A GRIP ON SPORTS • The Pac-12 revealed its third edition of the 2020 football schedule Saturday morning on the networks’ pregame shows. Then the reaction to the schedules filled up the columns of West Coast newspapers and websites the rest of the day. As one could expect, the responses were mixed.
• Whether one was happy or, well, not so happy, was determined by the quality of the school’s crossover opponent. It’s that simple.
Everyone knew their school would be playing the other five members of their division – South vs. South; North vs. North – so the only suspense lay in the crossover opponent.
In the end, the conference office – read, Larry Scott and his minions – must have decided it was best to try to preserve the conference’s hope of having a college football playoff participant instead of matching the best teams in the regular season. How else would you explain the three best teams in each division crossing over the face the least-regarded teams in the other one?
Well, Jon Wilner, as is his wont, has another explanation, but let’s ignore it this morning. The idea of a well-thought-out plan to help USC or Oregon or Utah or Washington or Arizona State or California finish 6-0 heading into the conference title game is much more appealing.
To me too. Except, then I realize “well-thought-out” probably invalidates that premise. How much of that has emanated from the conference office in the past decade?
Anyhow, the Cougars were put into the have-not category (as usual) and were assigned USC. In Los Angeles. On a Friday night the week after the Apple Cup.
Their state partner? The Huskies are playing Arizona, the unanimous preseason choice for conference cellar-dweller, in Seattle. At home. The week before the Apple Cup. (By the way, WSU travels to Stanford that same Saturday, meaning the will have to prepare for a rivalry game on a short week after being on the road.)
Maybe we are putting too much thought into all this. After all, if college football (and the NFL this week) has taught us anything this season, it’s taught games will be affected by the coronavirus. The Pac-12 has a six-game plan jammed into six weeks (and then a seventh week for the title game and another set of to-be-determined crossover games).
How likely is that to happen? The conference is counting on daily testing to ensure it does. And yet the NFL, with all its resources and the ability to access the same sort of regimen, has to deal with postponements. The virus has shown it’s pretty potent in a non-bubble scenario. The NBA and WNBA did bubbles and basically sailed through their seasons with few issues. Baseball and football decided the bubble concept was too difficult and have paid a price.
So wasting brain cells and precious seconds arguing about whether the conference office hosed Arizona State and Oregon State seems like a waste. It probably won’t matter anyway.
• Not sure many people watched, but a filly won the third leg of the Triple Crown yesterday. The last time it happened? It was 2007, when Rags to Riches won the Belmont, only the third filly to win that grueling test.
Saturday it was Swiss Skydiver holding off Kentucky Derby winner Authentic down the stretch. And it happened in Baltimore. At the Preakness. Yep, 2020 is being weird again.
How weird? The winning time of 1 minute, 53.28 seconds is the second-fastest Preakness ever, just .28 of a second off Secretariat’s time in 1973. Maybe such a thing was to be expected, however, as the three-year-olds running Saturday had another four months to grow what with the races out of order and held in the fall.
Still, the stretch duel was as good as horse racing gets. And was an exciting finish to an anti-climactic Triple Crown season.
• We have another horse racing story to pass along today, but this one is locally based. Our Ryan Collingwood profiles Myuddermamasisapaint, a local horse that lost its mother right after its birth. The horse’s life is the subject of breeder Tim Floyd’s new book, “Baby Haynes: A True Story About Adoption and Unconditional Love.”
WSU: Every beat writer in the conference has a story on the football schedule and our Theo Lawson is no different. He highlights the ups and downs of the Pac-12’s third edition of its football matchups. … Around the Pac-12 and college sports, the Washington Huskies drew Arizona for their crossover game and Christian Caple found that the least interesting part of the latest schedule. … Oregon has two Friday night games. The Ducks are not alone in that regard. … Oregon State seems fine opening at home against the Cougars. The Beavers are hoping to have a mini-repeat of 2000. … California and Stanford really only care about The Big Game. … No matter what the schedule looks like, Colorado is just happy to be playing again. … The same can be said for Utah, which probably would have liked to seen fans in the stands. … Funny, UCLA opens against a former coach’s new team. Then it gets tough. … The best matchup of the first week? That would be Arizona State at USC at 9 a.m. It might decide the South. If not, USC seems to have it easy. … No matter who Arizona plays, the Wildcats’ defense will be missing some key elements.
Gonzaga: We wrote about this earlier in the week, but there seems to be even more of a need to get the word out. So Jim Meehan has a story on the Bulldogs’ season-ticket holders, fundraising and the next season.
EWU: Almost every championship season includes an ugly win or two. Eastern had its experience with that against Northern Arizona in 2010. Ryan delves into that in this week’s edition of his look-back at the FCS title year.
Seahawks: One might think leading the Hawks to a win over the Miami Dolphins wouldn’t do much to burnish Russell Wilson’s MVP credentials, but I would disagree. At least today. Wilson will have to be at his best, what with the Hawk defense running on three cylinders due to injuries. Besides, a loss to the woeful Dolphins, even in Miami, wouldn’t sit well with voters in a few months after the underlying circumstances fade. … Brian Schottenheimer deserves some credit this season. … The NFL really lowered the hammer on Trysten Hill. Not. … Ryan Neal is in a key spot. Who would of thought that would happen three weeks ago? Not Neal.
Sounders: Seattle dominated Vancouver in the second half last night, with only a blown call keeping the Sounders from a shutout. No matter. They picked up three points with a 3-1 win.
Storm: Seattle’s one-game lead in the WNBA Finals was built on defense and a strong inside presence.
• Everyone always asks what your favorite sights are in the fall, but few inquire about favorite sounds. That’s because the changing of the colors and the falling leaves have always had better PR. But there is an underrated noise I look forward to this time of year. The honking of the geese as they head south. I am aware not everyone gets to experience this aural event – we are in the middle of a busy flyway – but every morning this time of year it is something special around here. At times it’s loud enough to wake the dead, or the dead-adjacent, like me. Of course, it also happens in the spring and this sun-loving son of a gun looks forward to that with even greater anticipation. Still, if fall’s soundtrack has to include something, the bleats from flocks of geese are hard to beat. Until later …