The Pac 12’s two top preseason playoff contenders had Saturday games scheduled in the conference’s absolute, two worst promotional slots.
USC hosted Oregon State, in broad daylight, but it was carried on Pac 12 Network. That meant no one with DirecTV could bother watching it which, in this case, was probably a good thing.
As noted by the website awfulannouncing.com, a recently announced Pac 12 distribution deal with Alibaba makes it easier for fans in China to watch football games than all us English speakers saddled with DirecTV.
Perfect timing: I ordered Chinese on Friday night and got this fortune in my cookie: “may you live in interesting times with a Pac 12 commissioner looking to expand his footprint in Asia."
USC took care of business, 38-10, against a truly terrible Oregon State team. The Trojans didn’t cover the 34-point spread and if they looked sloppy, well, the good news is no one saw it.
Washington, the other Pac masthead, played at the other end of a problematic situation. The Huskies had a 7:45 p.m. home kickoff against California.
This game was available on a major outlet, ESPN, but too late for anyone in the East to care two cups of clam chowder about it. Or, that U-Dub dominated Da Bears, 38-7, to improve to 6-0 and a make a case it is the best team in the west, or at least north of San Diego State.
Washington Coach Chris Petersen apologized to his fans this week for all these late-night kicks. They’re great for sales at Starbucks-- he said in between cashing $5 million checks thanks in part to the Pac's $3 billion deal with ESPN\FOX--but a real buzz kill for keeping a contending team in the conversation.
“It hurts us tremendously in terms of national exposure,” Petersen said.
Coach Pete then, we learned from the ESPN broadcast crew Saturday night, refused to meet this week the network that helped make him rich.
How shallow and small-Boise potatoes--no wonder he wasn't the right fit at USC. Could you image the head coach at USC, at 5-0 and ranked in the top 10, not meeting with the broadcast crew because he was upset over late kick-off times?
Anyway, Coach Pete's snit led to a counter attack Saturday morning by ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit, who said the Pac 12 should be grateful for any coverage it gets. Or, something like that. I turned the channel when I thought I saw Herbie tip his crown and say "Let them eat cake!"
You could start to feel the tension mount as five major-conference champions continue to sweat it out for four playoff spots.
And then Oklahoma happened.[membership level="0"] The rest of this article is available to subscribers only - to become a subscriber click here.[/membership] [membership]
The Sooners’ inexplicable loss, at home against Iowa State, saved Porky Pac's bacon.
The argument is over until we concoct another one.
Oklahoma had the hole card over the Pac because it scored a huge, non-conference win at Ohio State. An undefeated Oklahoma was going to win any argument against any Pac 12 champion.
After USC suffered its first loss last week, at Washington State, the national conversation immediately turned to the Pac getting squeezed out of the playoff picture.
What we should have said then was, “can we wait one more week to see how this plays out?”
Problem solved. Thank you, Ames.
Oklahoma’s loss was a huge mood lift for the Pac 12. It likely guaranteed an undefeated Washington would cinch one of the four playoff spots.
Washington no longer has to worry—at least for now--about its weak non-conference schedule against Rutgers and two other rug rats. Washington State took advantage of injured Oregon quarterbacks to score a big win in Eugene. Hey, every special season needs these kind of breaks. Mike Leach's team is also 6-0 and poised to crack this week's top 10.
The Pac may still need to keep a wary eye out for fast-rising Texas Christian, which moved to 5-0 after a win over West Virginia.
Still, though, for now, Oklahoma’s shocker was a national game changer. In 2011, remember, a late season loss to Iowa State cost Oklahoma State a spot in the BCS title game.
Oklahoma's loss was also good news for one-loss USC, if the Trojans can win out, given their impressive non-conference plate of Western Michigan, Texas and Notre Dame.
The immediate jaw-drop, though, was how Oklahoma lost. The Sooners were 31-point favorites, at home. Oklahoma had won 18 straight games against Iowa State.
The Cyclones were playing without starting quarterback Jacob Park, who left the team this week to deal with “personal medical concerns.”
Yet, somehow, backup Kyle Kempt ended up outplaying Oklahoma quarterback, Baker Mayfield, an early-season Heisman candidate.
Kempt completed 18 of 24 passes for 343 yards and three touchdowns. Mayfield was 24 of 33 for 306 yards and two interceptions.
Iowa State also got a standout performance from two-way star Joel Lanning, the only middle linebacker I can remember who also plays…quarterback? Lanning was Iowa State’s starting QB in 2016 before moving to middle (MIKE) linebacker.
Saturday, though, Lanning had the stat line of the week. He played 57 plays on defense, 13 on offense and eight on special teams. He finished with eight tackles, a sack and a fumble recovery. On offense, he completed two of three passes for 35 yards and had nine carries for 35 yards.
If he played for Penn State, or Ohio State, or Alabama, Lanning would be preparing his Heisman speech.
“What he’s doing is unheard of, right?” Iowa State Coach Matt Campbell asked after the game.
For good measure, Iowa State’s Evrett Edwards planted the Iowa state flag on Owen Field. This was a direct dig at Mayfield, who planted Oklahoma’s flag after the Sooners’ win at Ohio State.
It was, indeed, a great day for Iowa State.
It was even better for the Pac 12. [/membership]