Reaction keeps pouring in after another Pac-12 refs disaster

There is no shortage of topics to discuss after Week 9 of the 2022 Pac-12 football season. Let’s start with the simple reality that four teams are in the hunt for the Pac-12 Championship Game. Oregon is in the driver’s seat but will soon embark on the toughest three-game stretch of its season. USC and UCLA are headed for a Nov. 19 showdown. Utah is firmly in the hunt and will get its chance to make a run at Vegas and the successful defense of its 2021 Pac-12 title.

The first College Football Playoff rankings will be released this week.

The Pac-12 is better this year on the gridiron than last year.

Pac-12 refs continue to be a story, obviously for all the wrong reasons.

Let’s get to all of these topics.

PAC-12 REFS, PART ONE

From Jon Wilner:

The Hotline was left stupefied by the way Pac-12 officials handled the final seconds of the first half in the USC-Arizona game. Somehow, they allowed the clock to start before the ball had been spotted, then refused to use replay — or common sense — to correct the mistake. The Trojans were unable to snap the ball for a final play, leaving Lincoln Riley to berate the officials as he left the field. We’re not sure the conference can allow that crew, with Michael Mothershed as the referee, to work another USC game. The sequence was that bad.

PAC-12 REFS, PART TWO

More from Jon Wilner:

The Hotline defended Pac-12 officiating for most of the past season-and-a-half because the product had improved markedly from the pre-COVID era, when egregious gaffes made headlines far too often under a different conference administration.

But we cannot defend the officiating over the past month. It has been an embarrassment that must be fixed quickly.

PAC-12 REFS, PART THREE

A final word from Wilner:

Pac-12 officials forgot a second down in the Washington State-Oregon game.

They whistled a play dead too soon in the Arizona-Washington game.

They signaled an inadvertent stoppage of play at the end of the Utah-USC thriller that gave the Trojans five extra seconds. (Imagine if USC had used that time to win the game!)

And tonight, in Tucson, referee Michael Mothershed and his crew completely botched the end of the first half, allowing the clock to start before the ball was spotted — thus leaving the Trojans without time to run a final play near the goal line.

How that could happen, we cannot fathom. Lincoln Riley was furious, as he should have been.

Not even the Pac-12 Networks broadcast crew could offer a reasonable defense.

It was an inexcusable mistake — another inexcusable mistake — that demands an explanation from the conference office.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYOFF RANKINGS

Wilner:

Over the course of eight years, only one Power Five champion with a 12-1 record has been snubbed by the playoff selection committee: Ohio State in 2018.

Until every team in the Pac-12 is carrying at least two losses, the conference has a chance to break the five-year CFP drought.

The issue of greatest intrigue for the Hotline on Tuesday is how the committee will handle Oregon (7-1), which lost to Georgia by 46 points but has looked like a playoff-caliber team since the opener.

Also, where will the committee place UCLA (7-1), which lost decisively to Oregon and played an ultra-soft non-conference schedule?

And what about USC (7-1), which lost at Utah by one point, does not play Oregon and owns exactly zero wins over teams in the current AP poll?

We expect the Ducks to be the highest-ranked of the foursome, but will they crack the top 10?

NO PARITY THIS YEAR

Wilner on the Pac-12’s clear improvement in football, relative to last year and previous seasons:

But the 2022 season has no time for parity. Oregon, UCLA, USC and Utah are dominating the conference, and that’s exactly what the Pac-12 needs.

The Big Four are 15-0 against the other eight teams after a Week Nine sweep:

— USC won at Arizona without star receiver Jordan Addison and a slew of starters.

— Utah won at Washington State without quarterback Cam Rising.

— Oregon hammered Cal, a traditional nemesis.

— UCLA beat Stanford in the Rose Bowl — hammered the Cardinal, actually — for the first time since 2008.

THE BIG FOUR AND A SHOWDOWN SATURDAY

Wilner:

As a result, the Pac-12 will emerge from October with four teams in the top half of the AP poll, three teams alive in the CFP race, two contenders for the Heisman (quarterbacks Caleb Williams of USC and Bo Nix of Oregon) and one monumental Saturday on the horizon.

If the Big Four keep winning, Nov. 19 looms as one the most significant days of the expansion era with Utah visiting Oregon and the L.A. schools colliding.

