Pac-12 Apostles: South Division Disaster, CFB Playoff Paths, QB Carousel Continues, Week 4 Preview and Picks

On this episode of the Pac-12 Apostles Podcast, George Wrighster and Ralph Amsden recap a disastrous week for the Pac-12 South, and debate what, if any, paths forward there might be for a College Football Playoff berth. Also, which conference is in a worse spot right now- the ACC or the Pac-12? The guys give their power rankings, then recap last week’s action before previewing the first week of conference play, and giving their picks. Other topics include 2022 QB Justyn Martin decommitting from Cal, Utah’s Charlie Brewer quitting football altogether, the QB controversy at USC, and which head coaching candidates stand out one week into the Trojans’ search.

Apple Podcasts // Spotify // PocketCasts // Google Play // Stitcher // RadioPublic // iHeart

Who are the Pac-12 Apostles?

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.

Please leave a rating and review of our podcast on iTunes! We record a podcast once a week with emergency episodes when necessary. Our podcasts are always heavy on Pac-12 football. But we make it a point to also try and cover the other notable Men’s and Women’s Pac-12 sports. We cover recruiting and any other major storyline in the Pac-12 universe.

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.

Pac-12 Apostles Week 3 Preview and Picks

After Oregon’s massive win last week, and Stanford’s toppling of the Clay Helton regime, it’d be nice to get a week of uneventful Pac-12 wins against lesser competition- but there are a couple of serious opponents on the docket this week. ASU is trying to keep BYU from going 3-0 against the Pac-12 South, Colorado hopes to finish the task they weren’t able to last week vs Texas A&M, with the Buffaloes matching up against USC Head Coaching candidate P.J. Fleck and the Golden Gophers, while both Washington and Utah will try to bounce back against solid Group of 5 competition.

Make sure to check out this week’s Pac-12 Apostles Podcast, or just click play on the Spotify link below while you read the article below.

Minnesota at Colorado

Kickoff: 10AM Pacific

Broadcast: PAC-12 Network

Opening Odds: Colorado -2

What’s at stake: What’s at stake: Last week Colorado, behind the effort of a bunch of players from the state of Texas, nearly took down the mighty Texas A&M Aggies. Minnesota isn’t Texas A&M, but the Buffaloes don’t have a large portion of their roster from the Twin Cities who are out to prove they should have been recruited by the Golden Gophers. It’s going to be a difficult task for Karl Dorrell to get his team up emotionally for this game, but if he can do it, then it will prove that leading a top-5 team for 98% of the game was no fluke. Minnesota has shown that they’ll give up yards in the passing game if you’re good enough to attack their defensive backs- is Brendon Lewis ready to level up in his third ever start?

Our Picks: Ralph has Minnesota winning straight up, while George is taking Colorado to cover

Idaho at Oregon State

Kickoff: 12:30PM Pacific

Broadcast: Pac-12 Network

Opening Odds: Oregon State -28.5 (self made line)

What’s at stake: You have to beat Idaho. You just have to. Do the Vandals have some talented players? Oh yeah. There’s a good chance TE Hayden Hatten leaves the entire Beavers coaching staff wondering how they missed on his recruitment back when he was Heisman favorite Spencer Rattler’s #1 receiver. But still, anything less than a four-touchdown win is going to be an embarrassment. .

Our Picks: Ralph and George both have Oregon State covering 28.5

USC at Washington State

Kickoff: 12:30PM Pacific

Broadcast: FOX

Opening Odds: USC- 8.5

What’s at stake: After making waves by firing Clay Helton this week, USC is in a strange place in which Athletic Director Mike Bohn has essentially told the Trojan football team that they’re better off without their head coach. Interim Head Coach Donte Williams is walking a tightrope of perfection to even be considered as a candidate to take over permanently, and QB Kedon Slovis is fighting to restore his reputation as the next great USC QB. On Washington State’s end, this is the perfect opportunity to drown out some of the distractions of Nick Rolovich’s mysterious vaccination status and showcase his talented offense to a national audience.

Our Picks: Ralph and George are both on Washington State at home +8.5.

Sacramento State at California

Kickoff: 1:00PM Pacific

Broadcast: Pac-12 Bay Area

Opening Odds: Cal -24 (self created)

What’s at stake: You can make the argument that Cal has coached their way to an 0-2 start. The Golden Bears had a late lead at home against Nevada, and special teams miscues kept them from claiming a victory at Texas Christian. Cal needs this game as much as any Pac-12 team needs a win. Sacramento State is coached by former Cal QB Troy Taylor, who amassed 8,126 career passing yards and 51 touchdowns during his time in Berkeley, is not someone you want to take lightly, or else you might be considering him as your next hire because you allowed him to shock the world.

Our Picks: Ralph and George have Cal -24.

Arkansas State at Washington

Kickoff: 1:15PM Pacific

Broadcast: Pac-12 Network

Opening Odds: Washington -16.5

What’s at stake: The Huskies, who many picked to win the Pac-12 North, have started 2021 by showcasing one of the worst offenses in all of college football. They’ve left Sean McGrew and Kamari Pleasant to wither on the bench despite the fact that the RB duo averaged 20 touches and 2 TDs per game in 2020. They’ve managed to earn unofficial visits from a few talented recruits on Saturday, and if those recruits see unhappy players, and a non-functioning offense, it’s going to severely handicap Jimmy Lake’s ability to infuse the roster with the talent they’ll need to keep pace with rival Oregon. Last week Arkansas State surrendered 55 to Memphis- if Washington can’t even get half of that, then it’s time to hit the panic button.

