College Football’s Cindy Teams: Will The Glass Slipper Fit One Of These Six?

Who will make college football’s complicated system of polls more eyebrow-raising? Who will make pundits look ill-informed, cause unsuspecting fans to morph into surrender-cobras and create pandemonium on beautiful, fall Saturdays?

Ahh, the Cinderellas, aka Cindys, of college football. They can trip up a team or rip it to shreds when the final tick of the clock, well… tocks.

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Is it possible to predict which teams are the Cindys this year? Sure, anyone can predict, of course, but accuracy still counts.

There are at least six teams that are trending up and should outperform their (expected) preseason projections. Depending on how they finish, I am either spot on in my analysis or have enacted the Kiss of Death.

Let the glass slipper quest begin.

USC Trojans

Yep, they’re baaaaack. Could USC go all the way? Maybe, if the defense makes drastic improvements in all facets of defending an end zone. The fact that USC is even in the Cindy conversation is a bitter pill to swallow for fans of the legendary football program. But hope springs eternal.

Clay Helton (46-24, 2-3 in bowls) is out. Lincoln Riley (55-10, 3 CFB berths) is in. Quarterback Caleb Williams is a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate and his tosses to receiver Jordan Addison may look like giant beach balls. The defense has been porous and it still may be a year away from its former nasty self. But if SC can throw up 50+ points per game, the defense can camouflage its warts with a bend-don’t-break style and no one will care.

The USC Trojans are expected to rise up after the coaching change and there should be enough angst in the locker room to make up for the last 10 years. Big Ten bound, Arrogant Nation is back.

courtesy of USC Athletics

Wake Forest Demon Deacons

OK, I know, but hear me out here. The Demon Deacons went 11-3 last year. They have one of the most underrated quarterbacks in the country in Sam Hartman. They also have one of the top offensive lines in the ACC, according to Phil Steele.

The scheduling Gods were kind to Wake Forest. They play a non-conference game at Vanderbilt and get Virginia Military Institute and Liberty at home before hosting Clemson on September 24.

They avoid Miami and Pitt—if the Demon Deacons can split the Ws against Clemson and NC State, they’ve got a great shot at returning for a conference championship berth.

North Carolina State Wolfpack

The ACC Atlantic has three or four heavyweights contending for the division title. Beside Wake Forest, NC State is another up-and-comer. The Wolfpack have been sniffing at Clemson’s dominance for awhile but this may be the year they get to be top dog.

NC State has 17 returning starters—including all but one on defense— and that bodes well for a team that went 9-3 last season. Their schedule has a few speedbumps. Playing Texas Tech in week three is a tough out. A date at Clemson after hosting UConn is a potential let down. NC State ends its season with two road trips to Louisville and North Carolina.

It’s a championship schedule… if they want it to be.

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U.C.L.A. Bruins

A lot of folks are talking about Utah—and rightly so—but not so fast, my friend. U.C.L.A. has slowly improved to the point where every team on its schedule should take the Bruins more seriously.

Last year, quarterback Damian Thompson-Robinson (DTR) led the Bruins on some exceptional offensive drives. He minimized mental mistakes and took on more of a leadership role. DTR had a 62.2 completion percentage, threw for more than 2,400 yards and had a 21-6 TD-INT ratio. The Bruins’ defense will have to pick up the slack, though, if they want to be called elite.

Last year the Bruins were nationally ranked No. 70 in total defense, albeit they had a Top 25 rush defense. This year the Bruins face a pressing problem with their back seven. They lost their top backers and only return one starter in the secondary. Still, with the fresh air of Big Ten money under their paws, I think this is the year U.C.L.A. finally gets respect from the pollsters.

Miami (FL)

I have been a closet Hurricane fan forever. So yeah, my expectations have lowered a little—OK, a lot—over the past decade. That changed when Oregon Ducks head coach Mario Cristobal fled the cozy, green confines of Eugene and headed back to the expansive, pastel tropics of Miami. Cristobal’s staff is noteworthy and the recruiting has been pedal-to-the-medal. The ‘Canes currently have a Top 15 recruiting class.

One of Miami’s biggest reasons for mediocre football (beside coaching hires) has been quarterback play. Tyler Van Dyke will make fans forget about the last decade. He is the first Miami quarterback since Bernie Kosar to have three 325-plus passing yard games, according to Phil Steele.

Miami’s defense has always been a strength and this year’s defense will be experienced and nasty. Cristobal has banned the Turnover Chain, much to my dismay, but I still expect some sort of innovative reward for some excellent playmaking. Maybe an Orange Bowl berth?

courtesy of N. Fox Jewelers

South Carolina Gamecocks

While everyone fusses over the defending champion Georgia Bulldogs, South Carolina may derail Georgia’s “Repeat” in week three. Remember, Georgia opens the season in Atlanta against the Oregon Ducks. The Bulldogs travel to South Carolina two weeks later. Am I calling for an upset?

