Michigan moves to No. 2, Florida State returns to field in new top 25

The fifth and penultimate edition of the College Football Playoff Rankings was released Tuesday night with a bit of a shakeup coming to the top four. By virtue of a head-to-head win last Saturday in “The Game,” it is Michigan that has taken over the No. 2 spot from Ohio State with Washington moving up to No. 3 and Florida State returning to the top four.

As such, with Georgia maintaining its stranglehold on the No. 1 spot, the four remaining undefeated Power Five programs are currently slated to play in the CFP should they win their respective conference championship games this weekend.

The Buckeyes did not fall far as they now sit at No. 6; however, Ohio State does not have an opportunity to play itself into the playoff field, while the teams surrounding it — No. 5 Oregon, No. 7 Texas and No. 8 Alabama — all compete in league title games this weekend. No program outside of those top eight has a chance at the playoff.

Unlike 2021, when Cincinnati opened at No. 6 in the CFP Rankings and eventually became the first Group of Five team to reach the playoff, the highest-ranked Group of Five program Tuesday is Tulane at No. 22 with Liberty the only other such team ranked at No. 24. That will not create a scenario in which the Green Wave or Flames can advance to the playoff, but in an expanded 12-team field set to be introduced in 2024, Tulane would be in pole position to earn a bid as the highest-ranked potential Group of Five champion.

The most uneventful season in the CFP era — at least at the top of college football — has finally had a change among the top eight. It happened because two of last week’s top eight played each other. Michigan knocked off Ohio State, and the CFP Selection Committee dropped the Buckeyes to No. 6.

We have two more matchups of top eight teams in conference championship games this weekend, so something will have to give.

Do not get too worked up over where teams are right now. The CFP Rankings are not a poll. There are no conference champions yet, and the committee has a preference for conference champions in the playoff. That said, it is not intended to be strictly a tournament of champions. That is more of a tiebreaker, per se.

Another factor that the committee takes to heart is head-to-head results, especially involving one-loss teams. We have seen Texas ahead of Alabama all season in part because of the Longhorns’ win in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. It’s also the best win any team has this season, and that will still be true on Sunday. The committee has been consistent all season with the relative placement of those teams. Alabama beating Georgia, should that happen, is unlikely to change that.

One more thing to keep in mind is that the committee does not care about the history of these programs or their conferences in this event. Their job is to evaluate these teams based on what they have done this season. That’s it.

Fans care about Georgia’s 29-game winning streak and back-to-back championships, but the committee does not. The committee does not have any desire, or lack thereof, to put a team in from the SEC just because the SEC is always represented.

The only sure thing about the CFP this season is that the Pac-12 champion will get in. I cannot come up with a scenario where the winner of that game misses out.

Beavers elevate defensive coordinator to replace Jonathan Smith

Oregon State is promoting defensive coordinator Trent Bray to head coach to replace Jonathan Smith, the program announced Tuesday. Bray, 41, has been with the Beavers since 2018, serving first as linebackers coach and as defensive coordinator for the past two and a half seasons.

“I’m excited to be able to announce Trent as our next head coach,” Oregon State athletic director Scott Barnes said in a statement. “After interviewing several qualified candidates, we realized our top choice, Trent, has already been a mainstay at the Valley Football Center and Reser Stadium. He’s been a part of Beaver Nation for a long time and love for this place is real. The connection and trust he has built with our student athletes is unmatched. His energy and determination as head coach will be a catalyst for continued program success.”

Bray played linebacker for the Beavers from 2002-05. The Pullman, Washington native began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Arizona State in 2008. He previously worked on the Oregon State staff from 2012 to 2014, then made a stop at Nebraska from 2015-17 before landing back at his alma mater when Smith got the job in 2018. Smith left for Michigan State after leading the Beavers to an 8-4 regular season.

“I’d like to thank Scott Barnes and President Jayathi Murthy for this opportunity,” Bray said. “I’ve been a part of Oregon State for a long time, as a coach and a student-athlete, and know how special Beaver Nation is. I’m excited to lead an outstanding group of men our fans can be proud of.”

Under Bray’s guidance, Oregon State ranks No. 35 nationally in total defense and No. 14 in rushing defense following the 2023 regular season. During last season’s 10-3 campaign, the Beavers ranked No. 24 in total defense and No. 16 in scoring defense.

Uncertain times in Corvallis
Bray’s promotion comes at an uncertain time for the Oregon State athletic department as the Pac-12 splinters apart. Ten of the 12 current members are set to depart for either the ACC, Big 12, or Big Ten after this season. Amid realignment, Oregon State and Washington State are the two schools left behind in the Pac-12.

