Pac-12 conference

Oregon Ducks vs. Ohio State Buckeyes officially postponed

Oregon Ducks vs. Ohio State Buckeyes officially postponed

One of the most anticipated matchups of the 2020 football season was scheduled to go down inside Autzen Stadium on September 12th.

Well, not anymore.

The Big 10 announced Thursday that they would focus on a conference-only schedule for select sports, including football. 

The Big Ten Conference announced today that if the Conference is able to participate in fall sports (men’s and women’s cross country, field hockey, football, men’s and women’s soccer, and women’s volleyball) based on medical advice, it will move to Conference-only schedules in those sports. Details for these sports will be released at a later date, while decisions on sports not listed above will continue to be evaluated. By limiting competition to other Big Ten institutions, the Conference will have the greatest flexibility to adjust its own operations throughout the season and make quick decisions in real-time based on the most current evolving medical advice and the fluid nature of the pandemic.
 
This decision was made following many thoughtful conversations over several months between the Big Ten Council of Presidents and Chancellors, Directors of Athletics, Conference Office staff, and medical experts including the Big Ten Task Force for Emerging Infectious Diseases and the Big Ten Sports Medicine Committee.

A new date for the Ducks-Buckeyes game is not immediately known. 

Oregon AD Rob Mullens has issued a statement, as well:

The COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on the United States and has left the sports world in limbo. 

Now, Ohio State and the Big 10 can be added to the list.

College Football Insider Brett McMurphy reported Wednesday that Ohio State had paused all voluntary workouts after multiple student-athletes tested positive for the disease. The school would not release the number of positive tests, only stating that the pausing of workouts was a result of the latest round of testing.

As a precaution to help flatten the curve, some reported the Big 10 could play a conference only or regional only schedule. The same goes for the Pac-12, with USC head coach Clay Helton saying the conference is considering playing 11 conference games, eliminating all non-conference opponents.

That means Washington vs Michigan this season will be called off, as well.

Still, conferences sticking to a conference-only continue to have a big "IF." 

It was announced early Wednesday that the Ivy League has decided to cancel fall sports for the 2020 season. 

The Ivy League became to the first league to announce they would not play fall sports, and that is no small drop in the pond. 

The Ivy League was also the first league to cancel its basketball championship tournaments earlier this year, and shortly thereafter all the other leagues followed suit. 

It feels like more dominoes will continue to fall in the coming days and weeks.

Doesn't matter what Oklahoma did, the Ducks didn't deserve that playoff spot

Doesn't matter what Oklahoma did, the Ducks didn't deserve that playoff spot

LOS ANGELES -- You knew it was going to happen, right?

Oklahoma gets blown up by LSU in the first round of the College Football Playoff and Oregon fans couldn’t resist figuring that their team was much better than the Sooners and should have had that berth against No. 1 LSU.

I mean, I understand the way you feel. But I just don’t happen to agree with it. And I say that while believing the Ducks could very well be as good as Oklahoma. I’m not ready to say that Oregon is better than the Sooners, but maybe as good.

But they are not nearly as good as LSU. And I would have given them very little chance to beat the Tigers. They might have even “Soonered” it. And not making the Final Four was what the Ducks deserved.

Since there is such little crossover play between the Power-5 elite, the only way to try to figure out relative strength of teams is the strength of the league they came from. And sorry, I’m more convinced than ever that the Pac-12 is a sub-par excuse for elite-level college football.

I was mildly impressed that Washington was able to beat up on Boise State but not enough to convince me that USC getting pounded by Iowa and Washington State losing by 10 to Air Force weren’t a better gauge of the conference’s weakness.

Of course, the Big 12 and ACC are no great shakes, either. But I also had a hard time coming to terms with that brutal Oregon loss at Arizona State, with the playoff berth within its grasp.

A team good enough to be in the playoff takes care of business in that situation. It doesn’t stumble that close to the finish line with so much at stake.

