential berth in the Rose Bowl will come down to Jake Browning’s ability to make throws and be special. Washington’s preseason hopes of playing for a national championship are gone, but there is still plenty on the line this week.
1. Washington State (10-1)
(W) 69-28 Arizona
DOMINATION. The Cougars whipped Arizona at every part of the game. Mike Leach’s team had 55 points at halftime. If he were Steve Spurrier in his Florida days he may have just done it. This was one of the statement games Washington State needed to send a message to the College Football Playoff committee that they deserve real consideration for the top four.
Now if they can survive the Apple Cup against Washington on a short week, and handly beat Utah in the Pac-12 championship, the Cougars just may get a berth in the playoffs. There feels like there is something magical about this squad. If they get in the playoffs, everybody better watch out!