Yes, yes I am.

Oklahoma transfer quarterback Spencer Rattler will be under center. Solid and consistent quarterback play has been a missing piece of the Gamecocks’ offense since 2013 (Connor Shaw). Head coach Shane Beamer is an up-and-coming genius who has the defense and special teams humming—the offense is all that needs to be tweaked.

Everything is looking like the perfect (sand) storm.

Honorable mentions:

Tennessee (because, Tennessee… am I right Vol fans?)

Texas (the Longhorns will be listed here until they are officially “back”)

Baylor (I voted them No. 1 on my preseason Big XII poll as did the majority of Big XII media members so they aren’t sneaking up on anyone this year)

Kansas State (RB Deuce Vaughn is my dark horse Heisman contender but the Wildcats need more than a locomotive to get through that dark tunnel. The road schedule is: at OU, at ISU, at TCU, at Baylor and at WVU)

College Football: Week Zero (yes, that is a thing) Games and Predictions

Nobody knows nothin’.

You’ve heard that before but nowhere is that truer than in predicting winners and losers in the first week of college football.

It is a crap shoot. It is a forage into unknown waters. Go ahead, dip your toes in the water. Circling dorsal fins be damned, you still dive in.

Back in the day, college football’s opening week was a lot of cupcakes getting destroyed by a lot of heavyweights. Thankfully, we are starting to see more “interesting” matchups in week zero. Surrounded by fluffy, frosted cupcakes.

Back to the interesting games, though.

OK, not really. Most of the games stink. But it is college football and we are going to bask in all of its glory. And gore.

Naturally, there will be an upset. Or two.

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Who can forget Appalachian State’s epic upset of Michigan in 2007? After all, this is for what we, the college football fans, full of merriment and schadenfreude, live. Complete and utter chaos raining down on college football’s landscape.

May the team with the least amount of mistakes and SNAFUs win.

Nevada at New Mexico State

This one will be entertaining. But not for the reasons you think. Nevada has a total of six returning starters: two on offense, four on defense.

New Mexico State is breaking in a new coach (Jerry Kill of Minnesota fame) and its roster depth includes walk-ons. It only has two starters on its offense as well.

On paper, this looks like a low-scoring game or a high-scoring game, depending on which units show up to play. A true feast for the college football fan awaits. First team to 10 (or 50) points, wins.

Winner: Nevada

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Austin Peay at Western Kentucky

The Hilltoppers will have an inexperienced offense taking on Austin Peay, an FCS team. What does that mean?

Quarterback Bailey Zappe was the heart of Western Kentucky’s offense. Zappe (New England Patriots) and Offensive Coordinator Zach Kittley (Texas Tech) are both gone. While there are excellent reports on quarterback Austin Reed, this game will have a lot mistakes and mental errors.

Note: this 9:00 a.m. game will be competing against FOXSports’ 9:30 a.m. broadcast of Nebraska v Northwestern in Ireland.

Winner: Western Kentucky

Nebraska v Northwestern (Dublin, Ireland)

Nebraska fans should have their gastroenterologists on speed dial in case their ulcers flare up earlier than usual.

The Cornhuskers have only won two of their last five season openers. That statistic by itself is not much to chew on but it is a symptom of something more ominous—Nebraska has also not had a winning system since 2016.

Northwestern has won three of their last five season openers. Although Nebraska is a 12.5 point favorite, I’m calling for the Wildcat upset here.

Winner: Northwestern

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Idaho State at UNLV

UNLV should have this game under control by the third quarter. Idaho State is an FCS school and while there are some terrific FCS programs capable of pulling an upset every week, Idaho State is not at the elite level.

Winner: UNLV

UConn at Utah State

This is a very dangerous game for Jim Mora’s Utah State. The Aggies travel to Tuscaloosa to play Alabama the following week. Will Utah State be looking ahead? Count on it, especially when facing a team like UConn.

The Huskies have won four games in three years and the last time it beat a Power 5 team was in 2016 (Virginia). They have only beaten three Group of Five teams in that same time period. Can you spell T-R-A-P?

Utah State is favored by 27.5 points. The Aggies should win by that much but it is week one and anything can happen.

Winner: Utah State (?)

Wyoming at Illinois

Wyoming has eight returning starters, four on each side of the ball. True, we do not know much yet but we do know what a lot of opportunity for improvement means: rebuilding mode.

Illinois has 13 returning starters. Despite last year’s 5-7 season, the Fighting Illini pulled off three major upsets (Nebraska -7, Penn State -24 and Minnesota -14). Ilinois is a favorite (-11) and head coach Bret Bielema will have his guys ready.

Winner: Illinois

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Duquesne at Florida State

Remember when we could count on the Seminoles to annihilate its non-conference opponents? Now they are dependable as a wet book of matches.

