You know why these opening paragraphs for the Pac-12 Power Rankings and Stock Report are always vague, generic and redundant? Because I write them on Friday and then fill it in as necessary…anyway, I’m sure that won’t affect me here recapping the Pac 12. The odds of any big news story has to be what, 10%, maybe 15% if Arizona State pulls the upset. In any event, one of my trusty interns can put something into this lead paragraph if any news popped up. Saturday afternoon update…I haven’t heard of any developing stories so I’ll just move on. After all, it’s not like college programs fire coaches midway through seasons.
Arizona – Every team in the South has at least one loss, except UCLA, who hasn’t played a league game yet. In fact, ASU is atop the division early at 1-1. The Washington game was never going to be easy, but all things considered, the Wildcats played reasonably well. The biggest difference was quarterback play. Keith Price of UW did a better job than B.J. Denker at coping with the weather. Even without the rain, though, Denker’s play has fallen off a bit. I’m buying them now, but I want to see his swagger return if I’m going to keep them in this group. Week five grade: C+
Arizona State – The South is more wide open than ***** ***** after drinking ***** and singing her hit song ***** ** *** *** at a dive bar. Outside of UCLA there are no sure bets. If the Bruins stumble, any number of teams could easily slide into the front of the pack. Is ASU the team that showed grit in coming back against Wisconsin? Are they the team that was trashed by Stanford? Or are they squad that beat down USC? All three actually. This team, really the program throughout its history, has thrived at home where it is hot and there is some altitude. Good news is they play four more league games in Tempe. The trade off is they have to go to UCLA. Week five grade: A+
Oregon – You know how crazy fans look for signs – a good win, a bad injury, etc. All of them seem to point towards the universe letting their team taste success, or failure, in a season. I wonder what kind of sign it is for Oregon when the Ducks let De’Anthony Thomas return their opening kick, he rolls his ankle and is out for the following game? Anyways, they smoked an awful Cal squad and face a terrible Colorado team next. Quack-quack. Week five grade: A
Stanford – The Cardinal drubbed a team that had yet to play a bad game in Wazzu. Anti-Tree fans would point out the yardage (373), but WSU only gained 51 on the ground and it took 39 completions (on 65 attempts) to tally 322 yards in the air. Don’t even get me started on the day they had offensively. Week five grade: A
UCLA – Idle
Washington – The Huskies handled South division sleeper Arizona in horrid weather thanks to Bishop Sankey doing his best “beast mode” impression of Seahawk star Marshawn Lynch. I’m not sure monsoon conditions are great for measuring teams, but Arizona’s defense is a veteran unit and Washington looked pretty strong against it. If that performance had been in a rain-free day, the Huskies would have probably even won by more. The win was still solid, but it’s difficult factoring in the bad weather seeing as offensive players know where they are going and defensive players have to react. Week five grade: A
Washington State – I was buying this team a week ago and nothing has changed – upsetting Stanford was never factored in. Success simply hinges on the Cougars making a bowl. Fact is, Wazzu still has very winnable games against Cal and Utah. Sweep those and the Cougars are at five wins, which means just one more upset. Week five grade: F
Oregon State – What does crushing a terrible Colorado team mean? Frankly, not a whole lot. My biggest concern with the Beavers is their rushing game. While it was by no means great, their 3.5-yard per carry average was a little better. The soft competition also helped their defense look competent for the first time since the Hawaii win. Sean Mannion also did Sean Mannion things: throw a million times (52 attempts), have a ton of yards (414) and an absurd amount of TDs (6). So you know, there is always that Mannion mode to fall back on. Week five grade: A
Utah – Idle
Cal – The Golden Bear faced horribly long odds against the Ducks, but four turnovers on their first four possessions ended things quickly. They finished the game with five total. Week five grade: F
Colorado – Remember when this team kind of, sort of looked competent in their 2-0 start. Welcome to league play folks. Week five grade: F
USC – The good news is Lane Kiffin will have seven weeks plus the bowl to turn things around and prove to the administration that he is the man for the job. Screeech, smash. Nope. Not gonna happen. More on his era in the aptly named dunce of the week section. As for the game, Arizona State looked like the Denver Broncos out there. That is the opposite of what you want to do defensively…and defense is what USC had been hanging their hat on. This could get ugly, especially when you factor in Marqise Lee’s knee injury. Even without ligament damage (as has been reported by Lee himself) the joint has to be hurting after the gruesome play. Week five grade: F
Buy That Kid Dinner (if the NCAA allowed it)
Where to begin for an offensive MVP from Week 5? Mannion had another good day, Bishop Sankey had 40 carries for 161 yards and a score, Kevin Hogan was outstanding for Stanford and Byron Marshall fueled Oregon. All these guys were deserving but I have two more and they are…
Brandin Cooks (WR, Oregon State) and Taylor Kelly (QB, Arizona State) – Cooks snagged nine balls for 168 yards, 18.7 avg, two TDs and a long of 52. He also chipped in 47 rushing yards on nine carries. As for Mr. Kelly, other than getting Kiffin canned, what did he do? How about 23/34, 351 yards, 10.3 avg, three TDs, one INT, 92.5 QBR as well as four carries, 79 yards (to lead team), 19.8 avg with a long of 40.
