*** The Pac-12 Hotline newsletter is published twice a week. (Sign up here for a free subscription.) This edition, from Jan. 13, has been made available in archived form.
As it usually does, the national championship game sparked a barrage of projections for the following season, in the form of early top-25 rankings for the fall of 2021.
Despite all the guesswork involved, the way-too-early rankings are not wholly irrelevant.
They influence the steady stream of top-25 projections that surface in the college football media ecosystem throughout the winter and spring.
Those rankings, in turn, help inform the AP and Coaches preseason polls in August, which have a clear impact on the in-season rankings — even those produced by the playoff selection committee.
With that context in mind, we examined the placement of Pac-12 teams in a series of early top-25 rankings published this week …
In the ESPN rankings, written by Mark Schlabach:
In The Sporting News rankings, written by Bill Bender:
In the CBS Sports rankings, written by Dennis Dodd:
In the Stadium rankings, written by Brett McMurphy:
20. Arizona State
In the 247sports rankings, compiled by Sam Hellman:
12. (tie) USC
20. Arizona State
23. (tie) Washington
In The Athletic rankings, written by Stewart Mandel:
25. Arizona State
And finally …
In the Hotline’s rankings, which we published before dawn on Tuesday:
17. Arizona State
The projections are notable, above all, for the lack of a top-10 entry — for the skeptical view of the Pac-12’s ability to produce a dominant team … a playoff contender.
(More of the same, in other words.)
That said, the number of returning starters, the modest impact of NFL Draft defections and the marquee early-season games (UCLA vs. LSU, Oregon at Ohio State, Washington at Michigan) provide ample opportunity for the Pac-12 to generate at least one playoff contender.
While the preseason AP and Coaches top-25 polls won’t be identical to the early projections, the treatment of Pac-12 teams in the rankings listed above provide a framework for what we should expect come August. — Jon Wilner
We took a week off from publishing the newsletter, but not from coverage of the Pac-12. A sampling of the content …
• Combine the conference’s fading competitive position nationally with the looming media rights negotiations, and you get the most important season in Pac-12 history. That’s right: 2021 will set the trajectory for decades to come.
• Our mid-December breakdown of Arizona’s coaching search led to a column published last week in which we ranked the Pac-12 coaching jobs using tradition, recruiting base, budget and institutional support as the framework.
• Speaking of Arizona … The early returns are encouraging for fans hoping that Jedd Fisch will turn the program around. That and more was addressed in the ‘Saturday Night Five‘ column.
• Our latest Pac-12 basketball power ratings focus on Washington’s unprecedented two-year collapse. The Huskies lost just three league games in 2019; this season, they will be fortunate to win three.
• Department of Full Disclosure: My final AP football ballot, latest AP basketball ballot and Heisman Trophy votes.
• Repeating from above: The Hotline’s ridiculously early top-25 for the 2021 season was published Tuesday morning. Several title contenders will start quarterbacks from the west coast, except none of them play in the Pac-12.
• The final AP top-25 poll of the season featured just one Pac-12 team, USC. While easily explained by the disrupted season, the AP poll speaks to a broader trend that won’t easily be reversed.
• Previous editions of the newsletter are available in archived form
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Jan. 18: NFL Draft early-entry deadline
Jan. 30: Senior Bowl
Feb. 3: National Signing Day
March 14: Selection Sunday
April 29 – May 1: NFL Draft
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• The College Football Hall of Fame’s class of 2021 includes two former Pac-12 players: USC quarterback Carson Palmer and Arizona State cornerback David Fulcher.
• Utah has started the process of replacing Ty Jordan, who died last month of an accidental gunshot wound. The Utes landed tailback T.J. Pledger, formerly of Oklahoma, from the transfer portal.
• We knew Stanford was scheduled to play Kansas State next season. We didn’t know (until today) that it’s the 2021 edition of the Allstate Kickoff Classic at Jerry World (i.e., AT&T Stadium).
• Colorado defensive coordinator Tyson Summers, a holdover from the Mel Tucker era, has been let go by second-year coach Karl Dorrell, who presumably wants his own playcaller.
• Oregon State coach Jonathan Smith loves making use of the transfer portal.
• Washington State secured a significant transfer in former Tennessee quarterback Jarrett Guarantano, whose diverse skill set should suit Nick Rolovich’s system
• Also in Pullman: Max Borghi is coming back for 2021.