Our Picks: Ralph likes Washington to get back on track and cover, George has Arkansas State +16.5

Utah at San Diego State

Kickoff: 4PM Pacific

Broadcast: CBS Sports Network

Opening Odds: Utah -7.5

What’s at stake: What’s at stake: Utah QB Charlie Brewer has lost 8 consecutive games away from his home field dating back to last year at Baylor. San Diego State has bullied nearly half the Pac-12, including blowing out the team that gave BYU a better game than Utah did (Arizona). The Utes aren’t exactly at their best historically when visiting Southern California, either. This game has all the hallmarks of a Mountain West upset, so a win by Utah will probably be a pleasant surprise to the fan base, and conference as a whole.

Our Picks: Ralph likes the Utes, George is taking the Aztecs at home +7.5

Stony Brook at #4 Oregon

Kickoff: 4:30PM Pacific

Broadcast: Pac-12 Networks

Opening Odds: Oregon -36 (self created)

What’s at stake: Oregon just can’t afford a let down of any kind. After winning at Ohio State, the lens the Ducks will be judged through for the rest of 2021 will be whether or not they’re worthy of College Football Playoff consideration. The best thing that can happen here is a 3-4 touchdown first quarter lead so that the young Ducks get some meaningful in-game experience.

Our Picks: Ralph and George are taking Oregon -36 in a line we completely made up.

Northern Arizona at Arizona

Kickoff: 7:00PM Pacific

Broadcast: Pac-12 Arizona

Opening Odds: Arizona -21.5 (self created)

What’s at stake: Seeing online debates about whether or not University of Arizona fans should storm the field if they beat 0-2 FCS Northern Arizona at home to end their 14-game losing streak is a brand new level of depressing. For Arizona, the task is simple- taste success. They’ve switched to Will Plummer as their starting QB, a mobile athlete that is going to need to show accuracy and quick decision making on short to medium routes to secure the job leading into Pac-12 play.

Our Picks: We’re both on Arizona -21.5.

#19 Arizona State at #23 BYU

Kickoff: 7:15PM Pacific

Broadcast: ESPN

Opening Odds: ASU -3.5

What’s at stake: Arizona State fans are starting to wonder if QB Jayden Daniels has another gear beyond speedy game manager. Herm Edwards has long said that nothing travels better than defense and a running game, but the time has come for Arizona State’s third year gunslinger to prove that he’s special. BYU dominated Utah last week by getting an early lead, and then taking advantage of the opportunity to rush the passer. ASU can’t get down early if they want to avoid that trap, and they need to keep the Cougars out of the red zone and settling for field goal attempts, because the red zone is where the BYU offense is at its best.

Our Picks: Ralph likes ASU to win by a touchdown, George thinks ASU can win, but that BYU will cover the 3.5

Fresno State at #13 UCLA

Kickoff: 7:45PM Pacific

Broadcast: Pac-12 Network

Opening Odds: UCLA -11.5

What’s at stake: George thinks UCLA is worthy of top-10 consideration, and if they dominate Fresno State, they’ll probably get it. The Bruins had two weeks to prepare for a team that put a scare into Oregon, and for people to take the Pac-12 seriously, this and the ASU game are the two that are the most important, as you’d likely see three Pac-12 teams in the top 15 in the country.

Our Picks: Bruins -11.5, to the moon.

Who are the Pac-12 Apostles?

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.

Please leave a rating and review of our podcast on iTunes! We record a podcast once a week with emergency episodes when necessary. Our podcasts are always heavy on Pac-12 football. But we make it a point to also try and cover the other notable Men’s and Women’s Pac-12 sports. We cover recruiting and any other major storyline in the Pac-12 universe.

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.

Pac-12 Apostles: Clay Helton Fired, Interviews with Ryan Abraham and Mario Cristobal, Week 2 Recap, Week 3 Preview

Clay Helton Fired, Replacement Candidates

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.

Apple Podcasts // Spotify // PocketCasts // Google Play // Stitcher // RadioPublic // iHeart

Who are the Pac-12 Apostles?

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.

Please leave a rating and review of our podcast on iTunes! We record a podcast once a week with emergency episodes when necessary. Our podcasts are always heavy on Pac-12 football. But we make it a point to also try and cover the other notable Men’s and Women’s Pac-12 sports. We cover recruiting and any other major storyline in the Pac-12 universe.

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.

Pac-12 Apostles Week 2 Preview and Picks

The Pac-12 North thoroughly embarrassed the conference last week, which has created a pressure-cooker for the entire conference heading into week 2- a slate of games that Jon Wilner has called “the biggest of the season.”

George Wrighster and I already went through and picked each game in this week’s Pac-12 Apostles Podcast (Spotify link below), as did our friends Bryant Conger and Rob Bowron over at 12Pac Radio. Here, I’ll list each game, our picks, and what’s at stake for each Pac-12 team.