Princeton Fuimaono and Shaq Thompson (LB, Washington) – The linebacking duo was a force against Arizona. They combined for 26 tackles, Fuimaono leading the way with eight solos. He also forced a fumble.
Bralon Addison (PR, Oregon) – Two punt returns and two touchdowns – can’t be more efficient than that. The two returns totaled 142 yards for a healthy 71.0 avg with the long coming in the form of a 75 yarder. What a day for the sophomore who also caught several passes. How do the Ducks keep finding these kids? Addison is from Missouri City, Texas…does this mean we can rag on Mack Brown for letting another recruit slip away?
Dunce of the Week
USC…just, everything. Where to start with this one. My initial feeling is that Pat Haden picked a garbage way to fire someone. Ambushing him at 3:00 in the morning at the airport without giving him time to say anything to his players is a low blow. It may even hurt when searching for a new coach. Would you want to work for a manager like that?
My second feeling is why now? USC can’t reach out to any college coaches and most NFL coaches. There is also a risk of upsetting recruits and the reward is very little – other than being the first show dog taken out. Even stranger, USC was above .500 with six games I would classify as manageable to winnable. Say they sweep those and finish 9-4 (they have a strange 13 game schedule due to playing at Hawaii – an NCAA incentive to help the Warriors’ program guarantee people make the trip). Is 9-4 really worthy of getting canned? Especially with the sanctions?
Which brings me to another thought, the sanctions. We know the NCAA is awful, so it isn’t about whether or not USC should still be receiving scholarship reductions, because they are and it is the environment Kiffin tried to coach in. The fact that he was 35-21 at USC is pretty impressive all things considered.
Lastly, would I want my school to hire him? Hell no! And that is the problem with Kiffin. Despite being an above-average coach (maybe even good or more if he was anywhere long enough), he has burned so many bridges and rubbed the wrong people (i.e. boosters) the wrong way. He also showed a stubborn streak that would hurt his teams. Despite having offenses fail to live up to the talent around them, he would continue calling plays. His teams traditionally struggled in the second half and this season the Trojans were the worst third-quarter performers in the nation – tell-tale signs that a coach does not (or cannot) make adjustments at the half.
There is more to the story though as Lane is a fantastic recruiter and runs a clean program. Just because I don’t want him at Iowa doesn’t mean he is untouchable. A smaller school looking to expand its football footprint would be a perfect location. Newly vacant Connecticut would do backflips to have a guy like Kiffin. A school overwhelmed in its conference with bigger trees would also be an ideal landing pad. Wake, Virginia, Indiana and many more would also do backflips to have him.
The important question is, though, are their coaches out there who would do backflips over getting offered the USC job, and will the Trojan faithful welcome their new man in with open arms? The prideful Men of Troy program is at a crossroads. The right hire will be able to overcome the sanctions by energizing the base and winning some along the way. The wrong hire will not inspire the masses and will eventually alienate the restless fans. If that happens, another short stint like Kiffin’s is a real possibility, even if the new coach delivers a ten-win season.