On Shabazz Muhammad
Two thoughts on the reinstatement of perhaps the top recruit in the country:
1. Ultimately this is a good thing for Cal and the Pac-12.
I talked about it last year, but the sad reality is that until another team (hopefully Cal!) steps up to take UCLA's mantle of representing Pac-12 basketball nationally, this conference needs UCLA to at least be a solid tournament team. Without Muhammad, UCLA might be on the bubble. With him I have no doubt they'll get a single digit seed, maybe even a high seed. These are the types of teams Cal needs to compete with and hopefully beat. And if you really hate UCLA, don't worry. He'll go pro in a year and maybe the NCAA will uncover something afterwards anyway!
2. He got off on a technicality.
It would be a pretty big coincidence if Muhammad got reinstated just 48 hours after the L.A. Times published a story alleging some serious breeches of conduct by an NCAA investigator. In one moment, his eligibility for perhaps the entire season hanging in limbo with nary an insight offered by the NCAA. Then all of a sudden, punishment over?
This Week In Pac-12 Football
Stanford 17, Oregon 14
So many things could have easily swung this game in Oregon's favor. D'Anthony Thomas making one more block. Oregon making a field goal. Stanford not getting the tying touchdown on review. But here's the main issue: Stanford is a really good team, and it's likely that they will continue to be a good team for the foreseeable future.
Why? Because after I openly wondered if he could make the necessary adjustments on offense, David Shaw made the necessary adjustments on offense. Because they have brought in four straight excellent recruiting classes. When they lost Gerhart some thought they'd decline. When they lost Luck we said the same thing. There's always the possibility that Stanford will drop off - certainly there weren't many Cal fans predicting what happened to Jeff Tedford in the 2nd half of his tenure - but for the next few years beating Stanford will take a really strong effort from Cal. Best we face up to the facts now.
What aren't disputable are statistics, and ESPN's Stats and Info said that Oregon gained only 29 yards on 15 carries outside the tackles. Yet in key situations, Kelly continued to try and work outside and with 50 seconds to go and a second and one at midfield, it cost Oregon dearly.
UCLA 38, USC 28
A game lost because Matt Barkley threw head scratching interceptions before separating his shoulder, prematurely completing what certainly has to be one of the more disastrous decisions to not go pro we've ever seen. USC's 513 yards of total offense to produce just 21 offensive points is the most Cal thing they've done in quite some time. The least Cal thing they've done lately? Not beat UCLA! ZING!
Washington 38, Colorado 3; Arizona State 46, Washington State 7
In one of the gamethreads I was idly wondering if this year's Colorado/Wazzu duo was worse than the 2008 UW/Wazzu duo that staged the infamous Crapple Cup. Obviously, neither team is winless like UW was in 2008, but in terms of margin of victory and general ineptitude they seem similar. As always in search of objective measures, I headed over to football outsiders to compare:
Colorado FEI rating, 2012: -.283 (122 of 124)
Washington State FEI rating, 2012: -.164 (92 of 124)
Washington FEI rating, 2008: -.256 (117 of 120)
Washington State FEI rating, 2008: -.308 (119 of 120)
2008 retains the crown! It's worth noting that 2008 Washington State has the worst FEI rating of any major conference team since the ratings were first calculated in 2007 . . . narrowly following by 2012 Colorado, 2008 Washington and 2009 Washington State. Pac-12 football: Catch the fever!
Next Week In Football
Does anybody care? Nine teams get to enjoy their rivalry week when they're supposed to, while two other teams get to stage a hugely important secondary rivalry game. Cal sits at home, stewing in the indignity of it all. Screw you, Pac-12. Everything can go to hell.
I guess, um, Go Bruins? I officially endorse your bastardization of our fight song for one four hour period this Saturday. Don't blow it.
This Week In Pac-12 Basketball
All in all, an excellent week for the most maligned major conference of 2011-12. Here are the Pac-12 teams that lost:
Oregon State, by 3 points to Alabama
Utah, by 2 points to Sacramento State
Stanford, by 8 points to Belmont
Washington, by 1 point to Albany
Washington, by 11 points to Ohio State
Washington State, by 2 points to Pepperdine
Three of those losses are to NCAA tournament quality teams and thus aren't bad losses. If UW, WSU and Utah had held on in tight game against Sac. St., Albany and Pepperdine it would have been a great week. But expecting anything positive from Utah is unwise, and we knew there would be hiccups.
No, the bad news is OK, because it was offset by the good news:
USC over Long Beach State
Oregon State over Purdue
Cal over Denver
Colorado over Baylor
Colorado over Murray State
Oregon over Vanderbilt
Washington over Seton Hall
Look at that! Actual wins against actual good teams! (OK, Denver and LBSU might be a stretch, but road wins and USC wins shouldn't be overlooked.) Heck, Baylor is actually ranked!
The conference is still a ways away from the heydays of 2008 and 2009, but teams are winning tough games and dropping fewer easy games - two issues that plagued pretty much everybody last year. 5 or 6 teams have already started picking up wins that make for excellent NCAA resume building blocks. Can they keep it going?
Next Week In Basketball
UCLA vs. Georgetown
Long Beach St. at Arizona
Kansas at Washington State
Jacksonville State vs. Oregon
USC vs. Illinois
Cornell at Arizona State
USC vs. Chaminade or Texas (TBA)
UCLA vs. Indiana or Georgia (TBA)
Washington State vs. St. Louis or Texas A&M (TBA)
Utah vs. Idaho
UCLA (Legends Classic TBA)
USC (Maui Invitational TBA)
Stanford vs. Missouri
Cal vs. Drake
Arizona State vs. Arkansas
Utah vs. Central Michigan
Oregon vs. UNLV
Cal vs. Rice or Georgia Tech (TBA)
Stanford vs. UNI or Louisville
Arizona State vs. Creighton or Wisconsin
Cal (DirecTV Classic TBA)
Stanford (Battle 4 Atlantic TBA)
Colorado State at Washington
Wright State at Utah
Arkansas Pine Bluff at Washington State
Montana State at Oregon State
Air Force at Colorado
Cal Poly at UCLA
San Diego State at UCLA
Yikes, that took forever to compile, and I probably missed some random tournament game that's TBA. I'm not even going to bother with game times, you're all capable of checking out the Pac-12 ESPN scoreboard. 29 games. It's huge just in terms of volume. But man, heavy hitters all over the place. This is probably the most important week of the season for the entire conference til March. Indiana, Louisville, Wisconsin, Missouri, Kansas, Georgetown, Texas . . . I could keep going. And that's ignoring some of the solid under-the-radar possibilities like St. Louis or Drexel.
Honestly, it could be a blood bath. As annoying as it is that Cal has been relegated to a 2nd level tournament while Stanford is playing Missouri and (possibly) Louisville, would I want to trade places?
If you're bored during the turkey break but you wisely decide that football is a sport best left til 2013 you'll have wall-to-wall basketball action on the Pac-12 Network and all over ESPN.