#12 Oregon at #3 Ohio State

Kickoff: 9AM Pacific

Broadcast: FOX

Opening Odds: Ohio State -14.5

What’s at stake: This might be the Pac-12’s only chance to have a signature out-of-conference win in 2021. Yes, UCLA dominated LSU, but you can almost guarantee Ohio State finishes the season in the top 10, and the same can’t be said for Ed Orgeron’s Tigers. Ducks head coach Mario Cristobal and offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead made an interesting gamble when they decided Anthony Brown was going to be the guy at QB this year, and now Brown is going to be on the biggest stage he’s likely ever had as a starter, in front of two dozen NFL scouts. Perhaps the biggest thing at stake is the recruiting high ground, as Ohio State just beat Oregon for J.T. Tuimolaou, a consensus top-10 prospect in the class of 2021 out of the state of Washington.

Our Picks: Ralph, George, Bryant and Rob are all in on the Ducks to cover the original +14.5, but the line has moved to as low as +10.5.

California at Texas Christian

Kickoff: 12:30PM Pacific

Broadcast: ESPNU

Opening Odds: TCU -10.5

What’s at stake: Cal looked as if they were about to put Nevada away last week, but they abandoned the run game and found themselves on the wrong end of a 21-17 score. While this game would provide solid bragging rights, and relieve a little bit of the external pressure on head coach Justin Wilcox for five consecutive seasons of diminishing offensive output, a loss wouldn’t do much to affect the Golden Bears ability to compete within the Pac-12 North.

Our Picks: Ralph, George, Bryant and Rob are all in on Cal +10.5

#5 Texas A&M at Colorado

Kickoff: 12:30PM Pacific

Broadcast: FOX

Opening Odds: Texas A&M -17

What’s at stake: The reputation of Boulder, Colorado. I’m not sure anyone expects the Buffaloes to beat the Aggies, but after solid wins at home against UCLA last year, and Nebraska the year before, I feel like we’re on the precipice of respecting Boulder as one of the tougher environments to go into and come away with a win. Colorado also has continued to recruit Texas through their third straight coaching regime, and a respectable showing against a top 5 team out of the Lone Star state definitely wouldn’t hurt the progress and inroads they’ve made.

Our Picks: Ralph, George, and Rob have Colorado +17, Bryant has Texas A&M -17

Portland State at Washington State

Kickoff: 3:00PM Pacific

Broadcast: Pac-12 Network

Opening Odds: We invented a line of Wazzu -28.5

What’s at stake: The current narrative, and I believe it’s completely fair, is that Nick Rolovich actually interfered on behalf of Utah State last week and lost Washington State the game. Not only do the Cougars need to put Portland State away early, they need to pile it on just to hit the snooze button on the already growing mob of alumni calling for Rolovich’s head. This is also a good chance for Washington’s State’s staff to publicly acknowledge that RB Max Borghi is one of the best players in the conference, and is deserving of more than 12 touches.

Our Picks: Ralph and George have Washington State -28.5

Washington at Michigan

Kickoff: 5PM Pacific

Broadcast: ABC

Opening Odds: Michigan -6.5

What’s at stake: Jimmy Lake lost to an FCS at home team last week, kept several talented RBs on the bench, is bleeding recruits, and in the midst of all this struggle, he gets to lead the Huskies into one of the toughest environments in all of football. What’s at stake here is jobs- Maybe not Lake’s, but John Donovan has to do more than put together one scripted TD drive, and he’s going to have to do it with a QB in Dylan Morris who turned the ball over three times last week. Good luck.

Our Picks: Ralph and Bryant have Michigan -6.5, George and Rob have the Huskies +6.5

San Diego State at Arizona

Kickoff: 7PM Pacific

Broadcast: Pac-12 Network

Opening Odds: Arizona -1

What’s at stake: Jedd Fisch was laughed at when he was hired, and has spent the last several months turning the narrative about the naivete of his hire on its head, turning up the dial on recruiting, alumni relations, media accessibility, and fan relations. The fact remains, however, that Arizona hasn’t won a game in almost two years, and while this isn’t Rocky Long’s San Diego State, the Aztecs have never been an easy out for any Pac-12 team. Jedd Fisch literally went door to door this week recruiting students to fill out the “Zona Zoo” student section, and if those kids show up and witness a loss, he might not get them back. The Wildcats are in a must-win situation.

Our Picks: Ralph, George, Bryant and Rob are all in on Arizona -1

#21 Utah at BYU

Kickoff: 7:15PM Pacific

Broadcast: ESPN

Opening Odds: Utah -1

What’s at stake: Utah fans aren’t going to like this, because I know how much it means to them to have a stranglehold on this rivalry, but absolutely nothing is at stake. The Utes have built up enough respect and goodwill in the Holy War, and while they’d certainly be sore about leaving Provo with an L, no one is going to lose their job, nothing is going to change as far as their chances within the Pac-12 South, and it would have a negligible impact on recruiting. All that being said, the conference needs this win to keep the Utes in the Top 25.

Our Picks: Ralph and Bryant have Utah -7, and George and Rob are on BYU +7

UNLV at #23 Arizona State

Kickoff: 7:30PM Pacific

Broadcast: ESPN2

Opening Odds: Arizona State -32.5

What’s at stake: Generational trauma. There’s absolutely no way Arizona State loses to the Rebels, but because it happened in 2008 when the Sun Devils were looking ahead to a visit from Georgia, there’s a paranoia that exists within the Sun Devil fan base that only a blowout win will help exorcise. As far as on-field stakes, RB Rachaad White has an outside shot at national recognition and awards if he can stay healthy, and it would be nice to see ASU lean into that.

