Wilner Hotline – Pac-12 rewind: Football alumni council formed, three in the AP top 10, bad bowl loss, incoming QBs and more

(AP Photo/Ralph Freso, File)

Recapping the best and worst of the week …

News of the week: Pac-12 alumni group

The conference on Monday announced the formation of a Football Alumni Council, a group of 24 former players and coaches who have been charged with “elevating the football brands of all schools and the Pac-12, supporting recruiting efforts, and ultimately maximizing (College Football Playoff) selections and winning national championships.”

Merton Hanks, the senior associate commissioner for football operations, will oversee the council. Each school is represented.

Members include former Oregon coach Mike Bellotti, Arizona State cornerback Eric Allen, Cal running back Shane Vereen, Arizona linebacker Scooby Wright, Washington State quarterback Jack Thompson, Stanford running back Toby Gerhart, Washington quarterback Brock Huard and others.

The group met twice in November, with discussions focused on:

— “Potential marketing, promotional, social and PR initiatives to build and enhance the Pac-12 football brand;

— “Concepts to help drive interest in and exposure for Pac-12 football along with attendance at Pac-12 football home games;

— “Opportunities for Pac-12 football alumni to promote the value of being a Pac-12 student-athlete and to generate greater interest in Pac-12 football through social media and other channels;

— “Strategic opportunities to better position Pac-12 football for success through key operational levers such as scheduling.”

The conference hopes to start implementing the initiatives early next year.

News of the week II: Basketball rankings

The Associated Press top 25 poll released Monday morning features three Pac-12 teams in the top eight spots: No. 5 UCLA, No. 6 Arizona and No. 8 USC. It’s the first time in almost five years that the conference has placed three teams that high in the poll. The week of March 6, 2017 included No. 3 UCLA, No. 5 Oregon and No. 7 Arizona.

News of the week III: QB arrivals

We made note of the influx of veteran quarterbacks in our Saturday Night Five column, but let’s add a fourth name to the list.

Bo Nix, who threw 39 touchdown passes over three seasons for Auburn, is headed to Oregon to compete for the starting job against freshman Ty Thompson.

Nix is the fourth notable quarterback to emerge from the transfer portal and appear in the land of dire need.

Purdue’s Jack Plummer is joining Cal’s roster.

UCF’s Dillon Gabriel has picked UCLA.

And Indiana’s Michael Penix opted for Washington.

All four programs are in a state of flux at the position and would benefit immensely if the newcomers perform at their best consistently.

Best win of the week: USC football

Although the Trojans didn’t sign many players during the early window, they made each scholarship count. The seven-player class is No. 70 overall in the 247Sports rankings, but it’s No. 10 on a stars-per-player basis. None of the signatures mattered more than the last one: cornerback Domani Jackson of Mater Dei, the top-ranked prospect on the West Coast and the No. 2 cornerback in the country.

Worst loss of the week: Oregon State football

The Pac-12 bowl season opened with a thud in the LA Bowl, with the Beavers unable to handle Utah State’s third-string quarterback. Cooper Legas, who had never attempted a pass for the Aggies, entered the game in the first half, tossed a touchdown strike on his first pass, threw for 171 yards and led Utah State to a 24-13 upset. This was the lone bowl game the Pac-12 was expected to win. The conference is an underdog in each of the remaining five.

Close call of the week: Oregon basketball

In what counts as a sign of progress, the Ducks (6-6) pushed top-ranked Baylor deep into the second half before losing 78-70. That’s a fairly low bar, but Oregon’s results thus far warrant a hefty dose of pessimism. The Ducks lost by 29 points to Houston recently, couldn’t beat either Arizona State or Stanford and have precious little margin for error in pursuit of another NCAA Tournament berth.

COVID pauses of the week: UCLA and USC

The Bruins became the second men’s team to shut down because of the virus, mirroring Washington’s path from earlier in the month. They canceled three games, including a showdown against North Carolina in Las Vegas. Then, on Sunday, USC announced it would not face Oklahoma State this week because of COVID cases. The Trojans, too, have paused team activities. Of note: The L.A. schools are supposed to host Arizona next week in what could be back-to-back matchups of top-10 teams … if the games can be played as scheduled.

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