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COLLEGE FOOTBALL FRENZY: Pac-12 puts up promising start to NCAA season

Calgary Sun logo Calgary Sun 2022-09-30 Todd Saelhof
Head coach Lincoln Riley's move to USC has brought with it instant prosperity for the Pac-12's Trojans. © Provided by Calgary Sun Head coach Lincoln Riley's move to USC has brought with it instant prosperity for the Pac-12's Trojans.

The Pac-12 packing a punch in 2022?

Yup … it’s happening, alright.

At least it is in these early days of the NCAA football season.

Whether it continues, remains to be seen.

But wouldn’t such West Coast success be most welcome in the College Football Playoff?

C’mon, Pac-12 … don’t stop bringin’ it.

The biggest influence seems to have come from a couple of key coaching changes.

Of course, the major off-season move of Lincoln Riley to the USC Trojans from the Oklahoma Sooners has brought instant prosperity to the Pac-12 flagship program. And Kalen DeBoer, more quiet in his move north from the Fresno State Bulldogs, is making winners out of the Washington Huskies. Both teams — ranked No. 6 and No. 15 respectively in the AP Top 25 — are 4-0 and looking strong out west.

Then there’s the Utah Utes and the Oregon Ducks, both at 3-1 after high-profile losses to SEC squads, but those drops haven’t seemed to deter the polls. They’re both right there at No. 12 and No. 13 respectively, even though the foes the Utes lost to, the Florida Gators, are proving once again to be a pedestrian Power Five squad and the Ducks were thoroughly dominated by the defending national champion Georgia Bulldogs.

From here on out, however, it’s about whether the Pac-12 can keep away from cannibalizing itself, as it does perennially in taking itself out of the CFP picture.

Every fall, it seems Team A beats Team B which beats Team C which beats Team A, and suddenly every school in the Pac-12 has suffered two losses — not the formula for a final-four invitation. There’s rarely that one powerhouse that’s able to roll through the conference and stand heads and tails above the others.

That could be USC this year … finally.

Especially after surviving its first major test of the year in Week 4’s 17-14 escape from Corvallis over the host Oregon State Beavers, another Pac-12er that’s trending upward.

UDub’s already faced stiff competition and impressed with wins over the No. 11 Michigan State Spartans and the always-tough Stanford Cardinal but gets another Friday evening against the UCLA Bruins at the Rose Bowl (10:30 p.m. ET). That tilt could be the start of the cannibalism, with both teams rolling in sporting 4-0 records.

One will lose, of course, but one — or both — could still be legitimate CFP contenders.

Or so we’re hoping.

Or how about Oregon State, which deserved to upend USC last Saturday? Or the Washington State Cougars, one of the nation’s top 3-1 teams after a heartbreak loss to Oregon?

Someone … anyone … keep it to one-loss, please

It would be nice to see the West finally become a part of the final four again, six years after Washington last represented the Pac-12 in 2016-17.

SECOND DOWN

The only other Pac-12 side to make the CFP in its eight years of play was Oregon way back in the first final four, when it fell 42-20 to Ohio State in the national championship contest … How’s the new guy? In its first year of FBS action, James Madison (3-0) is doing just fine, thank you very much. In fact, ‘Jimmy Dukes’ is perfect and a whopping 23-point fave in only its fourth week playing Div. 1 ball. That’s against fellow Sun Belter Texas State (2-2) in Harrisonburg, Va. They learn fast there, apparently … How about the new ‘U’? It’s actually a familiar — but revamped — face in QB DJ Uiagalelei. His resurgence this year — with 64.3% passing accuracy for 1,033 yards and 10 TDs against one INT to go along with 169 yards running the ball — has Uiagalelei being billed these days as ‘DJ U’. Much easier to say and spell anyway … Speaking of a resurgence — and another reason why the Pac-12 is on the upswing — UDub QB Michael Penix Jr. led all FBSers in passing yards through Week 4, with 1,388.