Our Picks: Ralph and Bryant are on ASU at -32.5, while Rob and George have UNLV covering the spread

Stanford at #14 USC

Kickoff: 7:30PM Pacific

Broadcast: FOX

Opening Odds: USC -17

What’s at stake: Stanford just took an ugly loss against Kansas State, and people are still completely unconvinced that Clay Helton can cover a 17-point spread. So much so, that the line has moved three whole points to 14 over the last few days. David Shaw’s uncharacteristic public optimism about this Stanford team heading into 2021 threw a lot of people off who thought that the drop in recruiting and increase in grad transfers were contributing to the demise of the Cardinal, but after last week’s loss, people are questioning if Shaw’s tenure in Palo Alto is reaching its twilight- especially since he seems unsure about the best way forward at the QB position. On the other side, no one believes Clay Helton is going to blow out Stanford, so all he has to do to maintain the same level of perpetual discontent that has existed amongst the Trojan fan base for the last 5 years is not lose the game.

Our Picks: All of us are on Stanford +17

Hawaii at Oregon State

Kickoff: 8PM Pacific

Broadcast: FS1

Opening Odds: Oregon State -11

What’s at stake: Jonathan Smith’s charm has seemed to make him immune to criticism from Pac-12 fans. No one expects Oregon State to win, as long as the offense continues to innovate and maximize lesser talent for our entertainment, we ignore the scoreboard. But Purdue seemed to have Smith’s number, and if Todd Graham, who has an awful history in Corvallis, comes in and frustrates the Beavers, public opinion might start to shift. Oregon State not only needs to defend homefield and get a win, they need to settle the quarterback question once and for all so they can rally behind someone ahead of conference play.

Our Picks: The Apostles take Oregon State (Ralph and George), 12Pac takes Hawai’i +11 (Bryant and Rob)

Who are the Pac-12 Apostles?

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.

Please leave a rating and review of our podcast on iTunes! We record a podcast once a week with emergency episodes when necessary. Our podcasts are always heavy on Pac-12 football. But we make it a point to also try and cover the other notable Men’s and Women’s Pac-12 sports. We cover recruiting and any other major storyline in the Pac-12 universe.

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.

Pac-12 Apostles Podcast: Power Shift- The Rise of UCLA and the Fall of the North

In this episode of the Pac-12 Apostles Podcast, George Wrighster and Ralph Amsden get into all of the action in week one, including a disastrous showing by the schools up north, though George thinks the Pac-12 at least outperformed the ACC. Who put on the worst coaching clinic- Justin Wilcox, Nick Rolovich, or Jimmy Lake? The guys get into their Pac-12 power rankings, and are unified at the top after UCLA’s dominant performance against LSU. Finally, Previews and picks for the upcoming week 2 slate of games.

Apple Podcasts // Spotify // PocketCasts // Google Play // Stitcher // RadioPublic // iHeart

Make sure you like and subscribe to the Pac-12 Apostles Podcast with George Wrighster and Ralph Amsden on any podcasting app.

Who are the Pac-12 Apostles?

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.

Please leave a rating and review of our podcast on iTunes! We record a podcast once a week with emergency episodes when necessary. Our podcasts are always heavy on Pac-12 football. But we make it a point to also try and cover the other notable Men’s and Women’s Pac-12 sports. We cover recruiting and any other major storyline in the Pac-12 universe.

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.

Mike Leach heads to Mississippi State. What does it mean for Leach and WSU?

Mike Leach Washington State Mississippi State

Mike Leach Leaves Washington State After Eight Seasons

After losing both the Apple Cup and the Cheeze-It-Bowl to finish the season, Mike Leach is out. He’s de-committed from his extension to 2024 (do agreements mean anything in college football?) and he’s off to Mississippi State.

Though his 6 and 7 season in 2019 wasn’t perfect, he was still heralded as one of the greatest coaches in Washington State history. He led the Cougars to five straight bowl games and an incredible 11 and 2 season in 2018. But, the bright lights of the SEC stole Leach away. What does his new tenure mean for both him and WSU?

What Leach Brings to Mississippi State

When it comes to Mike Leach, people love him for three reasons: wins, offense, and personality.

Wins

In each of his ten seasons with Texas Tech, Mike Leach’s teams had winning records. Additionally, they won five out of nine bowl games. Then, he took his Air Raid offense and winning to WSU.

After a large drought, Mike Leach finally brought back winning seasons to Washington State. In fact, he led the Cougars to four consecutive winning seasons, most notably an 11 and 2 2018 season, capped off with an Alamo Bowl victory. Leach took an aimless program and turned it into a competitive one.

His coaching record of 139-90, including taking over the hapless Cougars, displays his talent.

Listen to the Pac-12 All-Decade Team Draft 2010-19

Offense

Most notably, Mike Leach brings the Air Raid offense with him wherever he goes. His concepts pushed heavy passing offenses and were always near or at the top of the NCAA. His Texas Tech teams led the NCAA in passing five times, while his Washington State Cougars led four times. Astounding.

With his fast-paced offense, he’ll look to utilize the SEC’s level of recruiting talent to his advantage. He’ll have his work cut out for him against SEC opponents, but his offense is sure to bring frustration for defensive coordinators as well.