• Across the state, Washington added to its quarterback depth with the arrival of Colorado State transfer Patrick O’Brien
• Arizona coach Jedd Fisch may have found his next linebackers coach … in Ann Arbor.
• USC coach Clay Helton sees his program “trending upward,” according to a lengthy Q&A published late last week by the L.A. Times. Agree or disagree? (Actually, don’t bother. We know the answer.)
• Cal has received more good news than bad as players ponder whether to leave school or return for the 2021 season.
• Pac-12 Networks analyst Yogi Roth joined ‘The Bald Face Truth’ radio host John Canzano to chat about Pac-12 football. “I don’t think the conference or a team in the conference is that far off from going to compete against a Clemson, or a Notre Dame or Ohio State.”
• Important news out of Salt Lake City, where Utah now expects a $35 million budget hit for the current fiscal year. That’s a significant downward revision for the Utes, who were expecting a $50+ million loss if no football had been played. The athletic department is seeking a loan, either through central campus or the Pac-12, to cover the shortfall. “We’re sorting through that with our financial team and the conference’s financial team, but the number should be in that $35 million range,” athletic director Mark Harlan told the Tribune. “It may be a little more or less than that as we calculate it.”
• The cadence of the NCAA tournament could change this March because of COVID, with games on Mondays and Tuesdays. CBS Sports columnist Matt Norlander recently laid out his well-informed vision for the three-week event. “As for the game schedule on a day-to-day basis, that’s going to be fascinating and I think it’s going to make for the best viewing experience in tournament history … Because there are only six venues this year instead of eight, I think tip times and TV networks will go with a non-stop rolling schedule of games, with at least two and as many as four being played simultaneously from the early afternoon all the way past 11 p.m ET.”
• McKinley Wright has yet to play in the NCAA tournament. The Colorado senior is dead set on ending the drought.
• The season-ending injury to Arizona guard Jemarl Baker is forcing a lineup change in Tucson.
• Oregon has hit pause because of COVID issues and won’t host the Arizona schools this weekend.
• UCLA keeps finding ways to win to win close games. As a result, the Bruins are alone in first place.
• Speaking of close calls: USC survived an upset bid by UC Riverside last night.
• Trojans freshman Evan Mobley is the CBS Sports national freshman of the week after leading USC to a sweep in Arizona.
• The latest ESPN bracketology includes five Pac-12 teams, but one, Stanford, is on the bubble.
• The NCAA has indefinitely postponed the groundbreaking vote on name, image and likeness (NIL) legislation next week at the 2021 convention. The reason: Federal involvement, via the Department of Justice and Congress. Said one NIL expert, to the Associated Press: “It’s enough to feel as if there’s something bigger at play, so it does make sense to react with equal weight to the types of challenges that are being tossed at the NCAA right now.”
What’s coming on the Pac-12 Hotline:
• The weekly stock report is scheduled for Thursday morning, with the widest range of topics we’ve addressed in months.
• Also Thursday: We’ll take an early look at the 2021 Heisman Trophy race, but with a strong Pac-12 lean: Based on the structure of the electorate, what conditions are required for a serious candidate to emerge from the west coast?
• The ‘Saturday Night Five’ reaction column is scheduled for its usual window and — please note! — will be published each weekend through the basketball season, and possibly deep into the spring. SN5 is prime Hotline real estate for commentary and analysis, and rarely do we face a shortage of issues.
The next newsletter is scheduled for Tuesday. Enjoy it? Please forward this email to friends (sign up here). If you don’t, or have other feedback, let me know: [email protected]
Stock report: CU’s rising hoops profile, Utah’s budget update, Oregon’s coordinator search, Arizona on the brink and more
The Pac-12 placed one team in the final AP top-25 poll: What that says and why it matters
Tyson Summers out as CU Buffs defensive coordinator
Ridiculously early top 25 for next season: Alabama isn’t No. 1, plenty of Pac-12 representation … what the heck?
Best of the West College Football Top 25: Why CU Buffs will be a Pac-12 pest again in 2021
*** Follow me on Twitter: @WilnerHotline
*** Pac-12 Hotline is not endorsed or sponsored by the Pac-12 Conference, and the views expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the views of the Conference.
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