And I’m not sure, Ducks, that you should have wanted any part of the LSU Tigers. That team looks to be a bit better than what I saw this season in the Pac-12.

Go ahead and celebrate top recruiting in Pac-12, but does it really matter?

Go ahead and celebrate top recruiting in Pac-12, but does it really matter?

Of course, all the rabid college football fans are tuned in and jacked up today for the early signing of national letters of intent.

And Oregon and Washington fans, especially, are pumped.

The Huskies and Ducks are ranked at the top of the Pac-12 in the caliber of recruiting classes they’re bringing onto their campuses for next season. Which is great for them, I guess, but I’ve never really seen the rankings of the top recruits as anything but a guessing game with bias.

A lot of the people out there ranking players, either by watching them in person, at camps or games, or on video, may not be the most skilled talent evaluators around. If they were, they’d probably be employed by a college, rather than a website.

I’ve always felt, too, there is a bias in regard to ranking the players, which tends to lean in favor of the traditional powers. You know, if Alabama or Clemson is recruiting a quarterback, then he must be pretty good, so we’ll give him five stars. I’ve watched that thing go on for years.

But at the same time, I think other factors need to be considered when projecting these youngsters into a college program. Will they fit the system? Will the coaches who recruited them be able to coach them? Will these players be happy with their teammates, coaches, colleges, living situations and even the weather after they’re on campus for a while? And will the highly rated ones improve at the same rate as some of the “others.”

And as far as having the best recruiting class in the Pac-12, I’d not get too excited over that, either.

If you really think that all this recruiting fuss matters, you’d have to be worried because neither Oregon nor Washington has even cracked the top 10 nationally in recruiting ranking this year. Ahead of them are all the same schools that have been dominating the national scene for years. And, of course, most of them have been stacking top-ranked recruiting classes on top of top-ranked recruiting classes for many seasons in a row.

You might know them, because they will be representing their conferences in the four-team national playoff that you'll be sitting at home watching.

So, go ahead and celebrate, Pac-12 fans – you’ve probably signed some pretty good players.

But my guess is, the teams ahead of you on the national scene have likely signed even better ones, at least by the reckoning of those recruiting gurus.

If that even matters.

Oregon vs. Wisconsin in the 106th Rose Bowl: 3 things that jump out about the Badgers

Oregon vs. Wisconsin in the 106th Rose Bowl: 3 things that jump out about the Badgers

There wasn’t a whole lot of drama surrounding the College Football Playoff and bowl game reveal this year. No. 1 LSU will play No. 4 Oklahoma in the Peach Bowl Semifinal and No. 2 Ohio State will play No. 3 Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl Semifinal. However, Oregon fans were reeling to see who Ducks would face in the Rose Bowl: Penn State or Wisconsin. It’d be easy to make a case for each but…

Oregon’s eighth Rose Bowl appearance will be versus Big Ten opponent Wisconsin.

In the final College Football Playoff rankings, the Pac-12 Conference champion Ducks (11-2, 8-1 Pac-12) are No. 6, while Wisconsin (10-3, 7-2 Big Ten) is No. 8.

The Ducks will play in the “Granddaddy of them all” in Pasadena, California at 2 p.m. (PT) on January 1, 2020. After winning the Pac-12 Championship game against Utah, the Ducks are tied with Stanford for the most conference title game wins with three. Also, the impressive win against the Utes marked the first time the Ducks have beaten a top-5 team since dismantling Florida State in the 2015 Rose Bowl.

Oregon’s 11-win season has been highlighted by some incredible defensive play. The Duck defense has help 12 of it 13 opponents under their season average with the lowest point allowed per game (15.7) in school history since 1966.

[READ:Budding Oregon football star Kayvon Thibodeaux already breaking records with no ceiling in sight]

Oregon offense peaked at the perfect time against the Utah’s nation-leading rushing defense. The Ducks finished with 432 yards of total offense with 239 yards on the ground. Entering the game, Utah was allowing just 241.6 yards per game and 56.2 yards on the ground.