Last year the Seminoles lost to FCS’s Jacksonville State 20-17. Ouch. The Seminoles struggled to beat Samford (not Stanford) in 2018 (36-26) and lost to Boise State (36-31) in 2019’s season opener.

Florida State has been playing flaky football for at least five years despite rosters riddled with elite players. This should be a blow out by the first half but do not be shocked if Duquesne is still hanging around in the third quarter.

Winner: Florida State

Charlotte at Florida Atlantic

In the last five years, the Owls have had two 11-win seasons. This program is capable and trending up. Head coach Willie Taggert has a lot of veterans returning (14!) and FAU has won its last three meetings with Charlotte.

But Charlotte tends to play up to the level of its opponents. Last year it lost to Duke by three points, Middle Tennessee State by three and Illinois by 10. The Owls are favored by 7.5 points and that sounds about right, especially since the 49ers have to travel to Boca Raton.

Winner: FAU

Florida A&M at North Carolina

This may be the perfect game for the Tar Heels to prove they belong in the Big Ten or SEC. The ACC may be relatively safe from conference expansion for now but things may become very unstable in a few years. Or next week.

Despite a reloaded offense with some unproven skill players, I expect North Carolina to keep this game out of reach from FAMU.

Winner: North Carolina

North Texas at UTEP

This game may be among the day’s most competitive match-ups. North Texas is favored by two points in this interstate rivalry. The battle should be tightly contested and an overtime thriller is a definite possibility. We can dream, can’t we?

The underdog is “5-2 with three straight upsets,” according to Phil Steele. UTEP for the mild upset?

UTEP for the mild upset.

Winner: UTEP

Courtesy of Getty Images/stockphoto

Vanderbilt at Hawaii

A non-stop, direct flight from Nashville to Honolulu is over eight hours. The typical flight from Nashville to Honolulu is more like 12-13 hours total flight time. Vandy is going to be exhausted on game day.

But we have a plot twist….

Hawai’i has only six starters returning and is playing in a temporary stadium that holds 9,000 butts in seats. It is also ushering in Timmy Chang, who is the career passing yards record-holder at Hawai’i but has no head coaching experience. And his first game is against an SEC team.

Vanderbilt is favored by six points and kickoff starts at 10:30 p.m. ET. Yikes.

Could there be too much distracting aloha for these Southern boys? Is Hawai’i in a total rebuild this year? Can both things be true?

Winner: Vanderbilt and Hawai’i for scheduling this game.

The Pac-12’s Media Day will be a Circus because of USC and UCLA’s Defections

It has been 13 days since USC and UCLA shocked the college football landscape with their defections to the Big Ten. The quickness and lethalness of their traitorous journey were discussed ubiquitously. It was a lesson in efficiency, secret-keeping and stupefaction.

Oklahoma and Texas’s conference expansion wrecking ball took an entire week before the carnage was done.

USC and UCLA—from their rumored exit from the Pac-12 to their admission to the Big Ten (effective 2024)—took….wait for it… one day.

The Pac-12 was blindsided from Jon Wilner’s June 30 article that reported USC and UCLA were planning to leave the Pac-12 for the Big Ten. Its teams were still trying to absorb that report when the merciful Big Ten put the Pac-12 out of its misery the next day.

One minute the Pac-12 was eating grilled salmon and drinking Pinot Noir. The next day it was eating crow and drinking Boost nutritional supplements.

The supposed ties between the West Coast, Arizona, Pacific Northwest and Mountain schools are ostensibly strained. Are partnerships on shaky ground?

Oregon is reportedly itching to go to the Big Ten but no mention is being made of its in-state rival, Oregon State. Washington has been rumored to be in the mix for the Big Ten admission as well, but Washington State is being left high and dry. At least USC took UCLA to the Big Ten, right?

Pac-12 Media Day, which will be held in Los Angeles on July 29, will be beyond awkward. It will be a three-ring circus. But not in a fun way.

Two schools attending Pac-12’s Media Day will be traitors. Soon-to-be very rich traitors. The rest are hopeful survivors of a treasonous pilgrimage.

Wanna bet most of the questions to the “other 10 coaches” will be about USC or UCLA? The Pac-12 should include antacid alongside the Pac-12-branded water bottles for the coaches at the podium. Radio row should include a safe space for those who cannot stand being the jilted lover.

This media day will be all about USC and UCLA. More than usual. It’s a biting indictment of how important those two schools are to the conference and how poorly the conference’s leadership has been in developing and maintaining revenue for its members.

The Pac-12 knows that this is its fault. If it does not, then the conference will dissolve due to its myopic vision.

Sure, on July 29 it will try to put lipstick on a pig. Barring any major announcements or deals, the only way that pig gets a second look is if it flies.

Beside the pending awkwardness of Pac-12 Media Day are the unanswered questions.