The Beavers and Cougars are in discussions with Mountain West schools about a scheduling arrangement for 2024. But the long-term financial future of both programs remains uncertain without a major television contract to support their athletic department budgets. Barring an unforeseen call from the Big 12 or another league, Oregon State has essentially been stripped of its power conference status for the time being.

Familiar face for an unprecedented scenario
Amid the uncertainty, Bray should be a calming presence. He was a first-team All Pac-12 performer at linebacker for the Beavers in 2005 and has served nine seasons on the program’s staff. He’s been instrumental in helping Oregon State post an 18-7 mark over the past two seasons and already has a relationship with the administrators who will be attempting to guide the athletic department through a tumultuous time.

Promoting from within should also help the Beavers with roster retention at a time when recruiting new talent will be harder than ever. Oregon State has established itself as one one of the most physical programs on the West Coast, and Bray’s defense has become a major part of that identity. In particular, Oregon State’s run defense has been elite. The Beavers held six opponents under 100 yards rushing this season.

2023 college football Championship Week spread picks, betting odds, trends: Top Vegas expert reveals picks

Games like the 2023 SEC Championship between No. 1 Georgia and No. 8 Alabama (4 p.m. ET, CBS) will steal the headlines heading into the Championship Week college football schedule, but there are some thrilling conference championship games below the Power 5 level as well. No. 22 Tulane will meet SMU in the American Athletic Championship on Saturday afternoon, with the Green Wave entering the game as a one-loss team. Their lone setback came against SEC foe Ole Miss in early September, but they have responded with a 10-game winning streak. They are 4-point favorites against SMU in the latest Week 14 college football odds from SportsLine consensus.

Troy will face Appalachian State in the Sun Belt Championship in the same time slot on Saturday, with the Trojans listed as 6.5-point favorites in the Championship Week college football spreads. Which teams should you back with your 2023 Championship Week college football bets? Before locking in any Championship Week college football picks, be sure to see the college football betting guide from legendary Vegas handicapper Bruce Marshall.

For years Vegas-based Marshall was synonymous with The Gold Sheet, the famed sports betting newsletter. With a background in play-by-play work and sports information while in college, Marshall joined TGS in 1981 when hired by the legendary Mort Olshan and served as executive editor for many years. He now supplies his unique and colorful brand of football and basketball analysis to SportsLine members.

An in-demand guest on numerous sports talk radio and TV shows across the country, Bruce’s vast array of editorial work has been featured in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the New York Post and many other outlets. He has won various handicapping titles and also is working on several book projects.

Now, using his Tech Corner technique, Marshall has turned his attention to the latest college football odds for Week 14 and evaluated each matchup. Head here to see every pick.

Top college football predictions for Championship Week
One of the top college football picks Marshall is recommending for Week 14: He is backing No. 2 Michigan (-23) to cover against No. 16 Iowa in the 2023 Big Ten Championship Game. That matchup is at 8 p.m. ET on Saturday in Indianapolis.

Iowa only faced one ranked opponent this season, getting exposed in a 31-0 loss to then-No. 7 Penn State in September. Michigan beat the Nittany Lions by nine points in mid-November, and the Wolverines are coming off a win over then-No. 2 Ohio State last week. They have won nine games in blowout fashion this season, and Iowa’s struggling offense will have trouble keeping pace.

The Hawkeyes have not scored more than 22 points in a game since the end of September, finishing with just 15 points against Illinois two weeks ago and 13 points against Nebraska last week. They have leaned heavily on their defense to keep games close, going Under the total in seven straight games. Marshall expects another low-scoring game from the Hawkeyes on Saturday night, taking Michigan to cover in a contest that goes Under (35.5). See which other picks to make here.

How to make college football picks for Championship Week
Marshall has evaluated every other matchup and he’s backing a team on a 17-7 roll against the spread. Get betting analysis for each matchup at SportsLine.

Jalen Milroe to No. 3 after leading Alabama to dramatic Iron Bowl win

We’ve reached the final QB Power Rankings of the 2023 college football regular season, and neither Caleb Williams nor Drake Maye are ranked in the top 10. I don’t know where I’d have set the odds on that being the case at the beginning of the season, but they wouldn’t be low. I doubt it will impact either’s NFL Draft stock (though I’m sure NFL talent evaluators use these rankings as a tie-breaker, seeing how they’re ultra-scientific).

Of course, per the rules of these rankings, neither is eligible to be ranked this week because they lost their most recent game, but it speaks to the level of quarterback play across the country that neither would be a lock to be included in the top 10 even if the rule didn’t exist. While I’m somewhat confident both would be in there, I don’t think either would be in the top half.

The QBs in the top five this week have been incredible all year. While the entire back half of the list are all newcomers, they’re not in those slots simply because players in last week’s ranking lost. They’re there because they played well, and that’s been the case most of the season.