The Ducks will need another complete game against Wisconsin. A sneak peak into the New Year’s six matchup reveals three important things about the Badgers:

1. It’s Wisconsin’s 10th Rose Bowl appearance, losing each of the last three matchups, which includes the 2012 Rose Bowl when the Ducks deafeated a Russell Wilson led Badgers team, 45-38.

2. The Badgers have an impressive 2019 resume, with three top-25 wins (Iowa, Michigan and Minnesota). Maybe the most intriguing? Wisconsin roared into the Big Ten Championship Game with a dominating first-half lead, but Ohio State rallied back to claim the Big Ten title, 34-21.Their biggest blemish is a one-point road loss to Illinois.

3. Wisconsin’s leading rusher, Jonathan Taylor, plans to play in the Bowl Game. Against Ohio State, Taylor rushed for 148 yards and one touchdown, becoming the seventh player in FBS history to reach 6,000 yards rushing in his career. The junior is considered a likely candidate to enter the 2020 NFL draft. Last month, he was listed as the No. 27 overall prospect by ESPN's Todd McShay and the No. 2 running back by ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr.

Get your popcorn ready, this is going to be a fun matchup!

Justin Herbert's heart is Oregon's X-factor to win Pac-12 Title

Justin Herbert's heart is Oregon's X-factor to win Pac-12 Title

Oregon is about to play as the underdog for the first time in 2019 in its most prominent game of the season: The Pac-12 Championship game.

Statistically, No. 5 Utah out-matches the No. 13 Ducks. The Utes have the Pac-12's best defense; a physical team that’s allowing only 56 rushing yards a game. Plus, Utah is the conference’s best rushing team, led by running back Zack Moss with a crazy efficient dual-threat quarterback at the helm in Tyler Huntley.

Also, the Utes are still College Football Playoff contenders looking to make a statement to the committee.

Alas, Oregon has something that Utah doesn’t have: Senior quarterback Justin Herbert, a young man who is looking to bestow a lasting legacy in his swan song season. The Eugene-native has the chance to validate his stamp of greatness and accomplish the goals he returned for in his final Oregon football season.

No one shoulders it more than him. His passion is almost… (pause)… You can almost taste it. You feel it on him sometimes. He is really excited (to compete for the Pac-12 Title). The biggest part for him, is another chance to play with an “O” on his chest with his guys in his senior year in a place he wanted to play. That’s really cool to see. -- Oregon offensive Coordinator Marcus Arroyo 

Following Oregon’s loss at Arizona State, which killed all hopes of a College Football Playoff berth, Herbert said “it means everything” to refocus and aim their ambitions at the Rose Bowl. The Ducks can guarantee a spot in the Rose Bowl with a Pac-12 title win.

Herbert’s coaches and teammates are inspired by his desire and heart as Oregon prepares to play Utah.

He’s the main leader on this team, so we follow what he does. Since Saturday’s game, he’s come out and been the focal point of the whole team. He’s leading the right way, showing by example and telling people what to do. We all follow what number 10 does and we love what he does. -- Troy Dye

Herbert’s message to Dye and the rest of the Ducks?

Compete, compete, compete. Leave it all out there. There are only two teams in the Pac-12 practicing this week.

The Ducks will need spectacular play from Herbert to take the title. A major key to victory will be finding success in the passing game, something that hasn’t been roaring in the past two games (two interceptions at ASU and recording the lowest yardage total of the season vs. OSU).

This is where Herbert’s undeniable talent, passion and love for Oregon come into play. Plus his arm, which compels NFL scouts to keep an analyzing eye on Herbert and project him as a first round selection in the 2020 NFL draft.

Herbert will set his single-season career high in passing (3,151 in 2018; currently 3,140) on Friday, but can he empty the tank and perform at his best against the best?

