Rough Year Ahead for Bay Area Teams; Commissioner Kliavkoff Fumbles Again
If the Pac-12 pre-season media poll can be believed, it's going to be a long year for Bay Area college football fans.
The 36 pundits who cover the Pac-12 picked Stanford to finish last in the conference and Cal to finish ninth. The results were released last week at Pac-12 media day in Las Vegas, an event that featured a number of interesting and humorous moments.
First, the predictions. USC was picked to win the conference for the 36th time in the 63 years the media poll has been conducted. The Trojans have Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Caleb Williams and a boatload of talent returning. Williams told the gathering that his team was headed for the College Football Playoff, and he may be right. Washington, led by another stellar QB, Michael Penix Jr., was picked to finish second, while Utah, the league's two-time defending champion, was slotted for third, and Oregon, led by yet another top QB, Bo Nix, was fourth. The Utes, it seems, can't get any respect from the media. The Transfer Conference: Although the league didn't get a team in the playoffs for the sixth straight year in 2022, the Pac-12 was the most competitive and entertaining conference in the country, with six teams ranked in the final AP poll. The main reason was an influx of outstanding transfers, including three of the best quarterbacks in the country, the afore-mentioned Williams (from Oklahoma), Penix (from Indiana) and Nix (from Auburn), as well as dozens of top players at every other position. This trend will continue in 2023. Consider the fact that every Pac-12 team other than Stanford is expected to start a transfer at quarterback. Cardinal Exits: Stanford's last-place ranking can be attributed to back-to-back 3-9 seasons and the rash of players exiting the program. The Cardinal lost 17 players to the transfer portal and several more to graduation, leaving new coach Troy Taylor with a pretty empty cupboard. The Cardinal's offensive line must be completely rebuilt, and no one knows at this point who will play quarterback. I think the dire predictions for this year are probably accurate. Objectively, Stanford will probably only win two or three games. However, the long-term future is much brighter. Taylor is doing a great job recruiting for 2024. The Cardinal ranks anywhere from 9th to 19th nationally, depending on which recruiting service you believe, having gotten commitments from a number of top recruits, including quarterback Elijah Brown from Mater Dei in Santa Ana, defensive end Benedict Umeh from Avon Old Farms in Connecticut, linebacker Naki Tuakoi from Fremont in Oakland, and wide receiver Emmett Mosley from Santa Margarita. The team across the Bay, Cal's Golden Bears, are 9-15 over the past two years, frustrated by an epidemic of close losses. Any optimism about the coming season stems from one of the nation's best hauls from the transfer portal. Ironically, the Bears gained 17 players through the portal, the same number Stanford lost. Coach Justin Wilcox picked up a number of quality players who should step in immediately, including former TCU quarterback Sam Jackson, cornerback Patrick McMorris from San Diego State, receiver Taj Davis from Washington and offensive tackle Barrett Miller from Stanford. Media Rights Saga: Commissioner George Kliavkoff continued his embarrassing spins about the conference's failure to land a media contract. Kliavkoff, who used a teleprompter for his remarks, said at one point, "we're not announcing a deal on purpose today, because I want the focus to be on football." That comment would lead most people to conclude a deal was done and could've been announced, but when asked by a reporter, "does that mean the deal is done," Kliavkoff replied, "I think you're reading too much into that." A more honest opening might've been, "we're not announcing a deal today because we don't have a deal to announce." If that wasn't bad enough, the embattled commissioner actually claimed, with a straight face, that "the longer we wait for the media deal, the better our options get." Unless you think having the CW network express interest represents "better options"--or if you're auditioning for Comedy Central--that statement is patently false. We've had almost a year of delays, outright lies, and false promises from the Pac-12 and presidents of its member schools. Since the media event was held in Las Vegas, one must wonder whether some of those in attendance might've placed a bet that this will be the final year for the Pac-12.
Quote of Note: Best comment from Pac-12 media day, from UCLA head coach Chip Kelly, addressing reporters while sweating in the Las Vegas heat: "Why would anyone choose to live here? They know they have a choice, right? My sentiments exactly.