I watch the NFL on Sundays and think about how the league has a serious QB problem. The rest of the week, I watch college and think QB play has never been higher across the country.

QB Power Rankings
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Jayden Daniels
It says a lot that Daniels can throw for 235 yards, rush for 120, finish with four touchdowns in a game against Texas A&M … and it feels like he had an off week. I don’t know if he will win the Heisman Trophy, and he’s certainly at a disadvantage of not having the final word with LSU not playing this week. But, statistically, nobody comes close to what he’s done this year. (Last Week: 1)
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Bo Nix
Many transfer stories don’t have fairytale endings, but both Jayden Daniels and Bo Nix are shining examples of the ones that do. Nix’s entire reputation has been restored at Oregon. He finished with 398 total yards and three touchdowns in a win over Oregon State to clinch a spot in the Pac-12 Championship Game, and if he leads the Ducks to a win against Washington on Friday, the Bo Nix Heisman meme may become reality. (2)
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Jalen Milroe
Sure, you can say that Jalen Milroe running past the line of scrimmage or whiffing on a snap were crucial mistakes, and that he was bailed out by a prayer. Or you could say that Jalen Milroe understands his strengths and weaknesses and knows he is much better at throwing the deep ball than the short slant! Whichever path you choose, you can’t deny it was an incredible ending. (5)
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Carson Beck
Beck’s final numbers against Georgia Tech weren’t great, and he threw an interception, but I’m not worried about it. Georgia played like a team trying to keep things as simple as possible the week before facing Alabama in the SEC Championship Game. It showed in the results. (3)
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Michael Penix Jr.
I love Penix, but he hasn’t been quite himself for a while now. He was completing 74.7% of his passes with 16 touchdowns and two interceptions through the first five games of the season. In the last seven, he has a completion rate of 59% with 19 touchdowns and six interceptions. He wasn’t great in The Apple Cup, and nearly through a couple of picks during the game-winning drive, but the Huskies did win. In the end, that matters a lot. (4)
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Noah Fifita
There’s nothing better than finishing the regular season by dancing on your rival’s grave, and that’s what Fifita and the Arizona Wildcats did this weekend. Fifita finished with 527 yards passing and five touchdowns as the Wildcats beat Arizona State 59-23. He will have Heisman buzz attached to his name to start 2024. (Not Ranked)
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Dillon Gabriel
Dillon has been in and out of the rankings all season long, and he’s back this week after finishing with 436 total yards and four touchdowns in a 69-45 win over TCU. It’ll be interesting to see what the future holds. Offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby has left for Mississippi State as the Sooners have former five-star recruit Jackson Arnold waiting in the wings. It won’t shock me to see Gabriel suiting up for somebody else next year. (NR)
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Taulia Tagovailoa
The Maryland QB threw for 361 yards and four touchdowns in a win over Rutgers, but honestly, I’m not ranking him because of the performance or because of his season. It’s that Tagovailoa became the Big Ten’s all-time passing leader in the process, surpassing former Purdue QB Curtis Painter’s mark of 11,163 yards. Taulia will have one more game to add to his total. (NR)
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Jordan McCloud
The Football Gods are just when the NCAA is not. It’s excellent news that the Dukes will get to go bowling this season, even if it took a minor miracle to get them there instead of common sense. That means a larger audience will have the chance to check out Jordan McCloud, who has been fantastic all year. He finished the regular season with six touchdowns in a 56-14 win over Coastal Carolina. (NR)
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Levi Williams
Here’s a quick recap of Levi Williams’ week. The third-string QB, Williams was thrown into duty for Utah State following an injury to Cooper Legas, and he led the Aggies to a 44-41 win over New Mexico to reach bowl eligibility. Williams finished the game with 198 yards passing, 153 rushing and five total touchdowns. And you know what he did after the game? He left the team to join the Navy SEALS. You think I’m not going to rank him after that? (NR)

Tracker, analysis, grades on coach changes, 2023-24 firings and hirings

Substantive coaching changes are part of the annual college football offseason cycle. With the early signing period becoming pivotal, athletic directors have pushed forward their timelines, not just when it comes to hiring coaches but firing them as well. Despite that, it took 11 weeks into the 2023 season for an FBS coach to be fired for their on-field performance, the latest that has happened in recent memory.

Michigan State acted quickly to find its successor to Mel Tucker by hiring Jonathan Smith away from Oregon State after Smith’s success at his alma mater. Smith is taking over a Spartans program that needs a massive overhaul after a disappointing 4-8 season. Texas A&M hired Duke’s Mike Elko to replace Jimbo Fisher on Monday. Elko has intimate knowledge of the Aggies program after spending four seasons as Fisher’s defensive coordinator from 2018-21. Mississippi State hired Oklahoma offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby on Sunday to replace Zach Arnett.