In the Herbert era, year-over-year the Ducks have shown progress, winning four games in 2016, seven games in 2017, nine games in 2018 and 10 currently in 2019, plus a chance at the Rose Bowl.

His chances to make an impact in an Oregon uniform are dwindling. The 6-foot-6, 237-pound quarterback with the powerful right arm and sneaky-fast wheels has an opportunity for the most substantial win of his Duck career on Friday in Levi’s Stadium.

Rainy, windy conditions in a clash between the most physical teams in the conference vying for the crown… get your popcorn ready.

Mario Cristobal’s ear-catching comments about time of possession

Mario Cristobal’s ear-catching comments about time of possession

The Pac-12 North Division champion Oregon Ducks (10-2, 8-1 Pac-12) are flying south to Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, CA to compete for the conference title for the first time since 2014.

No. 5 Utah will be the most talented defense Oregon has faced this season. Statistically, the Utes (11-1, 8-1) are in the top-five in the nation in almost all defensive categories.

Utah leads the Pac-12 in scoring defense (11.3 points per game), total defense (241.6 yards per game), pass defense (185.3 ypg), rush defense (56.3 ypg) and yards per play against (4.2). During their eight-game winning streak, the Utes outscored opponents 308-76 and held five opponents to single digits.

Another interesting stat Utah dominates? Time of possession.

Utah has the ball for an average of 34:40, ranking top in the conference and third in the nation. While some argue that time of possession isn’t important in college football, the time advantage is working for the Utes defense, who is staying fresh and fierce.  The Utes are effective at turning long drives into points and the defense quickly gets the ball back to the offense… a tough combination to beat.

Oregon coach Mario Cristobal does not want to play to Utah’s ball-control strengths.

“I think time of possession is important in any game,” Cristobal said on Monday ahead of the Pac-12 Title game. “Some games obviously roll differently than others. Part of them having so few snaps is they get of the field quickly… Their offense does a great job controlling the line of scrimmage, controlling the clock as they’ve needed, they’ve kind of had their way offensively."

Thankfully, the Ducks also have a strong defense, allowing 15.8 points per game (its lowest since 1966). The Duck defense is also on field a lot more than Utah’s. Oregon’s average time of possession is 28:33, which is 95th in the nation.

“They’ve pushed the ball down the field, they take some shots, they’ve very accurate with their downfield stuff, created explosive plays a number of different ways and that combination is a very difficult combination,” Cristobal said. “So when you enter a game like this, your plan has to be ready to take on those particular aspects because if a team like that has their way and plays to their strengths it makes it a difficult situation.”

Maintaining possession won’t be an easy task for Oregon against the Utes who have allowed an average of just 56.3 yards per game on the ground this season.

The passing game and quarterback Justin Herbert’s ability to air it out will need to be drastically better than the last two games. Against Oregon State and Arizona State, Herbert completed 57.8-percent of his passes and has three touchdowns to two interceptions.

Herbert and an out-of-rhythm Oregon offense have a tall task against a Utes defense that has been unshakeable. However, the Ducks would be in a far better position to win if they can shake it up and exert their own ball-control to test the Utes defense and allow less opportunity for Utah’s offense to put up points.

What Chris Petersen's shocking step down means for the Pac-12 Conference

What Chris Petersen's shocking step down means for the Pac-12 Conference

A shocking shake-up to the Pac-12 Conference was announced Monday morning. Washington head coach Chris Petersen announced that he is stepping down as head coach of Washington Huskies football after the bowl game, giving way to current defensive coordinator Jimmy Lake.

"I'll be a Husky for life, but now is the right time for me to step away from my head coaching duties, and recharge," Petersen said.

Washington finished third in the Pac-12 North Division, going 7-5 overall and 4-5 in conference play. Petersen will transition into a leadership advisory role for Husky Athletics. In his six seasons at

Washington, Petersen led the Huskies to two Pac-12 Championships (2016, 2018), the 2016 College Football Playoffs, and three consecutive New Years Six bowl games.

