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This Week In The Pac-12: Shabazz Skates, Football Frustrates, Basketball Elates?

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Your refuge from Tedford Talk Twenty Twelve! If you're a Cal basketball fan, it's been a pretty good week for the Bears and for the conference. If you're a Cal football fan, I condone any and all expressions of extreme grief and frustration.

Hey Ben, do the glasses make me look innocent?
Hey Ben, do the glasses make me look innocent?
Stephen Dunn

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?

"He was insistent that, 'My girlfriend is investigating him and he's dirty' and … 'I can guarantee you that he's not going to play.'

"He talked specifically about taking money. That's what he kept saying: 'Abby knows it' and 'They're dirty and they were taking money and she's going to get them.'"

I'm conflicted here. On one hand, I'm generally skeptical of the NCAA and how they do things. On the other hand, we have a player who has essentially admitted to accepting an impermissible benefit (because his family has agreed to pay the money back) and his punishment was to miss three games after the Times said that, according to NCAA rules, he would need to miss 10. On one hand, it's fun to see the NCAA with egg on their face for botching things in such a weird manner. On the other hand, the investigator's significant other's babbling doesn't change the fact that he, ya know, did it.

Anyway, UCLA now has Shabazz and all of the baggage that he brings with him now. It'll be interesting to see if UCLA fans think he's worth it in the end.

This Week In Pac-12 Football

There is a strong possibility that UCLA and Stanford will play for a shot at the Rose Bowl. Hyperbole fails me when I need it most.

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.

Addicted To Quack places blame on Chip Kelly for Oregon's shock loss:

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!

Conquest Chronicles has buyer's remorse:

We all had Kiffin's back last season. It doesn't matter if he over achieved or if the team over achieved. We saw the problems then, but the team was winning and was making some noise. On the other side we all saw the problems with Monte Kiffin from the very first game. The defense has always been so-so, even when it was dumbed down. When some fans complain that the loss of one player (Wiley) as the reason for this seasons woes then it is clear you can't see the forest through the trees.

Kiffin has lost a lot of that goodwill with his off the field antics this season.

But I found this bit interesting:

It is easy to see why Haden won't get rid of Kiffin.

Who would take the job?

Very few head coaches could come in and save next years recruiting class and if Haden fired Kiffin that would send a bad message. Top coaches are not coming here under those circumstances.

Should Pat Haden fire or retain Lane Kiffin?

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.