2021 VS 2022 PAC-12 FOOTBALL COMPARISON, PART ONE

Wilner:

Through nine weeks of play …

— Teams with fewer than three losses
2021: 1 (Oregon)
2022: 6 (Oregon, Oregon State, UCLA, USC, Utah and Washington)

2021 VS 2022, CONTINUED

Wilner:

— Teams ranked in the AP poll
2021: 1 (Oregon)
2022: 4 (Oregon, UCLA, USC and Utah)

BOWL-ELIGIBLE TEAMS IN 2021 AND 2022, THROUGH 9 WEEKS

Wilner:

2021: 1 (Oregon)
2022: 6 (Oregon, Oregon State, UCLA, USC, Utah and Washington)

LOSSES TO GROUP OF FIVE AND FCS OPPONENTS

Wilner:

2021: 11
2022: 2

TEAMS AVERAGING AT LEAST 35 POINTS PER GAME

Wilner:

2021: 1 (Oregon)
2022: 5 (Oregon, UCLA, USC, Utah and Washington)

WIN DISTRIBUTION AND POWER BALANCE

Wilner on the bottom tier which coexists with a strong top tier (as opposed to a bunched conference with a small gap between the top and bottom teams):

Given the zero-sum nature of competition, a strong top naturally requires a weak bottom — and that’s exactly what the standings reveal.

Last year at this time, only two teams (Arizona and Colorado) had more than two losses in conference play.

This season? Here’s the bottom tier:

WSU: 1-4
Arizona: 1-4
Cal: 1-4
Colorado: 1-4
Stanford: 1-5

JON WILNER'S PAC-12 GAME OF WEEK 9

Wilner chose USC’s win over Arizona

WILNER'S PAC-12 DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE WEEK

Oregon linebacker D.J. Johnson

WILNER'S PAC-12 OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE WEEK

USC’s Caleb Williams

WILNER'S PAC-12 COACH OF THE WEEK

Kyle Whittingham of Utah

TELEVISION COMPLICATIONS

Wilner on a notable controversy involving injury disclosures:

Utah didn’t bother to tell FS1’s on-air talent that (QB Cam) Rising wouldn’t start, which rankled play-by-play announcer Alex Faust and color analyst Petros Papadakis. We feel for them, because the secrecy impacted their ability to provide the best experience possible for viewers. But on a broader level, the Pac-12’s relationship with Fox was severely damaged on June 30 — the network orchestrated the departure of USC and UCLA to the Big Ten — and that will likely manifest itself in many ways over the next 20 months.

PAC-12 OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR RACE

Wilner:

It has been years since the Pac-12 produced so many elite players, particularly at quarterback. Who could have guessed that USC’s Williams would live up to all the hype and yet not be the clear frontrunner for OPOY? At this point, we consider Oregon’s Nix to be the top candidate.

OUR VIEW OF THE PLAYOFF RANKINGS THIS WEEK

Don’t spend time thinking about them.

USC just needs to beat UCLA and Notre Dame (after it takes care of business against Cal and Colorado). Get to Vegas. Get a New Year’s Six bowl. That’s what the focus should be, and that would represent a great season, with or without the playoff. Save yourself the time and worry.

OUR VIEW OF WHY THE PAC-12 IS BETTER THIS YEAR

It’s really simple: The coaching and QB play are much better. USC is a prime example on both fronts. Oregon is as well. Chip Kelly and DTR are both much improved from last year. Arizona has a far better QB this season, as does Washington. Sometimes, it’s just not hard to explain sports.

BIG 12 MEDIA RIGHTS DEAL AND THE FUTURE OF THE PAC-12

It seems clear to me — speaking personally here — that George Kliavkoff will seek a significant digital package with Apple and/or Amazon, and that he will try to reduce the revenue gap relative to other conferences with that particular component of a larger platter of media rights deals.

DANGER FOR UCLA

UCLA at Arizona State could get tricky for the Bruins in Week 10. ASU finally gave the offense to backup QB Trenton Bourguet, who put 42 points on Colorado. Bourquet has led the Sun Devils to 42 or more points in two Pac-12 games this season. The Sun Devils have an offense which needs to be taken seriously.

UTAH AND USC SHOW WHAT THEY'RE MADE OF

Utah was missing its QB1, three running backs, two tight ends, and a partridge in a pear tree at Washington State at night. It still won.

USC had practically no linebackers, was missing its best offensive lineman, watched its left tackle get hurt, and lacked its two best receivers on the road against an Arizona team with a talented offense. It still won.

That’s a championship culture.

USC POSTGAME SHOW AT THE VOICE OF COLLEGE FOOTBALL WITH TONY ALTIMORE, TIM PRANGLEY, AND RICK ANAYA

Story originally appeared on Trojans Wire