Again, this process is just getting started. Here’s a look at the coaching carousel as it continues to spin. Grades will eventually be added once coaches begin to fill these vacancies.

Proven model backs Florida State, Iowa

No. 8 Alabama can create chaos for the College Football Playoff committee if it can take down No. 1 Georgia in the SEC title game on Saturday afternoon (4 p.m. ET, CBS). The playoff picture has come into view heading into the Championship Week college football schedule, but several upsets this weekend could shake things up. Georgia is a 6-point favorite in the latest Championship Week college football odds from SportsLine consensus. The Bulldogs have won an SEC record 29 games, with their last loss coming against Alabama in the 2021 SEC Championship.

Another game with playoff implications features No. 4 Florida State (-2.5) vs. No. 14 Louisville in the ACC Championship on Saturday night. Is that a game that you should consider targeting with your Week 14 college football bets? Before locking in any Championship Week college football picks on those games or others, be sure to see the latest college football predictions from SportsLine’s proven model.

The SportsLine Projection Model simulates every FBS college football game 10,000 times. Since its inception, it has generated a strong profit of well over $2,000 for $100 players on its top-rated college football picks against the spread. It finished the 2023 regular season a profitable 13-9 on top-rated spread picks. Anyone who has followed it has seen huge returns.

Now, it has turned its attention to the latest college football odds for Championship Week and locked in picks for every FBS matchup. Head here to see every pick.

Top college football predictions for Championship Week
One of the college football picks the model is high on during Championship Week: No. 4 Florida State (-2.5) remains unbeaten with a convincing win over No. 14 Louisville in the ACC Championship on Saturday night (8 p.m. ET). The Seminoles are going to be without starting quarterback Jordan Travis (leg) for the second straight game, but they were able to pick up a critical road win at Florida without him last week. Backup quarterback Tate Rodemaker has avoided costly mistakes so far this season, passing for 510 yards, five touchdowns and zero interceptions.

The Seminoles will rely heavily on their rushing attack and defense to control Saturday night’s game, especially after running back Trey Benson rushed for 95 yards and three touchdowns against the Gators. He now has 868 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns this season, averaging a whopping 6.2 yards per carry. SportsLine’s model expects him to have another big game against Louisville, which is why Florida State is covering in nearly 60% of simulations.

Another prediction: No. 16 Iowa (+23) easily stays within the spread against No. 2 Michigan in the Big Ten title game on Saturday in an 8 p.m. ET kickoff. The Hawkeyes stayed within two touchdowns the last time these teams met, holding Michigan to 27 points last October. They are giving up just 12.2 points per game this season, allowing them to win seven of their last eight games.

Iowa thrives as an underdog due to its elite defense, covering the spread in four of its last five games in that role. Meanwhile, Michigan has only covered twice in its last four outings this season, with both failed covers coming as a heavy favorite. SportsLine’s model expects the Wolverines to struggle in that role again on Saturday night, as Iowa is covering in over 60% of simulations. See which other teams the model likes here.

How to make college football picks for Championship Week
The model has also made the call on who wins and covers in every other FBS matchup in Week 14, and it’s calling for several teams to win by double digits. You can only get every pick for every game at SportsLine.

 Stellar football season brings glory to ‘Conference of Champions’ amid tragic demise

Each Friday night this season, Ted Robinson pulled out a bottle of Jameson whiskey. The Pac-12 Network play-by-play veteran didn’t want his crew — wherever they may have been gathered for a game that week — to forget what was being left behind.

They did shots together on those Fridays because the next day would bring their occupational existences to an end as the conference moved one step closer to its expiration.

“This year,” Robinson told CBS Sports, “was going to be an Irish wake for us.”

Irish wakes are a centuries-old tradition of honoring the deceased with one last party in their honor. Robinson merely added a realignment twist. A once-glorious conference was dying and deserved a proper memorial.

No. 5 Oregon and No. 3 Washington meet Friday night in what will be the final Pac-12 Championship Game. Scattered to the four winds will be 108 years of tradition. The league started in 1915 with a consolidation of four West Coast schools: Cal, Washington, Oregon and Oregon Agricultural College (now Oregon State).

It ends with all the sadness and mourning any wake would imply — along with that shot of whiskey.

“You go to an Irish wake and no one is crying and no one is maudlin,” Robinson explained. “Everybody is telling stories, trying their best to smile while remembering the departed. You try to remember good things about them. And yeah, you have a little drink with it, too.”

Some deaths are expected. In this case, it has been 18 months since news broke of USC and UCLA intending to join the Big Ten. For some, those 1 ½ years have only slightly numbed the initial pain. In fact, the end has come in a series of atomic-level shockwaves.