If you’re Commissioner George Kliavkoff, do you continue the Larry Scott tradition of starting off the morning with loud, blaring, mind-numbing music amidst a backdrop of flashy graphics and flexing athletes showing off all the national titles the Pac-12 won last year?

Or do you just play “Taps”?

Do you still provide a vegan-option lunch alternative or do you just hire an In-N-Out catering truck and call it a day?

courtesy of Liberty Baptist Church

Just what will Kliavkoff talk about?

He cannot ignore the elephant(s) in the room, can he?

One minute Washington State and Oregon State are thinking about contending for the North’s division title, the next they are contemplating winning the Mountain West in 2024.

Oregon thought its value was worthy of a Big Ten invite. It still may be. But time is ticking and the longer the wait, the less leverage Oregon has. If the Big Ten does come calling, do not dismiss the Ducks having to settle for a 50 percent revenue cut. While that’s still around $50 million, a lot of feathers are going to be ruffled.

The reality is that Oregon is nowhere near the powerhouses of USC and UCLA. Yes, even though Trojan and Bruin football has been dismal. Yes, even though Oregon blah, blah, blah.

Life is cruel.

Kliavkoff will try to put a good spin for the remaining Pac-12(10?) schools, but there are some things he cannot avoid. The Conference of Champions is losing two schools that won a combined 253 team titles. More from the NCAA:

“Forty-one of those championships are from the Trojans and Bruins track and field teams, with USC leading its crosstown rival 28-13.

To put that in perspective, the Big Ten has won 11 track and field championships from all of its programs combined. In men’s track and field, the Big Ten has won just one title in the last 73 years; USC and UCLA have combined for 24 championships. In women’s outdoor track and field, no Big Ten team has ever won a title; the Lady Trojans won two of the last five championships.”

The Conference of Champions has won 544 national titles. Last year the conference won titles in men and women’s water polo, snow skiing, women’s outdoor track and field, beach volleyball, men’s gymnastics, women’s basketball and men’s indoor track and field.

The Conference of Champions is a cool motto. Larry Scott embraced it. And forty years ago, when…you know…the Pac-12 was winning revenue-producing sports’ championships, the motto applied. Now, it sounds like it should belong on a cereal box.

Kliavkoff needs to stop celebrating the past and address the future. Do not add schools that are not elite. Join another Power 5 conference and become the first super conference. And while it is nice to celebrate national titles from sports other than football, at football media days, read the damn room.

Football is what makes the world go around.

In fact, among all NIL deals, 50 percent of college athlete earnings come from football, according to a SportsProMedia report. The better the athletes, the better the team, the better the NIL deals.

So yes, college football matters. To the players (ka-ching!), the conferences (Eureka!) and the fans (aka boosters). Also, Las Vegas sends its love.

But back to the three-ring circus.

Oddly, Stanford has been pretty quiet about this whole thing. Do the Cardinal even know what’s going on? Pity the reporter who asks Stanford head coach David Shaw about this.

Shaw is a complete professional—he is actually my favorite coach with whom to have lunch—but his look of disapproval or disdain is about as subtle as egg salad that has been left in the sun all day. Count on Shaw to be cranky at Media Day.

Shaw’s crankiness may be overshadowed by Colorado’s Karl “I came back for this crap?” Dorrell, Utah’s Kyle “we finally are picked to win the conference and this happens?” Whittingham and Washington State’s Jake “does anyone have Mike Leach’s phone number?” Dickert.

Dorrell is fairly soft spoken. He will be subdued but ornery. Whittingham was probably a drill sergeant in a former life so expect dust to be stirred up, mics to be stretched to the limit and steely eyes on every reporter who touches on the expansion talk.

Dickert, well, maybe he should just hit the bar instead. Cougar fans will always be waiting.

Overall, I do not expect much to change at Pac-12 Media Day in terms of production, scheduling, protocols or ambiance. It is predictable as death, taxes and the children’s menu at national chain restaurants.

The Pac-12’s Media Day has always taken a backseat to the SEC and Big Ten Media Days. Maybe it is because the SEC and Big Ten have Media Days and the Pac-12 has Media Day. That is how much importance the Pac-12 places on football.

One friggin day.

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This year SEC schools are not bringing two players to their Media Days. They are bringing three. The sessions last from Monday July 18-21.

Four days.

The Big XII will spread its Media Days over two days. So will the ACC and the Big Ten. They will all have each school represented by three players. The only Power 5 conference that brings two players?

The Pac-12.

Maybe that will change this year.

Maybe sports fans should google “Pac-12 Media Day” and see what comes up. The lack of information and articles are telling compared to the SEC and Big Ten Media Days. Go ahead, google it.

Does the Pac-12 really not have that much to talk about?

This year they do.

For all the wrong reasons.