If this news raises your eyebrows, you aren’t the only one.

Utah Coach Kyle Whittingham, the most tenured coach in the conference (15 years), learned of the coaching change on the Pac-12 Championship teleconference call and responded with utter shock.

“Wow. I would have never thought that,” Whittingham said. “Chris Peterson is one of the finest coaches in the country, there are a handful of guys you respect and admire as a coach. Petersen is one of my guys.”

Oregon coach Mario Cristobal, who is undefeated in his two seasons against the Petersen coached Huskies, also was surprised.

“I literally got off the field and I heard the news,” Cristobal said. “I have a tremendous amount of respect for Coach Petersen. He's had a great career. Certainly wish nothing but the best for him and his family."

What does this mean for Washington and how does this affect the conference?

During any coaching change, recruiting sharks will emerge in attempt to steer prospects to other Pac-12 coaches. UW’s 2020 recruiting class ranks second in the Pac-12, behind Oregon and 16th nationally.  

However, don’t expect UW to take too big of a hit in recruiting, as Lake is Washington’s top recruiter. The initial transition may cause some prospects to re-open their recruitements, but retaining and promoting Lake could strengthen UW’s future recruiting classes.

Lake has been on Petersen's staff since 2012 at Boise State, was promoted to co-defensive coordinator in 2016 and has been the Huskies' sole defensive coordinator the past two seasons. He previously coached defensive backs for six years in the NFL with the Detroit Lions and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Under Lake between 2015 and 2018, UW led the Pac-12 in total defense and scoring defense. 

How long Petersen wants to “re-charge” is unclear and unknown. His name will certainly be in talks for open NFL coaching jobs and any vacant college coaching jobs (cough, USC, cough).

The Oregon Ducks won a big one at Washington -- or did they?

The Oregon Ducks won a big one at Washington -- or did they?

The Oregon Ducks all but wrapped up the Pac-12 North Saturday afternoon when they dispatched Washington. Nobody’s going to catch them now and the only teams in the conference with a legitimate chance to beat them are going to be Utah in the title game or USC.

But really, winning the Pac-12 this season is certainly not what it used to be. Folks, this league is weak. VERY weak.

It used to be that if the Ducks won in Seattle, that was a monster victory. Same thing with getting a win at Stanford. But take a look at this traditionally strong programs this season.

Washington, with that loss, fell to 2-3 in conference play with losses to California and, yes, Stanford. The Cardinal, also 2-3, lost at USC and at home to a pitiful UCLA team. Oregon State had a big win for its program at California and is all alone in second place at 2-2 behind the Ducks, but had a narrow loss to Stanford at home and was blown out 52-7 by Utah.

Oregon is good, make no mistake about it. But its touted defense feasted off the many teams in the division that simply can’t move the football consistently. And I think what hurts a team in the Ducks’ position is that playing weak conference teams throughout the regular season is no way to get ready for powerful squads in a bowl or playoff game. And I think this has been a problem for Oregon in past seasons. Blowouts aren’t good tuneups for playing the big boys of college football.

I'm not trying to rain on anybody's parade. I'm keeping it real.

And this conference just doesn’t have great credentials when it comes to getting a team into the playoffs this season. If you’re elsewhere in the country trying to figure the league out, you’re going to see that Oregon State and Arizona – teams with 2-2 conference records – hold losses to Hawaii, which has won only two other games this season.

Perhaps the conference’s best non-conference performance was a loss – USC’s three-point defeat at Notre Dame or the Ducks’ last-second loss to Auburn. But the Trojans have also lost to BYU (which has lost to Toledo) and Washington.

Go figure.