There was a year-long quest to land a new, lucrative television deal in efforts to salvage the conference. Those efforts failed. Colorado’s decision to leave for the Big 12 then caused a domino effect. When Oregon and Washington announced they, too, would be joining the Big Ten alongside USC and UCLA in 2024, that gave Arizona, Arizona State and Utah cause to join Colorado in the Big 12.

The inevitable Irish wake had begun.

The official end comes July 1, 2024, at the end of the academic year. More importantly, that date also marks the expiration of the league’s current TV contract. But there is some sort of unofficial finality this week with the league’s biggest revenue sport (football) going out with a combination of glory and tragedy.

Glory in that this was arguably the Pac-12’s best football season. Tragedy in that it didn’t also have to be the Pac-12’s final season.

“It just doesn’t seem natural does it?” said Tom Hansen, the league’s commissioner from 1983-2009.

This account isn’t meant to be a recounting of grievances. If nothing else, this is for the rank and file who will soon be looking for jobs. League presidents reportedly approved a retention plan in September to make sure events were properly staffed for the media partners at the Pac-12 Networks, ESPN and Fox.

We already know the Pac-12 could have been saved. It collapsed because of a cascading chain of failures over the years.

These are the Pac-12’s last days. This is meant to be a dignified wake. The Jameson is optional.

NCAA Football: Pac-12 Media Day
The Pac-12 failed to secure a conference-saving TV deal under the direction of commissioner George Kliavkoff. USATSI
Cal and Stanford will soon be playing in the ACC, a conference centered around Tobacco Road. The Big Ten Network will be doing a feature on “Big Ten Legend: Pete Carroll.” (Don’t laugh; shortly after scooping up Nebraska, Tom Osborne’s Big Eight/12 accomplishments were co-opted for similar Big Ten legend status.) There are no immediate plans to keep playing the rivalry game between Oregon and Oregon State.

While the Huskies and Ducks face off in the last Pac-12 Championship Game, irony is not lost. Those two could possibly be facing off next year in their first Big Ten Championship Game.

Yogi Roth, author/documentarian/former athlete and Pac-12 Networks analyst, is going down fighting for his league. A few years ago, then-commissioner Larry Scott asked him to help present the Pac-12’s case to the College Football Playoff Selection Committee during the season. George Kliavkoff kept Roth on the same duty when he took over to present alongside executive associate commissioner Merton Hanks.

“Probably the greatest honor of my career,” Roth said. “I can’t think of another analyst who does this.”

They’d get on the phone fighting the good fight with detailed numbers and in-person observations. The Pac-12 has gone seven years without a CFP berth. Regardless of what happens this week, that will go down forever as the longest drought of any Power Five league in the four-team era — but not without that good fight.

Roth grew up in northeastern Pennsylvania, played at Pittsburgh and got his West Coast awakening from teammate Brennan Carroll, Pete Carroll’s son. Roth soon found himself being invited to work USC camps in the offseason. Carroll offered Roth a job while he completed his master’s degree.

“I was with Lane and Sark,” Roth said, referring to then-offensive assistants Lane Kiffin and Steve Sarkisian. “They said, ‘Hey dude, this is going to be the coolest place in the country to learn offense.’ I basically spent four years sleeping in the office.

“I never called a play, but to sit in those rooms and then spend two years next to Lane Kiffin in the press box and then two years on the sidelines with Sark. That allowed me to see the game, allowed me to earn a job as analyst.”

In 2011, Roth co-authored Carroll’s book “Win Forever.” This is his 20th year in the Pac-10/12. Roth worked the last game on the Pac-12 Networks this past weekend as Notre Dame battled Stanford. Next time those schools meet, the game will be an ACC tilt.

“My kids will not grow up fans of the Big Ten or the Big 12 or the ACC. They’ll grow up fans of USC, UCLA or Stanford,” Roth said. “When we look back on this … history will say that’s not a good thing for college athletics, especially here on the West Coast.”

What would the dearly departed legends think of the dearly departed Pac-12? Forever legends such as Bill Walsh (Stanford), John Wooden (UCLA) and Pat Tillman (Arizona State)?

“They’d say, ‘What’s wrong with you people?’ ” Robinson said.

What about Don James? Might as well call him the West Coast Nick Saban for all the branches that have sprouted from his coaching tree. James, who died 11 years ago at the age of 80, won six conference titles in 18 seasons with Washington. That included a share of the 1991 national championship. That was also the last Huskies team, before this year’s squad, to start 12-0.

James was among a handful of icons, along with Wooden, who may have been able to save the league by sheer force of nature.

“If Don James was alive, he could have talked them into not doing it,” said Jim Walden, Washington State’s coach from 1978-1986.

For weeks now on his Sirius XM radio show, CBS Sports college football analyst and former UCLA quarterback Rick Neuheisel has been playing disco queen Donna Summer’s “Last Dance” as the league’s walk-off music.

