Pac-12: Shakeup could give BYU a better bowl opponent
By Kurt Kragthorpe
The Salt Lake TribuneFirst published Nov 19 2013 03:44PM
Stanford’s upset of Oregon likely knocked the Ducks out of the national championship chase. In turn, Stanford’s loss to USC will have a big effect on the Pac-12’s postseason picture, which also gives Utah’s upset of Stanford greater impact.
And it all should converge to provide BYU with a slightly better opponent in the Fight Hunger Bowl.
Here’s why: With two losses, Stanford now is unlikely to give the Pac-12 a second team in BCS games. Oregon is the clear favorite to win the North division title and the conference championship to earn a Rose Bowl bid. From there, the other six bowls affiliated with the Pac-12 will pick their teams. There already are seven qualifiers for those six slots, with Washington State and Utah — and technically Colorado — also positioned to become eligible.
The Fight Hunger Bowl has the No. 6 selection (counting the Rose Bowl), and having only one BCS team from the Pac-12 would move down everybody else in the order. So there’s not much chance of BYU facing a 6-6 team in San Francisco. The winner of Saturday’s Oregon State-Washington game is a good possibility.
Utah State also could land a matchup with a Pac-12 team. The Mountain West and the Pac-12 are paired in the Las Vegas and New Mexico Bowls, and the MW-affiliated Poinsettia Bowl will need a fill-in opponent, with designated opponent Army failing to qualify.
Stanford’s sore subject
Stanford’s David Shaw is the most engaging, helpful coach in the conference judging by the responses to questions during the Pac-12’s weekly media teleconference. But Shaw is like any coach when it comes to second-guessing.
Asked what went wrong for Stanford’s offense inside the 20-yard line in a 20-17 loss to USC, Shaw said, "When play-calls work, then we’re smart. When play-calls don’t work, then we’re dumb."
The Cardinal reached at least the USC 12 on three drives that ended with a field goal, a blocked field-goal attempt and an interception. Last month, Utah stopped Stanford on third-and-2 and fourth-and-2 plays from the Ute 6 as Kevin Hogan’s passes fell incomplete.
Stanford ranks sixth in the Pac-12 in red-zone scoring (32 of 37), but it has produced only 20 touchdowns on those trips.
The education of Ed Orgeron
USC interim coach Ed Orgeron may not be retained permanently, but he hardly could have delivered a better audition to this point. The Trojans have won all five conference games while losing only at Notre Dame since he took over for Lane Kiffin.
Orgeron once went 10-26 in three seasons as Mississippi’s coach. Explaining what he learned from that experience, he said, "I was coaching the team as a defensive line coach would. That’s probably not the best thing for a wide receiver or a quarterback, I would imagine."
Orgeron has taken a different approach with the Trojans, creating a more relaxed atmosphere.
Cougars out of the doghouse
After his offensive linemen allowed six sacks in a 49-6 loss at Utah last November, Washington State coach Mike Leach made each of them — and his defensive linemen — come to the tiny visitors’ interview room at Rice-Eccles Stadium and field questions. He also spoke pointedly about their lack of effort and toughness.
Life is better now. The Cougars have given up 22 sacks in 10 games, but that’s reasonable, considering they’ve attempted 577 passes.
The line is "much improved," Leach said. "Just a year older, a more cohesive unit. They’ve played considerably better."
WSU center Elliott Bosch, a former walk-on, is "one of the greatest overachievers I’ve ever coached," Leach said.