USC and UCLA to the Big Ten: The Aftermath

The deal is done. The ink is dry. The Pac-12 has officially acknowledged that the Trojans and Bruins are going to the Big Ten in 2024. It’s like being a parent and watching your 18-year old child leave on a date with someone you clearly think is not in your child’s best interest.

“They can do better,” you try to convince yourself. But they really can’t.

USC and UCLA are leaving their Lincoln Navigator for a Bentley Continental GT. Leaving a $20 million dollar annual payout for a $100 million payout. Leaving half-empty stadiums for stadiums filled with 114,000 screaming fans. Instead of only being able to afford penny stocks, AMZN is now in their portfolios.

Forty-eight hours after the big news broke, the Pac-12 Networks was airing the 2004 Rose Bowl game between USC and Michigan. USC v Penn State followed. The chyron (news ticker) below the game displaying the conference’s statement on the two teams’ departure announcement was the elephant in the room.

In all likelihood, the conference’s flagship network failed to be proactive in television programming.

Failed to be proactive.

It’s an indictment of everything that is wrong in the Pac-12. The conference did not read the room while the SEC and Big Ten were expanding. It failed to protect its future and failed to implement its contingencies.

The conference was rife with poor officiating for a decade. #Pac12refs became a national punchline and Twitter trending hashtag. The Pac-12 made some overtures to fix the problem but no substantial changes could be seen on the field.

photo courtesy of sbnation

The Pac-12 conference is probably now in full-blown panic mode. Undoubtedly phone calls are being made, hands are being wrung, pearl necklaces are being clutched and safe spaces are being constructed in the halls of the Pac-12 offices.

Meanwhile, other Pac-12 members are probably freaking out.

While Oregon and Washington are the next best Pac-12 teams to be considered in a possible departure to another conference, no announcements have been made. While that may not be significant now—once Notre Dame decides its permanent place in college football the dominoes will fall—it will be decidedly concerning after the 2022 season ends.

I believe Stanford and Cal are a better “fit” in the Big Ten. They are traditional schools with high emphasis on education. The Bay Area’s TV market is consistently ranked in the Top 10. They have been consistent in their athletic programs’ branding and except for Stanford’s name change of Indians to Cardinal in 1981, they have very traditional athletic programs.

The Midwest fan is generally not impressed with shiny, new things and unfortunately for the Oregon Ducks, the national perception of Oregon football is just that. This isn’t a criticism. But read the room, Oregon.

The Ohio State University Buckeyes play football in “three yards and a cloud of dust.” They are damn proud of that. Oregon football, on the other hand, is known for innovative twists on run-read football, trick plays, neon-highlighter uniforms and a fan base that while can be quite vociferous, is also fickle.

The flashy electricity of its marketing department has attracted elite recruits. That’s a huge bonus. Oregon also excels in other sports such as Track and Field, Baseball and Basketball. Again, a definite plus.

But would Oregon and Washington’s membership be each worth $100 million a year to the Big Ten?

Seattle’s TV market is ranked No. 14 nationally. Portland’s is ranked No. 81. Moreover, the optics of those two cities may not appeal to the Midwest football fan. Videos of recent riots, surges in crime rates, increasing homelessness and open opioid drug use in the streets have been blasted across news channels for two years. While other cities are experiencing those exact same issues (Los Angeles, I’m looking at you), USC and UCLA will have no problem validating their $100 million payouts from the conference.

If Notre Dame decides to move to the Big Ten and the two Pacific Northwest teams are left without an invite, the Pac-12 would feel a little safer. But only for a New York minute. Unless the Pac-12 invites more schools to its conference, the fallout will be catastrophic. The Pacific Northwest teams cannot carry the conference.

A better option would be for the Pac-12 to join the Big 12 and form a super conference, perhaps even adding in the Mountain West. That could alleviate schools’ stability concerns and keep everyone at home.

For awhile.

A chain reaction is inevitable. The Big Ten and SEC will poach more teams—strike that, the best teams— and the demise of the ACC will probably occur sometime after its conference’s grant of rights expire in 2035-36.

Make no mistake, the Pac-12 is on life support right now. The Big 12 is heavily sedated despite adding four new schools to the mix next year. The ACC is in a bind.

Notre Dame’s contract with the ACC created an additional $80 million in revenue for the conference in 2020-21. The ACC will fight like hell to keep Notre Dame tied to its contract but the Fighting Irish can leverage their position to the breaking point, then skip on over to the Big Ten once it irons out its AAU accreditation.

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Notre Dame, despite being roundly criticized and mocked for maintaining its independent status in college football, is now an orchestra conductor. It raises its baton and on cue, everyone looks up and waits for their direction.

Notre Dame can write its own ticket to the dance. Everyone wants to date her. Everyone wants to keep her in their arms and promenade her around the dance floor. It’s good to be the Belle of the Ball.

The SEC wanted Oklahoma and Texas. The Big Ten wanted USC and UCLA. Which team is really the team that everyone wants now?