Neuheisel is as Pac-12 as they come. The Arizona native was headed to Princeton until former UCLA coach Terry Donahue challenged his football manhood.

“I was a walk-on,” Neuheisel recalled. “Terry Donahue called me … literally, I think I had to leave for Princeton training camp in a week or so. He said, ‘Look forward to having you here at UCLA.’ “

Neuheisel reminded the legendary coach he hadn’t heard from him in weeks and assumed there was no interest.

“I guess that’s probably a good move [to Princeton] if you don’t think you could play at this level,” Neuheisel recalled Donahue saying.

Properly confronted, the quarterback was in his car and showed up the next week for the beginning of UCLA camp. Neuheisel led the Bruins to the 1983 Pac-12 championship and a Rose Bowl win over Illinois.

“It’s the Holy Grail,” Neuheisel said of the Rose Bowl. “I argue … it should be the absolute national championship site every year. You wish you could follow the yellow brick road to Oz. It’s Oz. It’s the Emerald City. It’s the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen on New Year’s Day. To pull up and see that Rose Bowl stadium and say, ‘I’m at the pinnacle of college football.’ “

Not so much anymore. The sunset over the San Gabriel Mountains on Jan. 1 won’t go away. However, the one-time traditional postseason home for the Pac-12 and Big Ten champions will now merely be in the rotation for games in the expanded 12-team College Football Playoff. There are no plans for the Rose Bowl to host the championship game.

Marc Dellins developed a special relationship with UCLA’s legendary coach, first as a student sports editor of the Daily Bruin, then as the school’s venerable sports information director lovingly nicknamed “The Minister of Propaganda.” On the off day between the NCAA Tournament semifinal win over Louisville and Wooden’s last game against Kentucky for the 1975 national championship, Wooden agreed to meet Dellins in his hotel room for an exclusive.

“For a half hour it was John Wooden and some piss-ant junior editor for the school paper sitting in his hotel room,” Dellins remembered. “Let’s just say I was sitting with a guy who won nine championships in 11 years, and I’m a junior in college and he’s taking time for me. I thought that was pretty special.”

Dellins remained close to Wooden until the legendary coach’s death in 2010. Earlier that year, Dellins felt compelled to call Wooden because of rumblings about his death.

“Coach, you don’t know how happy I am to hear your voice …,” Dellins said when Wooden answered. “There was a rumor you had passed away. He said, ‘Not yet, but soon.'”

Memories like that won’t go away, but they will exist in an alternate conference universe. The Pat Tillman Defensive Player of the Year award will go away along with the league that awarded it. Tillman gave his all for Arizona State and his life for the country.

Where do all those Pac-12 statistics and milestones go? In the internet age, some of them will be preserved, but certainly not all. There currently are no plans to do a final Pac-12 record book. What, then, becomes of nuggets like this? There are two players who have scored 61 points in a game in the conference’s basketball history. UCLA’s Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) is obvious, but what about the other? Arizona State’s Eddie House in 2000.

Some of the accomplishments have already been memorialized, burned into our collective memories. UCLA won those 10 basketball national championships under Wooden. In football, USC is tied with Miami for the fourth-longest winning streak in history (34 games, 2003-05).

The Pac-12 also has nurtured and grown women’s sports. It has been a developmental incubator for our Olympic teams. There were years when the medals won by Pac-12 athletes alone would be greater than some countries. Officials have worried that Olympic foundation may crumble with schools playing in other leagues.

The weather, the coaching, the excellence of Olympic training all defined the “Conference of Champions.” How many know that Mack Robinson finished second to Jesse Owens in the 200 meters at the epic 1936 Summer Olympics? The continuing irony: If Owens (Ohio State) and Robinson (who would enroll at Oregon) came along today, they’d be in the same conference.

Mack was the brother of MLB legend Jackie Robinson — a four-sport letter winner at UCLA, among his other legendary accomplishments.

“My first class at UCLA was with Jackie Joyner,” Neuheisel said. “English class. I didn’t know she was going to be Jackie Joyner. She said she was from St. Louis, and I told her I was from Arizona. I sat right next to her the whole year. Next thing I know she’s got more gold medals than anybody.”

The icon eventually known as Jackie Joyner-Kersee went on to win three Olympic golds and gain a reputation as perhaps the best female athlete in history.

What used to be the old Pacific Coast Conference was formed with the four schools mentioned above at the Imperial Hotel in Portland, Oregon, more than a century ago. This time next year, those four originals will be playing in the ACC, Big Ten and who knows where in the case of Oregon State?

In 1958, the PCC broke up amid disagreements over “athletic policy and academics.” Five of the schools created something called the Athletic Association of Western Universities (AAWU). That was made up of Stanford, USC, UCLA, Washington and Cal.