Personality

It’s no surprise that the press adores Mike Leach. Although they don’t always agree with him, they love to cover him. Few coaches bring a level of honesty, oddity and downright boldness in their press conferences. Leach is willing to say anything without thinking twice. Like him or hate him, he’s got a personality we can’t look away from. Now, with the move from Pullman to Starkville, his press coverage will boom.

What Leach Leaves Behind at Washington State

Though Mike Leach takes his Air Raid offense with him, he still leaves behind pieces. Yes, we’ve talked about this offense as the “Mike Leach Air Raid Offense” many times. However, with the obvious exception of Anthony Gordon, many players are already familiar with the offensive scheme. If Pat Chun decided to someone from the Mike Leach coaching tree or a pass-friendly coach, WSU could utilize the personnel already set up for an Air Raid offense.

“I believe coach Leach has left us in great shape,” Chun said. “Based on what he took over and what’s here now, this is not a rebuild anymore at Washington State. We will and need to go find the right person that’s going to add to this program.”

WSU Athletic Director Pat Chun

Additionally, Leach brought Washington State out of embarrassment and into relevance. Though his recruiting classes were always at the bottom of the Pac-12, Leach brought winning back to WSU. In eight seasons, he ranks third in wins by a WSU head coach. Additionally, he is the only coach to lead Washington State to five-straight bowl games. That prominence is not without appreciation for Pullman football.

How Washington State can Improve without Mike Leach

While losing Mike Leach is a huge chasm, there are two major areas of growth where Leach lacked: Apple Cups wins and recruiting.

Seven Straight Apple Cup Losses

https://youtu.be/JSurdBxFMfs

“They do the same thing year in and year out. So it makes it really easy to game plan when an offense does the same thing every year.”

Jimmy Lake

Even with all of his success at Washington State, Mike Leach couldn’t get past the Huskies. They continued to best his teams in the Apple Cup and thwart any Pac-12 title run. Most of that, according to Jimmy Lake’s repeated mentions, is due to the fact that Leach runs the same offense each year. With that understood, it was simple for a top defensive coordinator like Lake to game plan against Washington State.

Now that Leach is gone, Washington State has the chance to upset UW. With new coaching and play-calling, they can give Lake a run for his money. Show him different schemes, run different plays and become unpredictable. Will upsets be easy? Of course not. But, it’s not like Leach has given Washington much of a fight anyway.

Bottom of the Pac-12 Recruiting

One would think that after an 11 and 2 season, recruiting would be excellent. But, in 2019, WSU ranked dead-last in the Pac-12. According to 247sports, WSU’s recruiting under Mike Leach never cracked the top-seven of the Pac-12.

  • 2012: 12th in Pac-12, 58th Nationally
  • 2013: 10th in Pac-12, 50th Nationally
  • 2014: 8th in Pac-12, 53 Nationally
  • 2015: 8th in Pac-12, 42nd Nationally
  • 2016: 10th in Pac-12, 56th Nationally
  • 2017: 9th in Pac-12, 44th Nationally
  • 2018: 9th in Pac-12, 46th Nationally,
  • 2019: 12th in Pac-12, 66th Nationally
  • 2020: 11th in Pac-12, 61st Nationally

Though Leach put the blame on recruiting on Washington State, he’s a large part of that recruiting. Chris Petersen and Jimmy lake have repeatedly been praised for successful recruiting classes. But, that wasn’t something Leach could do. Granted, they were recruiting for the University of Washington in Seattle and not recruiting for Pullman. But still, Leach couldn’t bring Washington State into the upper echelons of Pac-12 recruiting and that is something new administration can improve on.

Mike Leach Judged Without Excuses

Now that Leach is out of the Pac-12, out of Pullman and into the SEC, he has no excuses for his recruiting classes. He can’t hide behind the lack of talent excuse anymore. Currently, Mississippi State’s 2020 class ranks 27th in the nation. If their recruiting tanks, that falls solely on him. He hasn’t proven himself as a quality recruiter so far in his career and he will face harsh judgment in the SEC.

Additionally, Leach is going to get burned at the stake if he loses seven straight to Lane Kiffin and Ole Miss. Chris Petersen and Jimmy Lake out-coached Leach for seven straight Apple Cups. Even with those brutal losses, Washington State was still on his side and extended him until 2024. However, Mississippi State and Egg Bowl losses won’t give him the same leash. He’s going to be judged quickly and with nothing held back. It’s time to see who the real Mike Leach is.

2019 Apple Cup Full Breakdown: WSU Fizzles and UW Dominates

WSU Started Out Hot

Even though the Apple Cup was in Seattle, the Washington State Cougars began with a bang. They took the ball 81 yards down the field on a patient, 13-play drive. Capping the drive off with a Max Borghi one-yard touchdown, WSU looked great.

Then, the Cougars defense sacked Jacob Eason on his first offensive play. They held strong and forced the Huskies to a three-and-out on their first possession. Ball goes back to the Cougs and they’re already leading 7-0.

The stage was set for a WSU upset in the Apple Cup. Anthony Gordon looked comfortable, patient and was willing to take what the defense gave him. Mike Leach schemed up open looks and it was perfect weather for the Air Raid offense. 41 degrees, sunny and no wind.