Clemson? Florida State? Miami? Oregon? Washington? Utah? Kansas?

It’s Notre Dame.

And we all are just witnesses, waiting to see who will get on their knees and propose to her.

Winners and Losers: USC and UCLA to the Big Ten

It’s official.

According to the Associated Press, the Big Ten voted to accept USC and UCLA into its conference starting in 2024.

So, barring any last minute shenanigans, the Bruins and Trojans are bailing on their feckless, drought-ridden conference and moving to greener pastures.


I’ve been screaming to the hills for over a year on how this needs to happen. Some suits in LA finally saw the light. But there are some heavy prices to pay. A Winners and Losers list, obviously, is warranted here.


Pac-12 fans who are vegans or diet conscious.

If the discriminating foodie in West LA is content noshing on sushi, Beyond Burgers and edamame, bring a sack lunch for those conference road trips. Stern-gating with salmon and chardonnay is out. Cheese curds in Wisconsin (hell yes) is in.

Travelling to Iowa will be a gastric delight: Pork, corn and yep, Scotcheroos are on the menu.

A road trip to the Hoosier state is not complete without corn and Sugar Dream pies. You’ve got Philly cheesesteaks and Shoo-fly pie in the great state of Pennsylvania—make sure you leave all your white tee shirts at home or you’ll blend in with the Penn State fans at a whiteout game.

A trip to the Big House is not complete without a chipati sandwich, Detroit-style pizza and Traverse City cherries! If you’re heading to The Shoe, Buckeye candy is in your future. But not before some Skyline chili.

Maryland has crab cakes to die for and New Jersey has chicken savoy, hot dogs and tomato pie. Finally, when in Chicago, no trip is complete without Chicago-style deep dish pizza, Italian Beef sandwiches, a Maxwell Street Polish or Portillo’s hot dog.

Me? I cannot wait to dig in to these treasures.

Fair-weather fans

OK, we Californians love bragging about 80-degree weather in November. Northwestern fans cannot wait for this experience until they find out just how much this experience will cost them! But back to this weather thing.

We really do not own any rain gear—we drive to CVS to buy an umbrella when we get caught in a downpour while our Mercedes Benz’s top is down . We don’t own coats—we wear sweatshirts with our favorite cannabis store’s logo on them. Anyhow, just a heads up for the average USC and UCLA fan: start shopping for some late-fall clothes now.

OUT: bikini tops, tank tops, Daisy Dukes, sundresses or flip flops.

IN: down coats, gloves, balaclavas (admit it, you don’t know what those are), flannel-lined jeans and a raincoat that is not made out of Saran wrap or a trash bag.

Pot heads

We are not sure of the current state laws but don’t count on a cannabis delivery service while staying at the Holiday Inn Express in Happy Valley.

Side note: weed is legal in Michigan, New Jersey and Illinois. All of a sudden that weekender to Rutgers is looking pretty good, isn’t it?

The fans who leave early to beat traffic

We get it. Unless the Trojans or Bruins are in a close game (which lately has been a thing), nobody stays until the last tic of the clock. The beach, mountains, desert, LA Live, The OC and freeway traffic await. Heck, it takes an hour just to get out of the parking lots. Unfortunately, popping out of your seat in the third or fourth quarter at the Big House, for example, is not advised.

These people are real football fans. The worse the weather elements, the better the Big Ten game. Remember people, Ohio State fans love three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust/mud/snow/sleet/ice/tornadoes/lightning/thunder.

Watching their team lose in a gut-wrenching manner is also part of the loyalty they show their teams. Some of their fans are literally famous for their reactions to a loss. It’s just best not to leave. Wallow in self-pity instead.

Rutgers and Illinois

The schedule just got a little tougher for those two teams. Sure, there’s always hope for a turnaround season but the last five years’ records of Rutgers (15-43) and Illinois (23-38) are not a good indicator.

Count on USC or UCLA to lose to one of them in the first season thereby inducing “Welcome to the Big Ten” signs.


USC and UCLA fans east of the Mississippi

The Pac-12 Networks are not available on satellite TV. Granted, more and more people are cutting the cord completely from cable TV. But satellite TV is still very important to many football fans, especially those who go to bars to watch games they cannot get on their own TVs.

The Big Ten Network is available on satellite TV. In fact, already there is an increase of questions on Google regarding the Big Ten Networks. In a very un-Larry Scott fashion, the Big Ten proclaimed that every sports fan should be able to watch their athletes compete.

Go figure.

Midwest and East Coast sun worshippers

Bring your sunblock, sunglasses, flip flops and jorts to So Cal and watch your team play in 80-degree weather.

You’re welcome.

Trojan and Bruin fans on a budget

Yes, Virginia, there are places that don’t charge $8.00 a gallon for gas. Nor $350 a night for a “decent” hotel. Fans will be shocked when they rent a car and have to gas it up—it will cost less than a Coliseum dog and Coors Light.


