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Weekly 6 Pac: Existential Threats

Pac-12 contemplates its future while baseball and softball excel

San Diego State v New Mexico Photo by Sam Wasson/Getty Images

1. The long-term health of the Pac-12 has been a hot topic for at least the last decade. Pete Thamel of ESPN dived into the current challenges facing the conference. The summary is a good read, even if Thamel skews quite negative on most of the major questions, including the TV deal, possible expansion, and teams leaving the conference. I’m ambivalent about the rumored flirtations with SMU and SDSU. Neither school elevates the conference in their current state, but both have the foundation and geography to become more nationally relevant and competitive. The Pac-12 isn’t going to steal teams for the Big 10 or SEC at present. It could identify the next Utah or TCU who could develop into a revenue driver over time. As for the media rights, it seems less and less likely the the Pac-12 will compete with the Big 10 or SEC and will have to position itself no worse than the Big 12 and ACC while trying to develop its marketability. Does expansion make sense more generally? It’s hard to answer that question without direct knowledge of what has been said at the media rights bargaining table.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 16 SMU at TCU Photo by Andrew Dieb/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

2. Oklahoma has been a fixture at the top of the NCAA softball rankings lately, but the Sooners have wobbled slightly in the early season without Jocelyn Alo. In their place, UCLA has emerged as a viable alternative at the top of the polls. The Bruins improved to 12-0 over the weekend by beating #6 Florida State, #8 Virginia Tech, #15 Auburn, and a plucky Louisiana squad who forced UCLA into a seventh-inning comeback. Mark your calendars, because UCLA takes on those very same Sooners this Sunday.

3. Keeping things in Pasadena, the Bruins men’s basketball team extended its win streak to six straight by sweeping the NoCal schools. The wins elevated the Bruins to #3 in the country in the Coaches Poll. There were questions about the Bruins’ offense earlier in the season, but Mick Cronin has answered them by clamping down even harder on defense. The Bruins are up to 2nd in the country in KenPom’s defensive efficiency, which buoys their #3 national rating in overall efficiency.

4. Stanford opened the season as the favorite in Pac-12 baseball and the #3 team in the country. They opened the season over the weekend with a series against Cal St. Fullerton. The Titans shocked the Cardinal with an 8-1 drubbing on opening day. Stanford bounced back with a pair of wins (including a 21-13 football score on Sunday) to win the series. Notable Titans Kevin Costner and Gwen Stefani are probably partying on the set of Yellowstone.

Paramount+ - VIP dinner - London Photo by Suzan Moore/PA Images via Getty Images

5. Eric Bieniemy has been a hot name in coaching searches for the last few years. He distinguished himself as the offensive coordinator for the electric Chiefs teams. A Super Bowl winning coordinator can usually punch his ticket to a head coaching job, but Bieniemy had no such luck. Critics pointed to the fact that Andy Reid retained play-calling responsibility. Bieniemy was even connected to the Colorado coaching job that eventually went to Deion Sanders (ever heard of him?). Ralphie Report looks at the road the former Buff has taken to his new job as OC- and play caller- for the Washington Commanders.

6. Oregon men’s and women’s basketball collapsed against the Washington schools over the weekend. We already covered the games here, but it’s always fun to relish failures in Eugene. ATQ looks at how badly off the rails the seasons have gone for two teams that entered 2023 with high hopes.