New Eras Dawn at Stanford, Colorado; Pac-12 QBs Shine; More Details on ACC Vote; "Evil" Football
Two of the more interesting coaching debuts in college football took place over the weekend at Stanford and Colorado. The Cardinal's Troy Taylor coached his first game Friday night, the same day his school accepted an invitation to join the ACC in 2024. It was an impressive debut for the former Cal quarterback and Sacramento State coach, hired in December to replace David Shaw, the winningest coach in Stanford history. Taylor utilizes a hurry-up, air raid type offense, and it was a refreshing change from the "slow mesh" attack that Stanford ran so unsuccessfully last season.
The Cardinal beat a decent Hawaii team that had a game under its belt, 37-24, on the road. The biggest highlight was the play of dual threat, sophomore quarterback Ashton Daniels (pictured above), who wasn't announced as the starter until game time, after winning a three-way competition with returnee Ari Patu and transfer Justin Lamson. Daniels was a three star recruit coming out of Buford HS in Georgia. He led his team to three straight state titles and was MVP in the title game all three years. On Friday night he threw the ball accurately, ran it well, made good decisions, and didn't turn the ball over. Other Stanford highlights: The offensive line looked much improved. Daniels wasn't sacked once. The defense was better than expected, led by linebacker David Bailey and safety Alaka'i Gilman, a Hawaii native. And Taylor unleashed a bevy of sure-handed receivers. We knew about tight end Ben Yurosek, who had nine receptions, but Daniels completed passes to nine other guys, many of whom no one had heard of. SC On Tap: Of course, things get much tougher for the Cardinal this week, as they travel to Los Angeles to face No. 6 USC, led by returning Heisman winner Caleb Williams. Given the Trojan's somewhat porous defense, Taylor's boys could score a bunch of points, but they'll have a much harder time stopping Williams and company. Coach Prime Shocks TCU: The most ballyhooed debut last weekend, of course, was at Colorado, another team playing its last season in the Pac-12, where Coach "Prime," Deion Sanders, made his debut on the road against 17th-ranked TCU. The 20-point underdog Buffaloes, called by many experts the worst team in college football last year, upset the Horned Frogs, a team that played in the national championship game eight months ago, 45-42. Sanders' son Shedeur, who transferred with his dad from Jackson State, immediately established himself as a top flight quarterback by passing for a Colorado school record 510 yards and 4 TDs. Travis Hunter, the nation's number 1 recruit last year, had shocked the college football world by signing with Jackson State. He also followed Coach Prime to Colorado and played almost the entire game on both sides of the ball, well over 100 snaps, catching 11 passes and making a crucial, diving interception to stop TCU inside the five yard line. Bears Get Offensive: The other soon-to-be-ACC team from the Bay Area, Cal's Golden Bears, blasted North Texas 58-21 employing a new offensive system installed by coordinator Jake Spavital, who previously held the same position in 2016 when Cal averaged 37 points per game in the Sonny Dykes era. At North Texas, the Bears racked up 669 yards, led by running back Jadyn Ott's 188, and solid play from two quarterbacks (more on that in a moment). Maybe Stanford, Colorado and Cal, all picked at the bottom of the Pac-12, are going to surprise some people this year. Remember This Name: Dante Moore, UCLA's freshman 5-star quarterback, didn't start against Coastal Carolina, but came off the bench to throw touchdown passes of 14 and 62 yards (one to Cal transfer Michael Studivant) to lead the Bruins to a 27-13 win. I assume he'll be starting next week. And he looks like the real deal. Pac-12 QBs Shine: As noted here a few weeks ago, the Pac-12's last season may be one of the best in conference history. All 12 schools won last weekend, and all 12 got sterling quarterback play. Here are the details: Utah 24, Florida 11. Bryson Barnes 12-18, 159 yards, 1 TD, 0 Int. (Barnes was filling in for Cam Rising (recovering from knee surgery). Stanford 37, Hawaii 24: Ashton Daniels, 25 -36, 248 yards, 2 TDs, 0 Int, 11 carries, 42 yards. Colorado: 45, TCU 42: Shedeur Sanders, 37-46, 510 yards, 4 TDs, 0 Int. Wow! USC 66, Nevada 14: Caleb Williams, 18-24, 319 yards, 5 TDs, 0 Int, 3 carries, 42 yards. Washington 56, Boise State 19: Michael Penix, Jr., 29-40, 450 yards, 5 TDs, 0 Int. Oregon 81, Portland 7: Bo Nix, 23-27, 287 yards, 3 TDs, 0 Int. UCLA 27, Coastal Carolina 13: Dante Moore 7-12,123 yards, 2 TDs, 1 Int. Cal 58, North Texas 21; Ben Finley 24-34, 279 yards, 1 TD, 1 Int. (Finley came off the bench to relieve injured starter Sam Jackson V, who hit 3 of 4 for 33 yards and a TD). Washington State 50, Colorado State 24: Cameron Ward, 37-49, 451 yards, 3 TDs, 0 Int, 13 carries, 40 yards, 1 TD. Arizona State 24, Southern Utah 21; Jaden Rashada, 18-31, 236 yards, 2 TDs, 0 Int. Arizona 38, Northern Arizona 3: Jayden de Laura, 