Monday Rewind: Pac-12 tiers, transfer portal windows, and shade
Welcome back to the Monday Rewind. Hope the Mother’s Day weekend was good for you and yours. Let’s dive in.
Placing the Pac-12 into tiers
On Sunday, we published our post-spring Pac-12 Power Ranking. It saw USC and Washington State get major bumps, Oregon State drop out of the top four, and Arizona State plummet. This was the first update since mid-January, so quite a bit had changed between then and now. The Sun Devils imploded. USC got a lot more interesting. Everyone went through a spring period and we got a better look at how these 2022 squads will differ from their 2021 counterparts.
The No. 1 and No. 2 spots were easy. The No. 12 spot was easy. The No. 3 spot was easier. Everything else involved quite a bit of tinkering.
Specifically in the No. 4, 5, and 6 spots, deciding between UCLA, Oregon State, and Washington State was agonizing. Any of the three could win their divisions. Any of the three could still be a ways away from Utah, Oregon, and USC.
Dropping each team into individual slots couldn’t capture all the intricacies. So as a follow-up, here’s another approach to separating the league’s best from its bottom-dwellers.
- The Indisputable Title Favorites: Utah, Oregon
- The “Could Win 7, Could Win 10” Spot: USC
- The Actually Kinda Scary Threats: UCLA, Oregon State, Washington State
- The “I Have No Idea What You Are” Spot: Washington
- The Aggressively Average Group: Stanford, California, Arizona
- The Basement: Arizona State, Colorado
Utah is the defending champion with one of the best quarterbacks in the conference, if not the country. Placing them in the very top tier requires no justification. Oregon has won the North three straight years. Again, no justification required.
Some believe USC can ascend from 4-8 to a College Football Playoff berth in 12 months. Some believe the Trojans’ critical flaws haven’t quite been completely fixed yet. We shall see. Lincoln Riley has done wonders for the roster, but winning this league is going to require winning the battle at the line of scrimmage week in and week out. Whether the Trojans can do that yet is not a question that can be answered in the spring.
It’s just a tough task trying to place them, and for that reason, they get a tier of their own.
The group that includes the Bruins, Beavers, and Cougars is as interesting a group as there is in the league. In the Pac-12 South, UCLA can look at the Trojans and say, “Hey, yeah, remember last year? That Nov. 19 meeting isn’t going to be a gimme.” Suppose USC beats Utah and the Bruins have a chance at home to spoil Riley’s debut season right at the end.
The Bruins’ defense has questions, but an offensive trio of Chip Kelly, Dorian Thompson-Robinson, and Zach Charbonnet should give UCLA one of the Pac-12’s top units. Last season, a liability of a defense capped the ceiling at eight wins. This year, against one of the country’s easiest schedules, even an average defense could pave the way for a special season. But that’s a big if. UCLA has toyed with hope before.
In the North, Oregon State and Washington State are both trendy picks to unseat the Ducks. It remains to be seen how close they actually are to the top, but there’s so much to like about both teams. The Cougars have the better quarterback. The Beavers have the better offensive line. How Trent Bray manages the identity shift on defense in Corvallis will be key in the North title race. Wazzu’s Ron Stone Jr. could start making his name nationally known.
Place any of these teams fourth, you won’t hear an argument from me. Place any of them sixth, it’ll be hard to argue still. Heck, put UCLA third if you want; 62-33 is a compelling case. Any could win their division if a few things break their way.
Washington is the most confusing team in the league and probably one of the most confusing teams in the country. Kalen DeBoer wins everywhere he goes. The defense got better in the spring and has legitimate NFL Draft-caliber pieces. The offense has an unsettled quarterback spot where the guy the new coaching staff brought in and has prior experience working with might not be the best man for the job. It’s also worth noting UW gets to play Colorado, Arizona, and Arizona State from the south while avoiding Utah and USC.
I’ve put Arizona in the aggressively average spot. The Wildcats will be one of the most improved teams in football just based on what they were last season. Maybe that doesn’t lead to a significant uptick in wins, but they’re on the right path.
The bottom is the bottom. The difference between the bottom two groups is pretty marginal.
Common-sense changes coming
The American Football Coaches Association, according to a report from ESPN, is set to propose a pair of transfer windows to try and fix what has quickly become an exercise in madness—roster management.
The first of the two windows would fall between the final weekend of the regular season and the Early Signing Period. The other would happen from April 15 to May 1. Both would take place during recruiting contact periods. The transfer portal, as currently constructed, has no calendar. The only date worth knowing is May 1, a deadline that players have to notify their current school of their intention to transfer prior to in order to be immediately eligible for that fall season.
AFCA executive director Todd Berry told ESPN that coaches had already proposed transfer windows before the portal was instituted. Those proposals were ignored.
Arizona head coach Jedd Fisch spoke to ESPN as well, offering his support for the concept.
“There are two legitimate windows: after the season and after spring [practice],” Fisch told ESPN. “To assume that they can make a decision after just a season, you’re assuming that recruiting isn’t going to play a role. You have to see who did they sign, what did the recruiting class look like and then spring ball, who came early. ‘I thought I was the second back but I’m really the fourth back.’ Who left early?
“You have to give them that opportunity.”
It seems likely the 25-man cap for annual recruiting classes is going to be eliminated soon. This window concept is a logical next step as college football tries to reckon with the portal.
There’s no reason for this proposal to be ignored again.
Some shade from Pittsburgh
Pat Narduzzi is unafraid to speak his mind. He’s unafraid to do so in public settings or to members of the media. It’s admirable. It’s good for the sport.
And things clearly did not end well on the Jordan Addison front as far as the Pitt head coach is concerned.
In speaking at a charity event recently, Narduzzi was asked about Kedon Slovis, the transfer quarterback Pitt took from USC, and not about Jordan Addison, the transfer wideout USC might take from Pitt. His answer wasn’t loaded at all.
“He (Slovis) wasn’t looking for a payday. He was looking for the right place to be, with a great culture,” Narduzzi said, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “He’s a guy who actually went into the portal the real way, the right way. He had a lot of opportunities with name, image, and likeness, but I think he was looking for the right fit. He was looking for the right personnel. We had a lot returning on offense.”
It gets tricky when you start suggesting the player you acquired did things “the right way” because it looks like you’re also saying the player you lost did things the wrong way.
It gets even trickier when a coach starts deciding what is or isn’t the right reason for a player to transfer. Prior to the NIL market opening for student-athletes, transferring because you might lose playing time was a big no-no among coaches.
Narduzzi has every right to be angry with USC. Raise hell. Make it uncomfortable for the NCAA, the entity that created this entire mess of a situation.
But it’s a slippery slope to start publicly shaming players for looking out for themselves. If Jordan Addison wants to make money, congratulations to Jordan Addison for being like every other person on the planet.
Except, of course, Narduzzi. He’s famously not about the money. He’s all about loyalty. Hopefully, someone else doesn’t come along who values loyalty more highly. Addison might have some shade of his own to throw.