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Matt’s Monday Morning Musings: Week Two - Pour one out for the Pac

Updated: Jul 18, 2023

Each week, our Executive Director, Matthew Redding (5’11, 185, 4.78 40-yard dash, $4.99 on Wish) sits down with a cup of coffee and ponders life in the world of College Football and beyond. Ask him anything on Twitter (@TheBarningMan) and he may answer it next week over his breakfast. This week, he’s pouring one last drink for the Pac-12 in what could be their greatest year yet.

Close your eyes for a second and think about Christmas time. The second most wonderful time of the year behind the NFL draft.

I hope that most of us have had good memories attached to that season, but I also know that there would be no joy without disappointments, and nothing sucks more than a disappointing Christmas present. If the Birthday present isn’t what you wanted, you can still wait for Christmas to try again. But if the Christmas presents don’t hit, then you're stuck waiting until the New Year, unless you were born after the 25th.

I rarely had a bad Christmas, but I can remember my little sister's face many years ago when she opened up a makeup kit for kids instead of a stuffed “Serafina” cat doll (anyone remember the animated Barbie movies?)- which she did have somewhere under the tree- but her three-year-old brain thought that that was the only gift she was gonna get that year, and while me and my brother were thanking mom and dad for our first present, she was in the corner shouting “You have GOT to be KIDDING ME!”

I imagine the Pac-12 commissioner, George Kliavkoff, has said the same thing the exact same way a lot recently.

On June 20, 2022, news broke that USC and UCLA were leaving the Pac-12 for the B1G in 2023-2024, and the ripple effects are still being felt. The West Coast has a solid football market, and the Pac-12 was an original attendee to the College Football Playoffs early days, with Oregon and Washington jumping in the first two editions of the dance, and “Pac-12 after Dark” was becoming a popular meme for casual sports watchers, so what the heck changed? It was the most shocking revelation in college football news since Texas and Oklahoma jumped for the mighty SEC, but geographically those moves made sense. Who would’ve guessed that a major Midwest conference would poach two of the biggest names in southern California?

Despite getting Oklahoma in the playoff every year it seemed, the Big 12 was knocking on death's door. When both the Sooners and Longhorns announced they were leaving, that should’ve been the final nail in the coffin. Credit to their commissioner Bob Bowlsby for the response, adding 4 reputable schools (Memphis, UCF, Houston, and BYU) to replace the two bigshots. After TCU’s improbable run to the national title game, it seems that the no-defense conference is here to stay a little longer. Now, we’re unexpectedly digging the grave again, but putting the Pac-12 in it instead.

Usually, this is where I would say “Or ARE we?” with a mysterious movie-trailer voice, but so far, there’s no reason to. What has the response been exactly? Do they even HAVE a contingency?

I wrote last week about how money has driven the playoff picture and if the new TV deal with ESPN doesn’t get worked out soon, Oregon and Washington are next. Arguably, Oregon could stay and they would be fine, but the bleeding will continue when Deion Sander’s Colorado program bolts back to the Big 12 from what I’m hearing (same goes for the Arizona schools, apparently). I have to agree with Jake Crain of Crain and Co. that the name San Diego State doesn’t generate the same excitement as UCLA and USC. Who’s interested in watching Washington State become a playoff contender in the post-Mike Leach era?

Whatever the plan is, they better act fast. This is the last great year in the Pac-12, having the band all together for one last farewell tour.

And what a tour it’ll be. Of the top five QB prospects for the 2024 NFL Draft, three are from the Pac-12. Caleb Williams transferred from Oklahoma to play out West, along with Oregon’s Bo Nix transferring from Auburn, and Michael Penix Jr. transferring from Indiana to play with the Huskies. All three had 4,000-yard seasons last year, and all three look like locks to make some noise in the Draft race, Heisman race, and Playoff race. Heck, we could see a one-loss USC and Oregon make the playoff this year if it all goes well!

Remember when Pac-12 QB’s transferred from those schools to play in the SEC or B1G (what’s up, JT Daniels)? Yet here we are, and no one has been this excited about Washington football since Chris Peterson’s playoff squad in 2015.

It’s almost poetic if not ironic that the Pac-12 is receiving this much hype in the last year of it being, well, the Pac-12. You would think they would have watched the Big 12 more closely and tore a few pages out of their playbook. If the Big 12 wrote the Masterclass on how to recover from conference expansion, the Pac-12 is writing the manifesto on how to accept your fate and die.

Whatever happens, the ACC should be taking notes.

Matt’s Monday Morning Mailbag

“Why is Lane Kiffin always the darling of every coaching search?” – Kyle

GREAT question. I like Lane, but this one has puzzled me lately. On paper, Lane Kiffin is as solid as they come. A former Fresno State QB who has served under national championship head coaches (Pete Carrol, Nick Saban) and is a solid recruiter who is the young, hip coach who gets along with the youth and stays connected to the fanbase (multiple fanbases at times) through his Twitter antics and memorable interviews and press conferences. At Ole Miss alone, he took the Rebels to a 10-2 season in year 2, only a couple of years removed from the program missing a bowl game, and transformed QB Matt Corral from a recruiting bust to a third-round pick. His mentorship is what skyrocketed Jalen Hurts to all-SEC fame during the Tide’s 2017 Playoff run. Heck, he won a national championship as OC with Jake Coker running the show.

The self-proclaimed Portal King (warranted in 2022, I suppose) has been the first name mentioned every time there’s a major coach opening. Don’t even get me started on how close he came to being Auburn’s coach last year, and he was linked to his previous jobs at USC and UT when they moved on from Clay Helton and Jeremy Pruitt. Everyone always seems to mark him as the next guy whenever there’s an opening in either the collegiate or NFL ranks.

And for what reason, exactly? I’ve listed his achievements above, but then you take a closer look and realize that that’s pretty much… It. He’s won titles as an assistant, sure, and he’s good for at least one 10-win season at least once if he’s given the time, but his loyalty to schools come to question when you see that his average of staying at a college program is around 3 years. His recruiting numbers are never near what he hauled in the year before. His stay at Ole Miss has been the longest he’s been in the SEC as a head man, with a record of 23-13 and 1-2 in bowl games.

I don’t question that the man is an offensive guru and knows something of the QB position, but usually if you make $8 million a year it’s because you’ve taken your team to the promised land. Ole Miss threw that money at him to beg him to stay, and his loss in the Sugar Bowl has been his biggest game yet.

Bottom line, it’s just a sexy hire. He’s a publicity king, and to his credit his offense does average over 400 yards per-game, which is a number most schools wish they had every year. I think, one day, he’ll probably put it all together and have the right staff and roster to actually make some noise in December. That won’t happen in Oxford, however.

We all know who Saban’s true heir apparent is, after all.




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