18-24, 285, 3 TDs, 1 Int. Oregon State, San Jose State: DJ Uiagalelei, 20-25, 289 yards, 3 TD, 0 Int, 6 carries, 10 yards, 2 TDs. ACC Vote: More details have come to light on the ACC's decision, announced Friday, to bring Stanford, Cal and SMU into the fold. The vote was not unanimous. A straw poll of school presidents earlier had shown the motion to expand was one vote short of the 12-3 needed to approve. Clemson, Florida State, North Carolina and North Carolina State were the four "no" votes. Prior to the final vote, the North Carolina women's soccer coach, Anson Dorrance, as noted on these pages, had issued a classless statement saying he wanted Stanford and Cal to "die on the vine." Then the night before Friday's vote, both the president and vice-president of the Board of Trustees came out strongly in favor of a "no" vote. So North Carolina wasn't going to switch. Clemson and Florida State, meanwhile, were apparently unmoved by the fact that Stanford, Cal and SMU had agreed to take less than a full share of conference TV rights revenues, money that could be used to reward teams that reached the College Football Playoff or went deep into the NCAA Basketball Tourney. Perhaps miffed that the newcomers would share fully in conference revenue shares from the playoff, March Madness, bowl games, and ACC Network, both also voted "no." So the final vote was the bare minimum needed, 12-3. North Carolina State flipped. Persuasive arguments from Commissioner Jim Phillips, Notre Dame Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick, and others turned the tide. In terms of the aforementioned reduced TV media shares, SMU agreed to waive all TV money for nine years. Stanford and Cal, meanwhile, are taking 30% the first seven years, 70% in year eight, 75% in year nine, and 100% from year 10 onward. Stanford AD Bernard Muir confirmed that the administration will help make up the gap. As noted previously, with $37 billion in endowment, that's not going to be a hardship for the folks in Palo Alto. Frank & Cheryl Beamer: In Friday's blog about Stanford and Cal joining the ACC, I mentioned some of the great people from the ACC we dealt with in the bowl game I ran from 2002-2016 in the Bay Area. I neglected to mention perhaps the best of all, former Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer. It was our first game, and no one had heard of the Diamond Walnut San Francisco Bowl. Va. Tech, a Big East school at the time, before moving to the ACC a couple of years later, was just a few seasons removed from playing in the BCS national championship game. Yet rather than big-timing a rookie bowl, Beamer, his staff and players couldn't have been more cooperative, friendly and gracious to the new kids on the block. One quick story. As part of the bowl's hospitality, we provided courtesy cars for the school presidents, ADs and head coaches. Frank's wife, Cheryl, one of the nicest people we ever had at the bowl, sent me a note after the game, with a $20 bill enclosed. "I'm sorry I wasn't able to fill the gas tank before we turned the car in," she wrote, "and I didn't want you to have to pay for it. Hope this covers it. Thanks for everything. Cheryl." All class. And yes, I returned the $20.
"Evil" Football: A columnist in the SF Chronicle today made the comment that "women's and Olympic sports got royally screwed over to serve the filthy lucre of NCAA football." Others in the Chron sports section have blamed football for the death of the Pac-12.
As we've pointed out many times, the Pac-12 died because of TV money and two incompetent commissioners. Yes, football is king, and yes, football gets the big salaries, new facilities, and recruiting budgets. And yes, the pursuit of TV dollars has led to crazy realignment and the end of many important traditions and rivalries.
But the fact is, women's and Olympic sports have only survived because of football. Without the money football provides, many of those sports would be dropped. Football rights fees pay the budgets of every other sport at Stanford other than basketball.
It's out of control. In many ways, it's just pro sports 2.0. But it hasn't "totally screwed" the other sports. Competition Is Most Important: When Stanford AD Muir talked with his student athletic council about the potential move to another conference, the group was adamant that the most important thing for them was maintaining high quality competition.
Travel and missed class time were issues, to be sure, but Stanford athletes have gotten very good at studying on planes and taking exams in hotel rooms. Of the Cardinal's 36 sports, according to the University, the ACC move will have little impact travel-wise on 22 of its teams. Sports such as golf, tennis and gymnastics traditionally play in tournament-style events with several teams at one location, with as few as one home event per season. Other teams--including men's and women's water polo, men’s gymnastics, and men’s volleyball--will continue to play in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation.
As we noted Friday, it's far from perfect, but the ACC was the best solution available.