The Big Ten Giant Killers

Last year the Fighting Illini beat favored Nebraska, Penn State and Minnesota. Purdue beat favored Iowa, Nebraska and Michigan State. Let’s also not forget perennial favorite Indiana, who in 2020 beat Penn State, Michigan, Michigan State and Wisconsin. Purdue beating USC and USC beating Ohio State is in the cards.

The fun never ends.

The Big Ten broadcasters pronouncing numerous Polynesian names

We know they try. And broadcasters do get a cheat sheet on how to pronounce potentially problematic names, especially Polynesian and African names. But during a broadcast, when you’re doing play-by-play, trying to say quickly, “Stanley Ta’ufo’ou and Tuli Tuipuluto in on the tackle” could be a mouthful. Perhaps, maybe… even entertaining?

Kind of like “Mosiula Tatupu tackled by Manu’ula Tuisosopo.” That really happened in the 1970’s. It was glorious. The broadcaster nailed it and he was pretty happy about it.

No cupcakes” bragging rights for the Big Ten

Only three schools have never played an FCS team on its schedule: USC, UCLA and Notre Dame. UCLA has Alabama State on its schedule this year, so the Bruins get knocked off the list. That leaves USC and Notre Dame.

Don’t ruin it for us, guys. Make the Cardinal and Gold and the Big Ten proud.

Finally, I saved the best for last….

No more Pac-12 Officiating

Need I say more?

Should USC Leave the Pac-12 for the Big Ten or SEC? Answer: Yes!

Back in the day—the Pac-8 days, to be exact—the now-Pac-12 conference was known as USC and the Seven Dwarfs. USC was the Big Boy and was expected to play a Big Ten team every year in The Rose Bowl game.

Oh sure, every now and then a hiccup would occur. Between 1968 and 1977, USC won six of the 11 conference titles.

Fast forward to 2011, when the Pac-12 was formed.

Oregon, Stanford, Washington and Utah won at least one conference title during that time, with Utah being the latest. USC also won a conference title. On paper, one could say that the conference is diverse.

A contrarian, however, would argue that the conference is weak and no team has really stepped up since USC was hammered by the NCAA’s sanctions for impermissible benefits and lack of institutional control in 2010.

Of all the teams that have joined the conference since the inception of the Pac-8, only one has truly benefitted: Utah.

Hear me out.

The Arizona schools joined the Pac-8 in 1978 and the conference was renamed the Pac-10. Arizona State won the conference title in 1986 and 1996. Arizona won it in 1993. Since the conference expanded in 2011 to 12 teams with the additions of Colorado and Utah, the Arizona teams have floundered. Colorado has been in the conference basement while Utah has steadily improved over a decade.

The Utes won the conference last year and are favored again this year by Phil Steele. Go Utes. They deserve the accolades. But this isn’t about Utah. It’s about USC. And why it needs to leave the Pac-12.

The Pac-12 conference champion has turned in some truly ugly performances in its top-tiered bowl games. The Pac-12 champions have gone 5-7, including an Oregon blow-out loss to Ohio State in 2014.

The bowl games’ embarrassment aside, the real eye-opener is conference revenues. It is not pretty.

According to an Andrea Adelson ESPN article, in the 2020-21 season, “the ACC 990 form shows total revenue was more than $578.3 million, the highest gross revenue in league history, [while] the Pac-12 reported total revenues of $344 million — down 36% over the previous year.”

The ACC distributed an average of $36.1 million per school. “The Pac-12 reported an average distribution of $19.8 million per school, a decrease of 41% over the previous year,” according to Adelson.

Duke got around $36 mil? USC got around $19 mil. That’s embarrassing. No offense, Duke football.

Of course, the conference produced a myriad of reasons for the revenue losses, including media revenue decreases, game cancellations and post-season bowl games.

But whose fault was that?

The Pac-12 cancelled numerous games because of the Covid-19 pandemic but other Power 5 conferences were less inclined to throw in the towel in 2020. The Big Ten decided to play upwards of a half season. The ACC and SEC played anywhere from a half to full season.

Champions aren’t afraid to play.

In 2021, the downward trend of revenue for the Pac-12 continued.

According to USAToday’s Steve Berkowitz, the numbers for the Pac-12 were a stark comparison to the ACC, Big Ten and SEC’s.

SEC: $833 M (+$105M vs. FY20) B1G: $679.8 M (-$89M) ACC: $578.3M (+82M) Big 12: $356M (-$53M) Pac-12: $343.5M (-$190M)

It’s not just the (lack of) revenue that makes the Pac-12 a basement dweller. The Pac-12 was ranked No. 5 in 2022’s Power 5 conference strength by Phil Steele. That’s last place, for those confused.

So the conference is….. a dud. But is there anything else that could change its perception?