“We knew what it could be. And we knew what it ended up being.”
UCLA coach Chip Kelly
It wasn’t until 1968 the league dropped the cumbersome AAWU label and expanded to become the Pac-8. Arizona and Arizona State were added in 1978 to become the Pac-10. Utah and Colorado helped finalize the Pac-12 in 2011.

Serendipity works. Former Cal chancellor Glenn Seaborg, a key figure in the formation of the new conference in 1958, had won the Nobel Prize for chemistry in 1951. He was born in … Michigan, a state that now profits from the Pac-12’s breakup.

The league’s development is, at least tangentially, attached to atomic research. Seaborg was among a team of scientists who invented plutonium.

In 1958, Seaborg reportedly spoke to Notre Dame president Fr. Ted Hesburgh about membership in a West Coast conference … at a United Nations conference in Geneva, Switzerland, regarding nuclear weapons! One newspaper reported there was talk back then of a nationwide conference that included the Irish, Penn State, Pittsburgh, Syracuse and Army, Navy and Air Force.

And you thought modern realignment was crazy?

The Pac-12 always had a certain dignity to it. Stanford, Cal, USC and UCLA and others at least tried to balance academics and athletics. Maybe that was its undoing — not caring enough about football.

Or maybe there was no saving it considering the direction in which college athletics is headed. Saturday’s MVP in the Big 12 Championship Game will be presented a title belt by a WWE superstar. Arizona will soon be playing in Orlando, Florida, against UCF. Colorado coach Deion Sanders might as well be the de facto president of the university.

Coach Prime wanted more access to talent in Texas and Florida, so migration back to the Big 12 made sense. Never mind that CU went to the Pac-12 a decade ago because of its deep roots in Southern California.

In recent years, the whacky Bill Walton became the league’s biggest cheerleader. The former UCLA basketball star is still known for his late-night ruminations on ESPN telecasts wearing tye-dyed Grateful Dead t-shirts.

“There is a lot to what Walton said,” Walden said. ‘This is the Conference of Champions, and you just ruined it.’ “

The knock on the league during this CFP drought is that it was almost too competitive. It wasn’t surprising to see everyone in the league with two losses before Nov. 1 in recent years. The Pac-12 was out of the national championship picture before Veteran’s Day. That led to a talent drain as recruits headed East because there wasn’t that playoff access.

This year has been different, however. In mid-September, eight teams were ranked in the AP Top 25. USC’s Caleb Williams went through half the season as a favorite to repeat as Heisman Trophy winner. Less than a week before the 2023 Heisman finalists are announced, Oregon’s Bo Nix may be running neck-and-neck with Washington’s Michael Penix, Jr. for the most coveted individual prize in the sport

This has been the best and most fascinating year. Pac-12 quarterbacks rule the Earth once again. There are two national coach of the year candidates: Washington’s Kalen DeBoer and Oregon’s Dan Lanning. That’s not including Arizona’s Jedd Fisch, who could very well be Pac-12 coach of the year.

“Melancholy’s not what I’m thinking about right now,” UCLA coach Chip Kelly, who also coached at Oregon, told reporters after his final Pac-12 game, a 33-7 loss to Cal on Saturday. “I’d like to wax eloquent about the demise of the Pac-12, but that’s not on my mind right now.

“We knew what it could be. And we knew what it ended up being.”

Ex-Razorbacks coach tasked with immediate rebuild

Bobby Petrino will return to Arkansas as the program’s offensive coordinator, the school announced. Petrino coached the Razorbacks from 2008-11 and spent the 2023 season as offensive coordinator at Texas A&M after a few years at Missouri State.

Petrino went 34-17 in his career with the Razorbacks, finishing the 2011 season No. 5 in the final AP Top 25 poll, with two BCS bowl bids. His career at Arkansas came to a screeching halt in April 2012 when he was let go amid accusations of an inappropriate relationship with a female staffer.

Arkansas fired OC Dan Enos in November with the Hogs failing to find consistency and keep quarterback KJ Jefferson upright during his tenure. As it so happens, Jefferson is expected to enter the transfer portal. Kenny Guiton took over on an interim basis over the final four games. The Razorbacks finished the year 2-2 with blowout losses to Auburn and Missouri.

Personnel changes of all sorts are expected this time of year, so getting ahead of the transfer portal window is a priority for the Razorbacks.

“Obviously with the kids that we have that are committed, you want to be right, but you also want to be as fast as you possibly can,” coach Sam Pittman said this week. “You’d like to get some guys in here maybe Tuesday and Wednesday so they can talk to the kids before we need to go out on the road. I don’t know if that’s possible or not, but obviously we’ve been in conversations with several different people.”

Arkansas athletic director Hunter Yurachek announced on November 19 that Pittman will return in 2024 despite the 4-8 record.