But, everything changed after that.

Anthony Gordon’s Dreadful Apple Cup Performance

Although Gordon’s 103.0 Passing Efficiency Rating against Utah in Week 5 was poor, that was at least against an elite defense and the Pac-12’s best team. But, even though the Washington Huskies played exceptionally well, they are no Utah. Somehow, the Huskies held Gordon to 308 yards and zero touchdowns on 62 attempts, while intercepting two of his passes. So why did Gordon struggle so much in this Apple Cup?

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Offensive Line Issues

Up until the Apple Cup, Washington State ranked first in the FBS in Sack Rate, per footballoutsiders. Their 2.1-percent Sack Rate was phenomenal. Keeping Anthony Gordon upright was standard procedure. Just 13 sacks on 585 attempts. Their line was top-notch.

However, against the Huskies, they fell apart. Washington consistently pressured Gordon and sacked him five times. In just one game, they accounted for 28-percent of all sacks against WSU this season. Joe Tryon, Edeguan Ulofoshio and Ryan Bowman took Gordon down for negative-45 yards and a forced fumble on their five sacks.

Even more impressive, they delivered back-to-back sacks on the Cougars fourth drive. After starting out leading 7-0 and playing with a lead, Gordon’s fourth drive was a nightmare. Down 10-14, sacked twice in a row and throwing from his own end zone on 3rd-and-27. The Huskies manhandled WSU’s line time and time again.

UW’s Secondary

Even after a poor Apple Cup showing, Anthony Gordon still leads the FBS in passing yards (5,228) and touchdowns (45). In fact, his 5,228 passing yards is almost 1,000 yards better than Joe Burrow’s second-ranked 4,366 yards. Yet, against UW, he couldn’t get anything going after their opening drive.

Check-Down King

Call it preparation, home-field advantage or the Chris Petersen edge. Whatever it is, the Cougars consistently fail in the Apple Cup. In Peterson’s own words. the Cougars “run the same offense every week.” Because of this, preparation was simple and all the Huskies needed to do was execute their game-plan.

In their game plan, they often dropped eight into coverage and only rushed three. UW’s secondary gave up nothing deep and forced Gordon to check passes down. It was a rare occasion to see even an attempt, let alone a reception downfield. Instead, Max Borghi led the team with 12 receptions. Then, when Gordon actually tried to make something happen, he threw into a sea of defenders.

Offensively, the Cougars came into the Apple Cup with all the counting stats. But, UW matched up in perfection. They covered downfield, gave their defensive line time to get to Gordon, forced everything short and kept Gordon fearful of taking shots.

Jacob Eason Let’s it Fly in the Apple Cup

Unlike Anthony Gordon, Jacob Eason and the Huskies were willing to take chances downfield. And it paid off in spectacular fashion.

Though Jacob Eason started off the game with a sack, a deep incompletion and a three-and-out, he kept his gunslinger attitude. He took advantage of Terrell Bynum’s speed and hit him for 57-yards on their first touchdown drive.

More importantly, Eason and the Huskies maintained their confidence, even with more issues. Remember that Eason started off the game with a three-and-out, missing on a deep shot. Then, in the second quarter, he overthrew a wide-open Hunter Bryant and was then bailed out on a deep overthrow because of a penalty. Aside from his earlier 57-yard connection with Bynum, it appeared that Eason’s inaccuracy was hurting the Huskies. But, they continued to put faith in Eason and their receivers.

Again and again, it paid dividends. While the Cougars lacked downfield threats or ability, the Huskies took advantage of their Apple Cup matchup. Not only that, but UW finally utilized their talent properly. Hunter Bryant led the team in receptions and yards, which completely makes sense given his talent.

But, unlike prior games where Aaron Fuller and Chico McClatcher took up targets and space, sophomores Terrell Bynum and Cade Otton got involved. Their combined 6 receptions for 123 yards and one touchdown were huge. They made play after play, getting first downs, yards after the catch, or making difficult catches.

The Huskies Won the Apple Cup by Sticking with Their Gunslinger

It took Anthony Gordon 62 attempts to reach 308 passing yards. On the opposite sideline, Eason threw just 22 times, but compiled 244 yards and led his team to four touchdowns. The Huskies leaned into Eason’s gunslinging style and schemed up ways to get his receivers one-on-one matchups downfield. Even though Eason missed some throws and Bryant and Bynum dropped passes, they stuck with it.

Unlike this, the Cougars collapsed and failed to adjust. Gordon was afraid to throw it deep and continued to dump it off to his safety valves. His passes routinely traveled to the short-middle or the flats.

If Mike Leach ever wants to win an Apple Cup, he needs to make adjustments and have a backup plan. It was clear that he didn’t have that on Friday.

Best Pac-12 NFL Players: Week 8 Offensive Standouts

Best Pac-12 NFL Players: Week 7 Offensive Standouts

It’s a Good Day to Be a Pac-12 NFL Fan

This weekend, Pac-12 football fans got it all. Oregon and Washington State certainly lit up the field offensively. The Ducks are currently ranked 6th in Unafraidshow’s College Football Rankings. Likewise, many Pac-12 NFL players gave us memorable performances in week 8. Here they are!

Best Quarterback Performance

Gardner Minshew II – Washington State – Jacksonville Jaguars

Minshew magic is back! Let’s go!

