We asked Pac-12 columnist and expert Jon Wilner a very specific question about the Pac-12 Coach of the Year competition for 2022.
If Arizona wins six games, Washington wins nine, and USC wins 11, who will be Pac-12 Coach of the Year?
Wilner’s answer boiled down to this: If another candidate has a compelling case, Riley — like other USC head coaches from the past — won’t win.
The obvious underlying point is that since USC has so many institutional and resource-based advantages, the Trojans’ coach won’t get the benefit of the doubt in any especially close race with another coach. Non-USC coaches do more with less. Winning at USC is merely the expectation.
That’s the reasoning behind such a thought process. We can all understand why that line of thought has prevailed in a lot of Pac-12 COY debates from the past.
I offer a slightly different view of this 2022 coaching question.
Because USC is being picked to finish behind Utah and Oregon, winning the Pac-12 for the Trojans will rate as a special accomplishment this season.
Getting back to the question I asked Jon Wilner: If Arizona does win six games to get to a bowl game, yeah, Jedd Fisch will win the award, even if Lincoln Riley wins the Pac-12.
That would rate as an accomplishment (by Fisch) so great that a USC Pac-12 title wouldn’t top it.
However: If Fisch won only five games — even though that would still rate as a significant feat — it would not be enough for a bowl game.
Lincoln Riley would then deserve to be Pac-12 Coach of the Year if he won 11 games and Washington won nine under Kalen DeBoer. Nine wins at U-Dub would be great, but it wouldn’t get the Huskies to a New Year’s Six bowl game or the Pac-12 title game.
The bottom line: If USC wins the Pac-12, Jedd Fisch has to make a bowl game. Kalen DeBoer needs to make the Pac-12 Championship Game. Other Pac-12 coaches would need to do something spectacular to deny Riley a piece of hardware.