“This has not been the season any of us anticipated,” he said. “We have work to do. I am confident that together, we can meet the goals and expectations of our program. I want to thank the many Razorbacks fans who have supported our team this season.”

Petrino spent last season on Jimbo Fisher’s staff at Texas A&M. The Aggies struggled offensively, finishing the regular season at just 403.8 yards per game and 5.89 yards per play. However, they were also riddled with injuries including the loss of their top two quarterbacks — Conner Weigman and Max Johnson.

Petrino’s unceremonious exit
Petrino followed longtime coach Houston Nutt, whose tenure ended in a spiral, in 2008. Petrino shook off a 5-7 debut in 2008 and made a bowl in Year 2. Things took off from there. Arkansas won 10 games in 2010 and followed that with a top-five finish in the AP poll in 2011 — their highest in 30 years.

But in April 2012 came Petrino’s infamous motorcycle accident. Arkansas released a statement that no other individuals were involved, a sentiment that Petrino echoed on an April 3 press conference; however, he was placed on administrative leave on April 5. The next day, Arkansas State Police confirmed that Jessica Dorrell, a former Arkansas volleyball player who was hired as the football program’s student athlete development coordinator, was on the motorcycle with Petrino at the time of the crash.

Petrino released a statement admitting to an adulterous relationship with Dorrell. He was fired with cause on April 10.

“He made the decision, a conscious decision, to mislead the public on Tuesday, and in doing so negatively and adversely affected the reputation of the University of Arkansas and our football program,” Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long said at the time. “In short, coach Petrino engaged in a pattern of misleading and manipulative behavior designed to deceive me and members of the athletic staff, both before and after the motorcycle accident.”

Petrino was hired at Western Kentucky in 2012 and spent one season with the Hilltoppers before making his return to Louisville.

Arkansas QB KJ Jefferson to enter transfer portal as Bobby Petrino returns as offensive coordinator

Arkansas quarterback KJ Jefferson is expected to enter the transfer portal, according to 247Sports, just as the program brings back former Razorbacks coach Bobby Petrino as the team’s offensive coordinator. The three-year starter appears to be mulling his options following a disappointing 4-8 finish in 2023 in which he passed for a career-low 2,107 yards with eight picks. He has one year of eligibility remaining.

A potential meeting between Jefferson and Petrino was a highlight — however brief — of the former Razorbacks coach appearing on the cusp of returning to the program in a different role. Jefferson regressed under former offensive coordinator Dan Enos, but for his career Jefferson is a seasoned veteran with nearly 8,000 yards passing and 67 touchdowns. He would instantly become one of the more significant names at his position in the portal.

Petrino was Arkansas’ headman from 2008 until his controversial offseason firing ahead of the 2012 season. He guided the Razorbacks to a 34-17 mark, complete with two BCS Bowl bids and an AP Top 5 finish in 2011. Petrino returned to the SEC this season as the offensive coordinator at Texas A&M before coach Jimbo Fisher was fired.

Possible destinations for Jefferson
The transfer portal has reshaped the way programs go about roster building in college football, and a player with Jefferson’s experience should have no shortage of options. Multiple SEC schools appear to be in the market for a transfer quarterback: South Carolina, likely replacing starting quarterback Spencer Rattler in 2024 after a 5-7 season, is a potential destination, according to 247Sports.

Mississippi State could be another fit. The Bulldogs enter a new era under coach Jeff Lebby, who oversaw the Big 12’s top offense as Oklahoma’s offensive coordinator in 2023, and replace a mainstay in Will Rogers. It would be a homecoming for Jefferson, a Mississippi native. Auburn could also upgrade at quarterback after going a pedestrian 6-6 in coach Hugh Freeze’s first season, even after adding former Michigan State starter Payton Thorne via the transfer portal last offseason.

TCU is at least worth monitoring thanks to the immediate connection between Jefferson and Horned Frogs offensive coordinator Kendal Briles. The two paired at Arkansas with far better results for Jefferson. Though Chandler Morris and Josh Hoover are already in place at TCU, the Horned Frogs’ offense was inconsistent at best under Briles in 2023 as TCU stumbled to a 5-7 mark.

Where Arkansas goes next
This would be a difficult loss for Arkansas. Jefferson’s experience — and availability — are his biggest assets, as is his physical makeup. He leaves Petrino and Pittman without that type of presence at a time when the Razorbacks need to see immediate improvement.

Rising senior and former North Carolina transfer Jacolby Criswell was the backup in 2023 but only attempted 27 passes, completing 17 for 143 yards and three touchdowns. It would not be a surprise by any stretch if Arkansas taps into the transfer portal itself to find a more experienced passer — or a fit for Petrino — as more names begin to trickle in.