1. Breakthrough Beavers
Oregon State clinched its first 10-win season in 16 years — and only the third in school history — with a 30-3 victory over Florida in the Las Vegas Bowl that featured all the typical OSU elements: A strong rushing attack, timely plays in the passing game and stout defense.
Yes, it came against an opponent hammered by opt-outs, but that hardly matters to history. The Beavers (10-3) deserve all the kudos tossed in their direction for a tremendous season.
Prior to OSU’s breakthrough Saturday afternoon, the league’s last bowl win came on the first day of the decade, when Oregon beat Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1, 2020.
Sure, there were just two bowl participants at the end of the COVID-impacted 2020 season, but the conference was 0-5 in bowl games last year.
And of the seven losses this decade, four were by double digits.
The Beavers provided a desperately needed victory.
2. WSU stumbles
The second game Saturday unfolded in far different fashion: Washington State wasn’t competitive in the LA Bowl, losing 29-6 to Fresno State.
This figured to be a difficult assignment for the Cougars, who lost both coordinators prior to the game — a level of disruption made even worse by the opponent.
Fresno State was, as always, highly-motivated to topple a Pac-12 foe.
The Cougars (7-6) have lost three consecutive bowl games, all of the to Group of Five opponents (Air Force, Central Michigan and Fresno State). The streak will be part of the narrative for their next postseason appearance, whenever it comes.
3. Hardwood success
The Pac-12’s premier basketball programs recorded key non-conference victories on Saturday, with UCLA beating No. 13 Kentucky in Madison Square Garden and Arizona holding off No. 6 Tennessee at home.
The non-conference portion of the schedule has not been kind to the conference, with a slew of losses to second- and third-rate opponents.
But the Wildcats and Bruins are building resumes that should ensure high seeds in the NCAA Tournament and could help elevate the collective on Selection Sunday.
4. UCLA moves on
The University of California Board of Regents spent five months discussing and debating UCLA’s fate, only to reach the anticipated conclusion: The Bruins received formal approval to enter the Big Ten in the summer of 2024, along with USC.
The decision provides membership clarity for the Pac-12 as commissioner George Kliavkoff attempts to secure a media rights contract early in 2023.
The Hotline’s view has not changed an iota throughout the process: A medium-term media deal approved by the remaining schools is the most likely outcome, but the Pac-12’s future isn’t guaranteed until the contract is signed and sealed.
5. Arizona escapes (mostly) unscathed
It took a mere five years, but the Arizona basketball recruiting scandal has been settled. The Wildcats were dinged, not walloped, by the NCAA’s Independent Accountability Resolution Process.
The sanctions impact recruiting but are extremely limited in scope, as they should be given that Arizona has changed coaching staffs and self-imposed an NCAA Tournament ban during the 2021 season.
There was no reason to punish the current players and coaches for transgressions that unfolded half a decade ago.
6. The new deals
Not a day goes by, it seems, without contract news.
In addition to the three new head coaches (Colorado’s Deion Sanders, ASU’s Kenny Dillingham and Stanford’s Troy Taylor) agreeing to terms, three others have received extensions.
Oregon State’s Jonathan Smith received a one-year extension and significant raise while Washington’s Kalen DeBoer and Arizona’s Jedd Fisch were given two additional years and modest bumps in pay.
It has been another expensive offseason across the conference.
7. The carousel spins
When evaluating coaching staff changes — and there have been plenty in recent weeks — the Hotline focuses on the coordinator position opposite the head coach’s expertise.
In other words, we pay particular attention to the new offensive coordinators when the head coach’s background is defense and the new defensive coordinator when the head coach’s background is offense.
To that end, two moves stand out thus far:
Colorado hired Sean Lewis, the former Kent State head coach, to run the offense for Deion Sanders; and ASU hired Brian Ward away from Washington State to run the defense under Kenny Dillingham.
Both are shrewd moves.
8. An opt-out flip-flop
The five Pac-12 teams with bowl games after Christmas have not lost quarterbacks to the opt-out trend — at least not yet.
In fact, the most notable opt-out to date came on the defensive side, where Utah cornerback Clark Phillips III announced he would pass on the Rose Bowl in order to prepare for the NFL Draft.
We were struck by the decision in that it spoke to a changed dynamic: Last year, Utah was the Rose Bowl rookie while several Ohio State stars opted out of the game; now, the Utes are the grizzled Granddaddy veterans, heading to Pasadena without their best player.
9. Portal madness
Like their peers in other conferences, Pac-12 teams are losing starters to the transfer portal on a daily basis.
That’s to be expected: Players must enter the portal during a 45-day period — it extends into the middle of January — but they aren’t required to select a school during that stretch.d
What’s the latest news from the portal?
Well, Jackson State quarterback Shedeur Sanders is joining his father in Boulder, where he’ll attempt to lift CU’s offense out of the Power Five gutter.
In addition, Stanford continues to lose offensive linemen to the portal, with multi-year starter Walter Rouse as the latest entry.
Arizona has been slammed by attrition, as well, with cornerback Christian Roland-Wallace joining defensive tackle Kyon Barrs and receiver Dorian Singer (and others) in the portal.
10. Recruiting mayhem
The early-signing period, which has become the dominant window for securing high school recruits, runs from Dec. 21-23 and has already produced complete chaos, with recruits decommitting and schools cutting ties with prospects they once embraced.
The situation is made worse — much worse — by the transfer portal, forcing coaches to manage their rosters on multiple levels.
Not surprisingly, quarterbacks have dominated the news: Washington lost four-star prospect Lincoln Kienholz to Ohio State, while Dante Moore, a five-star recruit who committed to Oregon over the summer, recently visited UCLA.
Our advice to fans for the next week: Consume loads of Antacids and Dramamine. It will be wild.
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