Let's open the week by talking about what some goals of new Pac 10 commisioner Larry Scott ought to be. We expect him to shake things up a bit in order to create more revenue opportunities for the league.
Initially, expect Mr. Scott to attempt to restructure the Pac 10 bowl alignments. The league is currently being courted by the Alamo Bowl for it's second place team, significantly impacting its present agreement with the Holiday Bowl. Should such an arrangement reach fruition, the Pac 10's long-term relationship with the Sun Bowl would likely end.
The conference is also exploring the possibility of playing a game in New York City against either an ACC or Big East opponent. Possible locations for the New York game could include Yankee Stadium or the new football facility being built in the Meadowlands for the Jets and Giants. While on the surface this sounds interesting, how many west coast fans are going to travel to New York during the holidays? On the other hand, how many wanted to go to Las Vegas on Christmas Day to play in a second-rate facility? NYC wouldn't make much sense for me if I lived on the West Coast; however i would buy a ticket from Chicago to NYC to see the Huskies play.
Once again, this is all driven by the lure of additional television revenue, with a possible Pac 10 bowl lineup of the Rose, Alamo, Holiday, Big Apple (NYC), Emerald, and Poinsettia.
Expansion is also back on the table, with Colorado and Utah being the only logical schools on the target list. The Pac 10 wants to expand its TV market, but why discuss expansion now? Simply, the next round of television contracts are coming up and it appears the Pac 10 will follow the lead of the Big Ten and build its own cable network. Expanding membership increases the league's value and TV sets that would subscribe to such an option. By adding Utah and Colorado, the league thus controls the Rocky Mountains, on top of the west coast, and adding more weight to negotiations with the networks.
By expanding to twelve teams, the league would split into two divisions. However, but don't look for simply North/South alignments. Ideally, splitting the rivals up in order to avoid isolating the Northwest from California. Here is my proposal of how it could look:
Division A: USC, Stanford, Arizona State, Oregon State, Washington State, Utah
Division B: UCLA, California, Arizona, Oregon, Washington, Colorado
Each school would play their division plus two from the other division, as well as their their natural geographic rival. This allows all schools a balanced, eight game conference schedule plus non-conference opponents each year.
Considering the question of a championship game, and specifically where to play it merits examination of other BCS conferences. Others have been utilizing the non-rotation route. The Pac 10, however, is more geographically isolated, so look for the league to pick a permanent location where the weather is good, ruling out the Northwest, and putting the game in either Los Angeles or Phoenix.
Another point of discussion is playing an annual game in Asia, with Japan probably being the primary target. The NFL has been playing international preseason games, and travel does take a toll. Therefore, if the Pac Ten does go to Asia, look for it to be a season opener with an NCAA exemption to play the game in late August. Therefore, no matter where the calendar falls so each team is certain of a bye-week after the event.
On the basketball front, it's a safe bet we would all love the league to move its basketball tournament out of LA and rotate it regionally. I think it would be a lot better attended if it was In Seattle, Portland, Oakland, LA, and Phoenix on a rotating basis. There isn't much interest at this point to do so, considering FOX Sports basically controls the tournament, financially. The money is on the TV, not in the stands.
This Coming Week
The Huskies will practice every day this week with the exception of next Sunday. Look for Sarkisian's staff to try to get some kids healthy and start game-planning for LSU. Competition at most of the positions will continue, though the team had their final scrimmage on Saturday.
Position battles to watch are highlighted by the competition at wide receiver and running back. D'Andre Goodwin, Jermaine Kearse, Anthony Boyles, and Cody Bruns have some catching up to do. Goodwin and Kearse have little worry, but Boyles, and Bruns need to make an impression this week to get back into the rotation mix.
Though we haven't heard much about Willie Griffin in the newspapers, he is having a solid camp. He picks up tough yards, holds on to the ball and he is the best blocker in the bunch; if you can block well, you'll find playing time in any team's offense.
Desmond Trufant is going to be in pads this week and expect the coaches to give him as many reps as possible. The coaches are really high on the freshman from Tacoma; there is a rumor floating that he may be the Huskies' best cornerback heading into the season.
Greg Walker and David Batts are battling for the starting job at safety opposite Nate Williams. Walker has the edge because he was here this spring and knows what Coach Holt expects as far as communication goes. Batts on the other hand has better size and is extremely talented in his own right. Jason Wells has been slowed by an achilles strain and Alvin Logan who has great potential is still learning the position and coming back from a knee injury. both the aforementioned will contribute this season but are not in the mix to be starters for the opener.
Coverage on special teams needs to improve over the final two weeks. They think the punting, place kicking, and return units are progressing nicely but the coverage isn't where they need it to be.
Our friend Bob Condotta is a lot more bullish on Arizona than I am. I just happened to pick UW over Arizona and UCLA in my standings prediction for 2009. His colleague Bud Withers of the Seattle Times is on his own personal skywriters tour of the Pac 10 and he writes about how Arizona thinks they should be on the upswing but are picked to only finish 8th in the conference.
Quote of the Week
"The Oregon Ducks are the college football version of Paris Hilton...they're famous for no reason, they look pretty, and they got a rich daddy." - ESPN's Kirk Herbstreit