THIRD DOWN

Hurricane Ian is threatening to blow in on a few games and has already wreaked havoc on the Week 5 slate. Host Florida (2-2) and FBS-side Eastern Washington (1-2) has been shuffled to Sunday in Gainesville (noon ET). SMU (2-2) and host UCF (3-1) has also been pushed back a day to Sunday in Orlando (1 p.m. ET). And host South Carolina (2-2) v. South Carolina State (2-1) goes Thursday (7 p.m. ET) in Columbia instead of Saturday. Meanwhile, South Florida (1-3) and East Carolina (2-2) moved their game east from Tampa to FAU’s home field in Boca Raton, Fla., but it remains slated for Saturday (2:30 p.m.) … It’s a potentially stormy schedule where the rankings are concerned with a handful of key games featuring AP Top 25 teams. Ranked-on-ranked pits: No. 7 Kentucky (4-0) at No. 14 Ole Miss (4-0) on Saturday in Oxford (noon ET), where Kentucky hasn’t won since way back in 1978; No. 2 Alabama (4-0) at No. 20 Arkansas (3-1) in Fayetteville (1:30 p.m., CBS); No. 9 Oklahoma (4-0) State at No. 16 Baylor (3-1) in Waco (1:30 p.m., FOX); and No. 5 Clemson (4-0) against No. 10 NC State (4-0) at Death Valley (7:30 p.m. ET, ABC), highlighted by ESPN’s College GameDay perhaps braving what could be a Hurricane Ian-affected day in South Carolina … Iowa (3-1) is 5-1 against top-five teams when it hosts in Iowa City, which is where No. 4 Michigan (4-0) finds itself for a feisty Big Ten matinee Saturday (noon ET, FOX). Six years ago, undefeated Michigan met its first loss to host Iowa, so Big Blue knows the score — and how hard it is to score — at Kinnick Stadium.

FOURTH DOWN

What’s gone wrong with Boise State (2-2)? Plenty. The Idaho program has lost its play-caller and quarterback in the last few days. Boise State fired its offensive coordinator, Tim Plough, after last week’s ugly 27-10 loss to UTEP (2-3). Dirk Koetter, a former head coach at Boise State and Arizona State, is Plough’s replacement. But Koetter won’t have senior QB Hank Bachmeier, who’s elected to take his talents elsewhere in pursuit of a chance to win and to fine-tune his NFL chances. Bachmeier was expected to be officially beamed into the transfer portal Thursday, where another program can faze him for two years of eligibility since he’s making the move ahead of the Boise State’s fifth game of the season. Whatever the case on the blue turf, it’s not the program it once was when the BCS was around. We here at College Football Frenzy would love to see Boise State rise again to get a piece of the 12-team CFP when it begins. That would be good karma for a Group of Five gang that got forever snubbed in the national championship chase of the previous era despite all its success … The scene is changing at Georgia Tech (1-3), as well, where athletic director Todd Stansbury and head coach Geoff Collins both got canned. How ugly has it gotten in Atlanta? After a 27-10 Week 4 loss to UCF, GaTech is now winless in nine straight games against FBS foes and was 10-28 overall under Collins. Yikes! … Seems like the best candidate for the Georgia Tech job might be beloved Atlanta sports legend Deion Sanders, who’s been turning heads as a sideline coach with Jackson State. ‘Neon Deion’ is 19-5 at the Mississippi HBCU school, but can he bring ‘Prime Time’ to the FBS in ATL? We think yes — and more.

tsaelhof@postmedia.com

 

AP TOP 25

Rank Team (last year) Record

1. Georgia (1) 4-0

2. Alabama (2) 4-0

3. Ohio State (3) 4-0

4. Michigan (4) 4-0

5. Clemson (5) 4-0

6. USC (7) 4-0

7. Kentucky (8) 4-0

8. Tennessee (11) 4-0

9. Oklahoma State (9) 3-0

10. NC State (12) 4-0

11. Penn State (14) 4-0

12. Utah (13) 3-1

13. Oregon (15) 3-1

14. Ole Miss (16) 4-0

15. Washington (18) 4-0

16. Baylor (17) 3-1

17. Texas A&M (23) 3-1

18. Oklahoma (6) 3-1

19. BYU (19) 3-1

20. Arkansas (10) 3-1

21. Minnesota (NR) 4-0

22. Wake Forest (21) 3-1

23. Florida State (NR) 4-0

24. Pittsburgh (24) 3-1

25. Kansas State (NR) 3-1

NR — not ranked

 

GAME TO WATCH

#9 OKLAHOMA STATE @ #16 BAYLOR (-2.5) 

Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, in Waco, Texas, FOX

A Big-12 battle likely to go right down to the wire, so take the home team.

PICK: BAYLOR

 

BEST BETS

(-6.5) #18 OKLAHOMA @ TCU

Saturday, noon ET, ABC

OK got caught flat-footed last week against K-State. That won’t happen this week.

PICK: OKLAHOMA

(-4.5) IOWA STATE @ KANSAS

Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET

Undefeated Kansas is for real. Being a disrespected home underdog makes for more fuel.

PICK: KANSAS

#10 NC STATE @ #5 CLEMSON (-7)

Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET, ABC

Same line as Week 4 for winner Clemson, only it’s at home now playing a weaker offence.

PICK: CLEMSON

LAST WEEK: 1-3

2022 RECORD: 11-10

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