And as far as the national championship playoff, it doesn’t look good for the Ducks to make the field. Here’s what Oddsshark.com had to say last week about Oregon’s chances. And yes, it's dated, but it's the national perception of the Pac-12:

The No. 11 Oregon Ducks (+1000) lost in their season opener to the Auburn Tigers and have won four straight since. What puts the Ducks at a major disadvantage is playing in the Pac-12 where no win really feels impressive and, to that point, this expected high-potent offense has averaged just 24.3 points per game over their last three games. Oregon has just one currently-ranked squad remaining on its schedule, at No. 18 Arizona State in Week 13. If the Ducks win, that would be their only win over a ranked foe in 2019 – not good enough.

No movement for Oregon football in AP Poll after wild week in Top 25

No movement for Oregon football in AP Poll after wild week in Top 25

The Oregon Ducks (4-1, 2-0 Pac-12) remain at No. 13 in the latest Associated Press Top 25 poll, after beating California 17-7 in Autzen Stadium in Eugene, OR.

The win improves the Ducks to 2-0 in Pac-12 play for the first time since 2013, and preserves their spot at the top of the North Division with zero conference losses.

[READ: High expectations and laughable goals: WR Mycah Pittman's debut]

It was a wild week in the top 25. Among the ranked teams to lose were then- No. 7 Auburn, then- No. 14 Iowa, then. No 15 Washington and then-No. 18 UCF.

Oregon remains the top ranked Pac-12 team, followed by No. 15 Utah and No. 18 Arizona State.

[RELATED: Instant Analysis: No. 13 Oregon edges Cal]

In the Pac-12:

  • Beavs quarterback Juke Luton threw for five touchdowns in Oregon State’s defeat of UCLA, 48-31. OSU is currently second in the Pac-12 North.
  • Stanford stifled then- No. 15 Washington in an “After Dark” football upset, causing the Huskies to fall out of the top 25.
  • Arizona quarterback Khalil Tate threw for 404 yards and three touchdowns in a victory against Colorado. The Wildcats are in first-place in the Pac-12 South.

Mario Cristobal on Fair Pay to Play Act: “It’s our obligation, responsibility” to help student-athletes

Mario Cristobal on Fair Pay to Play Act: “It’s our obligation, responsibility” to help student-athletes

Beginning in 2023, California law will be in direct opposition to the NCAA’s definition of amateurism. Monday morning, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law the “Fair Pay to Play Act" Senate Bill 206. This will allow the state’s college athletes to hire agents and make money from endorsements.

Get your popcorn ready, this will be a major showdown with the NCAA. If the bill survives the expected court challenges, the NCAA's business model would be in question.

The ability for athletes to make money could create a major recruiting advantage for schools in California. However it also begs the question, would out of state schools be willing to schedule games with California teams? Would the NCAA ban California teams from future competition?

The ruling of unconstitutional or not will likely come from a judge’s decision.

Obviously the bill will have major implications on the Pac-12 Conference and the nation. The conference released the following statement, in opposition of the bill.

“The Pac-12 is disappointed in the passage of SB 206 and believes it will have very significant negative consequences for our student-athletes and broader universities in California. This legislation will lead to the professionalization of college sports and many unintended consequences related to this professionalism, imposes a state law that conflicts with national rules, will blur the lines for how California universities recruit student-athletes and compete nationally, and will likely reduce resources and opportunities for student-athletes in Olympic sports and have a negative disparate impact on female student-athletes.”

Oregon Coach Mario Cristobal, who competes against four California universities each season, wanted to do a deeper dive into the first-in-the-nation law before giving a comment on the specific bill. However, he did give his own insight:

"I certainly believe that in any way that we can help the student-athletes I think it’s our obligation, our responsibility,” Cristobal said. “We certainly do a lot for them here. I know what it’s like; I’ve been there. I don’t know enough about how, what the rules are, what the format is for that. I’m all for making sure that we maximize what they can benefit or how they can benefit.”

Newsom’s take is that student-athletes are prohibited from being fairly compensated while “other college students with a talent, whether it be literature, music, or technological innovation, can monetize their skill and hard work.”

California schools could form a new organization, since membership in the NCAA is voluntary.