The Pac-12 may not have played a lot of football in 2020, but it did play a lot of politics.

The Conference of Champions is the Conference of Activism. Its offices are in one of the most polarizing states in the Union. Instead of seeing TV ads with football or basketball players showing off trophies or championship rings, the Pac-12 Network airs ads of athletes bragging about its climate change awareness, inclusivity and diversity.

That message may appeal to a West Coast recruit, but those Southern boys aren’t buying it. And those Southern boys have a lot of rings. Just sayin’.

If you are a 5-star athlete, are you going to the SEC where championships are expected? Or are you going to the Pac-12, where USC celebrates being named the (back-to-back!) champion of “Zero Waste Challenge“?

Now don’t get me wrong here. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to leave this planet in a better place, nor is it wrong to want diversity and inclusivity. But a testosterone-laden 5-star football recruit isn’t choosing metal straws over a 10-carat bling-bling on his finger. Let’s get real, people.

Dammit, can’t USC have it all? Not in the Pac-12.

Question: if the Pac-12 were winning more revenue-producing championships—in football and basketball, to be specific—would its TV ads still have the same message?


One could blame former Pac-12 conference commissioner Larry Scott. He was in over his head. And unfortunately, his ego appeared to have prevented him from making a deal with satellite TV carriers such as Direct TV. As of now, Pac-12 Networks is not available on satellite TV.

I would include a poll of how Pac-12 fans living outside the Pac-12 footprint feel about a lack of access to their teams’ game on TV, but this site is rated G.

While that may not seem like a big deal to most football fans, it is a huge deal for USC fans. Like Notre Dame, USC is a private school with a huge football fan base that is spread across the United States.

Because of the Pacific Time Zone, most West Coast football starts late on Saturdays in the fall. If you are a Trojan fan living in New York City, watching a 7 pm (local time) USC game means you’re watching the opening kickoff around 10 pm.


And yet, Scott did nothing to change this. Beside polarizing the Trojan fan, what about the rest of college football fans (or AP voters!) who want to see how good Oregon or USC is? They are in bed, sleeping like a champ after a hard day watching elite football teams in prime time.

This brings us back to USC (thank you for your patience) and how it can do things to improve its situation. Hiring Lincoln Riley as its head coach was a great start. Now let’s put this Ferrari in 5th gear and let it rip.

Honest question here: If USC left the conference to play in the Big Ten or SEC….who would suffer more? The conference or USC?

[crickets chirping]

Yeah, you know the answer to that.

While the transition to any of those conferences would be a little rough—the level of play in those two conferences is much higher—USC would thrive after the initial shock.

With NIL deals now a large part of recruiting, USC can hold its weight because it is in one of the most desirable media markets in the country. The SEC and Big Ten would LOVE to have USC join its conference. There would be an immediate pipeline to California—one of the Top 3 most fertile recruiting grounds—and the conferences could have add a footprint in a West Coast state.

USC would have to give up its ties to the Rose Bowl game (unless it joins the Big Ten) but the Sugar Bowl is looking like a better venue.

There’s more.

USC v Alabama or USC v Washington State? USC v Texas A&M or USC v Oregon State? USC v Michigan or USC v Arizona? USC v LSU every damn year or USC v UCLA?

You get the picture.

USC’s TV revenues would substantially increase. USC’s athletes would see an increase in their exposure. USC’s strength of schedule would increase tremendously. How many times has a Pac-12 team suffered the humiliation of being overlooked for a bowl game due to conference SOS?

There’s the elephant in the room that also needs to be addressed.

The eventual formation of Super Conference is inevitable. Moving to a Big Boy conference now makes sense. Waiting until the invites are almost all extended does not make sense. The fact that Oklahoma and Texas made their move to the SEC should alarm Pac-12 fans. Notre Dame is already heavily aligned with the ACC. Things aren’t as stable one thinks.

Finally, moving to the Big Ten or SEC means USC football would be on a major network when all the “Big Boys” play. No more of this Friday night B.S,. no more half-empty stadiums due to fan apathy and no more insanely weird kickoff times.

Sure, the fans would have to travel farther away. But give SC fans a reason to tailgate like a true Southerner, and they are all in.

Tailgating in The Grove? Yes, thank you. Tailgating in Baton Rouge? Yes ma’am, pass the Jambalaya. Tailgating in the Swamp? Chomp chomp! Tailgating in the Big House? [shudders]

USC has been carrying its conference’s back for decades. It’s time for USC to go to greener pastures.

Yes, there are kinks to work out in regards to television rights, athletic wear licenses and such, but a good lawyer and a handful of wealthy boosters should sort out all the minutia.

Feelings will get hurt. I’m looking at you, UCLA and Stanford. My money is on you following USC.

Winners want to play where winners play.

It’s time for USC to move on and expand the legacy of its storied football program.