Unlike the rest of football fans, Pac-12 NFL fans knew that Minshew was for real. We knew a long time ago. It’s just great to see everyone else accept it.

Against a competent New York Jets defense, Minshew didn’t flinch. He compiled 279 passing yards and 3 touchdowns. He also let the Jets sack him twice. But, for those who watched the game, his pocket-presence is next level. Minshew’s movement in the pocket and ability to extend plays is incredible.

Last, and definitely important, Minshew threw zero interceptions. Again. Overall, he has just 2 interceptions and 13 touchdowns this season. The sixth-round rookie is playing far above any expectation.

Gardner Minshew for Rookie of the Year!

Best Running Back Performance

Christian McCaffrey – Stanford – Carolina Panthers

Against the league’s second-best defense (New England Patriots are clear first), the Carolina Panthers flopped. They only scored 13 points, while the 49ers rolled through 51 points. However, that didn’t stop all-star, Pac-12 NFL running back Christian McCaffrey from creating highlights.

This season, McCaffrey’s durability and production is incredible. His 2019 stats include:

Keep rolling RUN-CMC.

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Best Wide Receiver Performance

Juju Smith-Schuster – USC – Pittsburgh Steelers

To say that this season has been rough for the Pittsburgh Steelers is to say the least. After a promising 2017 season and a breakout 2018 season, everyone was ready for Juju Smith-Schuster to keep the hype train going. With the departure of Antonio Brown (to mental illness?), Smith-Schuster was primed for an elite 2019 campaign.

But, all hope went down with Ben Roethlisberger. However, Smith-Schuster still has the ability to pop on the field. In week 8, he cleared the 100-yard mark for the first time this season. Granted, this week he played the Miami Dolphins (#tankfortua), but he’s a good wide receiver.

https://twitter.com/JimmyClarke/status/1189005033653882882

His plus-16.5 (No. 20) Production Premium and plus-39.2-percent Target Premium (No. 10) show that he still has talent, but he’s just trapped on an anemic offense.

Best Tight End Performance

Austin Hooper – Stanford – Atlanta Falcons

Even with Matt Schaub under center, Austin Hooper was a baller. He reeled in 6 of 7 targets for 65 yards and a touchdown. He was one reason why the Pac-12 NFL fans didn’t switch channels. Hooper’s late score helped the Falcons attempt a last-minute comeback (or at least cover the a plus-7.5 spread).

Honestly, look at those stats. Among tight ends, Hooper is:

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Who’s Still In and Who’s Out: The 2019 Pac-12 Football Championship

Arizona State vs Stanford Football 2019

As we predicted earlier in the season, the PAC-12 is doing an excellent job of eating each other alive – a tradition unlike any other in the conference of champions.

Cal and Washington State both cost themselves spots in the top-25 with losses to Arizona State and Utah, respectively, leaving the conference with no undefeated teams.

At this point, because so many teams are lumped together, it’s hard to pick a clear favorite for the PAC-12 championship.

Here are the schools who still have a realistic chance of winning the PAC-12, with a look at their remaining schedule:

Pac-12 Power Rankings Week 5

No. 13 Oregon Ducks (3-1)

Oregon’s loss to Auburn hurts, especially since it was a winnable game, but ultimately they are still the team best positioned to win the PAC-12 Championship, and possibly the only team who has a real chance at playing in the College Football Playoff this season.

That doesn’t mean it will be an easy road however, as they have true road games against Washington, Arizona State and USC, as well as a home date with the Cougars of Washington State.

Led by quarterback Justin Herbert, the Ducks should be playing meaningful football into the early part of 2020, but they still have some work to do to get there.

Washington Huskies Rose Bowl

No. 15 Washington Huskies (4-1)

A pounding by the Huskies of the Trojans on Montlake went a long way for this team, who is still rebounding from a tough, weather-aided loss to Cal at home a few weeks ago.

Washington actually has a somewhat favorable schedule going forward, as their two toughest opponents – Oregon and Utah – are both at home along with this year’s Apple Cup against Washington State.

Oregon is still the favorite, but the Huskies are also in good shape to make a push for a Rose Bowl berth if they can win out this season.

Utah Football Helmet
Sleeping on the Utes in 2019? Not a good idea.

No. 17 Utah Utes (4-1)

As I predicted, the Utes fell for the trap game against the USC Trojans down in California, wish dampened their hopes this season quite a bit.

They did bounce back with a commanding victory over Washington State, 38-13, but they’ll probably need to be perfect (or close to it) if they want to win the PAC-12 championship and play in either the Rose Bowl or the college football championship.

A date with the No. 15 Huskies in Montlake will be the biggest challenge they face, although back to back home bouts with Arizona State and Cal won’t be easy either.

Pac-12 Football Power Rankings Week 3

No. 20 Arizona State (4-1)

Arizona State is the biggest wildcard out of this group, but they did beat Michigan State earlier this season and just defeated Cal on the road, making them 4-1 with only a three-point loss to Colorado standing in their way.

They also have a favorable home schedule as well, with only Utah remaining as a tough conference game on the road.

They’ll have to defend their home turf against Oregon, Washington State, USC and rival Arizona, but they are a team to keep an eye on in the hyper-competitive PAC-12 conference this year.

Forever Evergreen: UW Football Falls and WSU Football Stays Hot

California vs. Washington football 2019 lightning
Washington Huskies logo

UW Football Loses its Footing in the Pac-12

At 1:22am, the Cal Bears upset the Huskies 20 to 19. No one expected that to happen. Washington was a double-digit favorite coming into the game. Ranked 14th in the nation. Jacob Eason coming off of a four touchdown win. Home field advantage. The game had all the markings of a win for UW football. And yet, with all the advantages, Washington came up short. Unlike Week 1 of the Evergreen State’s football, UW fell hard and saw WSU football rise.

Jacob Eason Looked Rattled

In a game where the opposing quarterback only throws for 111 yards, one would think that Jacob Eason could take over. Not the case. Eason was less efficient and downright sloppy. Hurried and panicked, he consistently made poor judgements and throws. After four quarters, he completed 18 of 30 passes for just 162 yards and 1 interception, while losing a fumble.

In addition to losing a fumble and throwing an interception, Eason missed a big-time throw to Andre Baccellia in the end zone. Moreover, Eason couldn’t lead the Huskies to a single touchdown in the second half. Three field goals was all the team could muster to challenge Cal. Field goals aren’t going to cut it.

“Certainly kicking too many field goals isn’t going to get it done for us. That was frustrating. Really frustrating,” Washington coach Chris Petersen said.

Washington’s Rush Attack is Still Effective

Oddly enough, this was one of those games where both quarterbacks were beat in yards by their running backs. For UW football, Salvon Ahmed rushed for 119 yards and the Huskies lone touchdown. Additionally, Richard Newton showed efficiency and explosiveness again. As a two-headed attack, they should be good for the Huskies. Provided the Huskies can pass the ball, Ahmed and Newton should compliment Eason well. But remember, rushing is comparatively inefficient to passing. There’s only so much a team can do without a pass game. 

The Turnover Drought Continues for UW Football

Yes, Washington held Cal to 20 points. They also allowed just 111 passing yards from Cal’s Chase Garbers. But, UW gave up 192 rushing yards and didn’t create one interception or defensive fumble recovery. This continues the fumble drought to four games and the interception drought to three games. Tackles for loss and sacks are excellent. UW continues to make plays. But, somehow the turnover ratio stays skewed. The football needs to bounce the Huskies way the rest of the season. 

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WashingtonStateCougarsWordmark

WSU Football Stays Hot

Unlike their evergreen counterpart, Washington State University had a much easier game. Against Big Sky Northern Colorado, WSU football rolled through, winning 59-17. They were no match for the Northern Colorado Bears.

Anthony Gordon Keeps Counting Numbers

Continuing a strong season’s start, Anthony Gordon completed 31 of 39 attempts for 464 yards and 4 touchdowns. That now puts his season totals are 884 yards passing, 9 touchdowns and 1 interception. Granted, his schedule so far is cake. Gordon’s hasn’t played a strong defense yet. He’s untested against true adversity. Yet, even with the Big Sky opponent, he threw his first interception and only led the Cougars to a 24-10 halftime lead. Yes, Gordon is putting up video game numbers in Mike Leach’s system. But he still has room to grow and improve. It remains to be season if he’ll crumble under the pressure like Jacob Eason.

WSU Football Wins Turnover Battle, But Still Looks Shaky

As noted above, WSU entered the half with a 24-10 lead. Against a team far inferior, WSU looked far from dominant. Overall, the Cougars allowed 355 yards from Northern Colorado. But, thankfully for stressed-out fans, WSU gave up just 3 points in the second half. They won the second half 35-3. Much better. 

They also created havoc with four forced fumbles. As with any AP ranked team, it would be nice to see a game like this play out the way the second half did, but through the game’s entirety. Yet, WSU’s defense still looks like an average defense complimenting an above-average offense. As with Gordon, WSU’s defense is untested against a difficult opponent. Next week they face Houston, a team that gave No.5 Oklahoma a run for its money in week 1. If the defense and Gordon can hold up against Houston, they’ll earn the respect Coug fans crave.

Washington is Out and WSU is in the Race for Playoffs

Washington lost it. They did. Yes, there’s still a chance they could comeback and win the Pac-12. There’s also the smallest of percentages that the UW football program could make the college football playoffs. But, losses like this reflect the current state of the football program. The Huskies lack leadership and a true difference-maker at quarterback. When faced with a tough defense, Eason crumbled. And with that, so did hopes of Purple Reign. Adding Washington’s upset loss to Cal is the success of the rest of the Pac-12:

  • Colorado Upsets No.25 Nebraska 34-31
  • Utah Rises from No.13 to No.11 with Win against Northern Illinois
  • Oregon Rebounds 77-6 vs Nevada and Rises to No.15
  • USC Leaps into AP ranking with Win Against Stanford
  • WSU Football Rises from No.22 to No.20

With Washington State University rolling through non-conference opponents, UW football looks like the lesser program in 2019. Although the WSU football program has yet to face a challenge, they haven’t failed like Washington did. An AP ranked team is dominant until they aren’t. Right now, WSU is performing well. Against Houston, WSU gets the chance to prove their merit in the Pac-12. WSU, Utah and USC each ranked and 2-0. Oregon and Washington, while still ranked, both have heartbreaking losses. With all that being said, WSU fans can look forward to a season-defining game against Houston next week.